Why I am Shaving my Head

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.

fan art by RadissonClaire on DeviantArt
fan art by RadissonClaire on DeviantArt

(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.

FB event

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.

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What I Did This Summer (plus a character design!)

Well, I’m finally back. It has been a long and busy summer, so I first want to apologize for being gone so long. I think it was a well-needed break though, and now I’m ready to get back into my writing and revising with fresh eyes.

Today I just want to catch my readers up on a little of what I’ve been doing. “What I’ve been doing” includes moving, moving my mother-in-law, driving to and from Vegas (eight hours one way), getting a second dog, making my new house livable, starting a new job (actually, two new jobs), camping, driving to and from a cabin in the middle of nowhere (four hours one way, two of which are on the windiest road Hell could devise), oh, and getting a tattoo. Wow. That would make one chaotic what-I-did-this-summer paper, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, “what I’ve been doing” also includes donating my hair, about which I promised a blog.

So here it is, a pic of me with my freshly-cut hair!

This is the shortest I’ve ever had my hair. When I told people I was going to cut it, most were dismayed. My hair has a weird wave to it, which can often be very annoying, but which other people tend to like. But it’s not like it’s doing much good on my head when I’m going to complain about how hot it is this summer, especially when there are kids out there who would love to have it instead.

Long story short (pun intended), I was nervous about cutting my hair so short, but now that it’s done, I’m so happy I did it. And I recommend it to anyone and everyone out there who is able.

To celebrate, I want to include a character design for my novel-in-the-making (untitled at this time):

Gwen – twelve-year-old who needs a wig

  • named for her grandmother (father’s mother)
  • – family calls her Gwennie
  • – wishes her name was short for Gwennyth or Gwenevere, like a princess, and has even told her friends at school that her full name is Gwendolyn
  • – jealous of her older sister’s princess name, Angenette (which was their mother’s maiden name), and doesn’t understand why she would shorten it and go by Angie
  • needs a wig because of a fire that started outside her bedroom – Angie is the one that puts out the fire on Gwen and pulls her out of the house
  • loves Eliza Dushku, especially on the show Dollhouse, because she is strong and confident and brave

  • admiration for Eliza Dushku is a displacement of Gwen’s admiration for Angie, who is sixteen and too busy with her own life to want or care about having a kid sister
  • – similarities between Angie and Eliza Dushku: hair color (Angie dyes her hair black and so is the only one in the family who is not blonde); both are actresses, and very good ones in Gwen’s mind (although Angie is only active in her high school theater) – Eliza Dushku is who Gwen wishes her sister was, and therefore also who Gwen wants to grow up to be
  • requests a black wig from the  organization so she can look like the person she wants to be – in order to request this, she has to accept that she won’t ever look just like herself again – the question is, if Gwen can’t look like her old self, will her new self be a mimic of her role model, or will she make it her own?

That’s it for today, but stay tuned for more character designs – I have seven more for this novel alone!

Donating Hair!

So I have finally grown my hair out 10 inches and I am ready to donate it!

I’ve donated my hair a few times in the last five years, and I always go through a new organization. This year I’m going with Locks of Love.

They make children’s wigs because kids grow so fast that they need new wigs more often than adults.

(A couple other organizations that turn donated hair into a new opportunity for children and adults facing hair loss are Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths and Wigs for Kids.)

A lot of people don’t know that it takes not one, but six hair donations before one wig can be made. This was the inspiration for my untitled novel I’m working on, which follows the six strangers who unknowingly come together to help create a wig for a seventh character, whom they will never meet. It’s amazing to me how much people touch the lives of others without ever realizing it or even seeing the face of the person whose life they’ve changed.

Anyway, I’m still researching the procedures of the organizations that take wig donations, but stay tuned for more info on my new novel!

 

In the meantime, how about I placate my readers with an excerpt from my written novel? I know you’re hungry for more!

I’ve discovered through my writing that I have kind of an odd fascination with hair. It will come out fully in my untitled novel, but even in Finding ‘Ohana hints can be found.

Before we get to the excerpts though, here’s a reference for what Cinnamin looked like throughout most of high school:

 

The first excerpt below is from Cinnamin’s first day of kindergarten, when she meets Lucas. Then we fast forward to a camping trip during Cinnamin’s senior year of high school.

 

I sat down to join him where he was building a tower out of blocks on the floor. His white-blonde hair was styled in a mushroom-cut, and he was already wearing Coke-bottle glasses, even at such a young age.

After a while, he said, “I’m Lucas. What’s your name?”

“Ethelfleda,” I said.

He scrunched up his face, but kept his gaze on the building blocks.

“You can call me Ethel if you want.” But I did not really like either option.

“Nah. You don’t seem like an Ethel.”

I could not disagree.

He finally looked up from the blocks and smiled. “I like your hair.”

I smiled back. My hair was down for the first day of school, and it already reached almost to my waist. “Thank you,” I said. It got in the way, being so long, but I loved the color. It was the one part of myself that I always thought was beautiful. (Until I met Naali and she helped me see that every part of me was beautiful.)

“It looks like cinnamon,” Lucas had said.

That morning, during recess, Lucas had called me Cinnamin on the playground. It felt more connected to me than Ethelfleda ever did.

A spark had landed in my hair. Lucas had tackled me to the ground before I had even felt the heat from the fire as it quickly spread closer to my face.

But I could not tell my parents that, because they did not know Lucas was on the camping trip. So I returned home, hair suddenly falling only a few inches past my chin (although the longest chunk reached as far down as my shoulder blades). My parents were furious. Especially because we still had to go to church. Mom did her best to tie it back, but I nonetheless earned plenty of pointed looks from the other members of the church. We went to a salon that afternoon so it would not look so ragged, and the stylists told us that it might never grow back. I found myself not being so upset by this information. All that hair was heavy, and it felt good not to have its weight on me anymore.

As the edges were cut away, an actual style began to take shape. I stared at the mirror as my face stopped being one of a pathetic, shy little girl, and turned into the face of a girl with attitude. Even wearing my most modest dress, I looked like a different person. I looked like a movie star.

Synopsis of My Next (Untitled) Novel

While I’m working on getting Finding ‘Ohana published, I have another novel in the works. This way I can keep my writing muscles from going soft. Plus, it shows agents and publishers that I am not just a one-novel kind of writer.

I read that the best time to write a synopsis is before you write the book, so you aren’t bogged down with all the details you know once you finish the book. So here it goes:

 

At twelve years old, all Gwen wants is to grow up enough to get on a high school theater stage, like her big sister. Until a fire puts Gwen in the hospital, and her desires become a lot more immediate — like the desire to just look normal again. But it takes months for her burns to heal enough to be fitted for a wig, and then the application, consultation, and measurement process to qualify for and receive a wig take even longer.

Meanwhile, it takes not one, but six people to donate hair before one wig can be made. An executive still dealing with childhood abuse, a college kid whose mom keeps telling him to get a haircut, a reality-show-queen-turned-hair-model, a closeted butch lesbian whose younger sister is getting married, a trophy wife who shows she’s a “good Christian” by donating her hair every two years, and an eight-year-old girl who thinks her face would look fat if she had short hair. Six people must all come to the same decision to cut a foot of their own hair, even though they will likely never come in contact with each other, nor the little girl they are helping.

 

So there you have it. The novel will follow all seven characters, with their stories interweaving in a way that they’ll never see. I’m hoping that the finished product will show what my inspiration was: the way that people touch each other’s lives even when they never meet face-to-face.

It will probably end up being Women’s Fiction, like Finding ‘Ohana. In the coming weeks, as I continue to work on the character development and then on the outlines of each character’s story, I’ll post what I come up with here. Obviously I don’t have a title yet. I don’t name most of my writing until I’m at the end of it. I’m sure something will come to me, but as always I welcome any helpful suggestions.     : )