When I was in second grade, my best friend and I used to spend every Saturday at an indoor ice skating rink. Her mom bought us hot chocolate and let us play the crane game that promised a winner every time, and we skated in circles around and around and around the ice for hours.
One Saturday, I arrived with my hair in a braid, so that I could skate without my long, looong hair getting in my face.
(How hipster is that? I braided my hair to go ice skating about twenty years before Elsa made it cool!)
My friend said that when we got separated on the ice, she always found me quickly by looking for my mane of wavy hair – and she demanded that I undo the braid immediately.
Fast forward a decade or so. I’m sitting for a caricature and the artist asks me to turn my head so he can see my hair in its ponytail. He makes an involuntary exclamation when I turn and he sees just how long my hair extends from the hair tie.
My tennis coach used to call me “Muppet Head” because I went through a phase when I let my hair go free and it flew around my face as I ran across the court.
People knew me by my long hair.
But the weekend before my high school graduation, I cut off twelve inches to donate.
It was terrifying. (How could I hide my fat face if I didn’t have long hair?) And liberating – because my face did not look as grotesquely fat as I’d been worried it would.
I’ve donated my hair a few times since then, alternating between looong hair and short bobs for years. But next week, I’m going to do something even more extreme.
I’m going to shave my head.
As can probably be expected, people’s reactions of finding this out have been exaggerated versions of their same reactions to me telling them when I was going to cut twelve inches of my hair. They are shocked, appalled even, and they want to know why.
So here I am, telling you why I am shaving my head.
1) To raise awareness of and funds for researching and curing childhood cancers.
This is the big reason. I’m shaving my head as a virtual St. Baldrick’s event. Part of this is asking for donations and pledges on my bald head that will go toward researching and curing childhood cancers. Every three minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer, yet childhood cancers often do not receive the funding needed for research. This is why organizations like St. Baldrick’s exist – to conquer childhood cancers once and for all.
I can’t imagine what I would do if my child were diagnosed with cancer. That’s something no parent should have to face.
2) To support and stand in solidarity with kids who have cancer.
We live in a society where it is extremely difficult to not have hair. And it’s especially hard to be different when you’re a kid. It’s a natural part of development to separate things into categories, and that leads to certain categories being more stigmatized than others. But the more of us who challenge our society’s beauty norms, the easier it will be for the kids who have no choice but to challenge those norms.
3) To donate my hair so more kids who choose to can wear wigs.
Part of the reason I’m shaving my head is similar to the reason why I donate blood whenever I can. As young (broke) parents, my husband and I don’t have a lot of time or money to donate. My hair is something I can give. I’m donating to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for children who face hair loss for a number of reasons. Because kids are still growing, they need new wigs more frequently than adults. So there is always a need for kid-sized wigs. I like to think my hair will help some little kid regain a confidence they might have lost.
4) For me.
Okay, full disclosure: I’m not shaving my head as a purely selfless act for the sake of the children.
It first occurred to me to shave my head when my son reached that phase when all he wanted to do was yank my hair right out. And being bald has the added bonus of keeping cool, which is important when you live in a desert.
But more than that, I’m actually going bald because of, not despite, the way it looks.
Gender norms in our society are rigid. Men can rock a shaved head, but not a dress. Women can wear pants, but heaven forbid they should leave the house without makeup on.
Gender is fluid, so that’s how we should view it. Some days I’ll have makeup and giant earrings to balance out my bald head, but some days I won’t. And I’ll still be beautiful. Just like you are beautiful, regardless of your clothes, hair and makeup and jewelry or lack thereof, manicured or chewed-to-nubs nails, or style preference in general.
I have written here about my difficulty with depression and I’ve written short stories about my battle with body image. The two are not always linked, but in my case they often are. There have been dark times in my life when my hair was the only part of my appearance that I appreciated. In fact, there were years when I hated my body (and by extension, myself) and tried to hide behind my hair.
Shaving my head is my way of showing myself that I am beautiful, even if that beauty is not within the “conventional” definition of the term. And it’s my way of showing myself that, no matter what I look like, I am worthy of self love.
So even though it’s scary, and even though people keep telling me I’ll regret it, I am going to shave my head. And I’m going to love myself while doing it.