Of all the questions I’m asked about the 50-for-50 Project, the one that comes up most frequently is definitely “Why the hair?”
Sometimes it comes up in the context of context—i.e., What the hell does shaving your head have to do with raising money for WriteGirl?—which I can understand. More on that in a bit, although since we’ve officially begun bean-spilling time, I may as well confess that the desire to shave (or at least, the desire to see what the hell was under all that hair) pre-dated the desire to do anything remotely selfless by a good eight years. I mean, what woman hasn’t sweated through a grow-out summer or written that check for single-process color AGAIN or, hey, seen another bald chick and wondered to herself what it would be like?
But far more frequently, Why the hair? might be loosely translated as What are you, crazy? So few choose baldness (and let’s face it, even the “bald by choice” crowd is more accurately described as “balder by choice”) that opting out of hair is seen as extreme. Why would you do voluntarily what sick people are dragged into kicking and screaming? (And I’m speaking of our friends in chemo, not casting aspersions on military recruits, religious orders, or even right-wing extremists. Although, well, you know.)
* * * * *
The party line for “Why the hair?” vis-à-vis a fundraiser for Girl Empowerment came from my friend Daniel Will-Harris, another writer/performer/marketing hybrid-freak like me. Figures, right?
I was still casting about for a way to quickly sum up a logical “why” when I threw out the problem to him in an email exchange we had way back in mid-July, just two weeks shy of Launch Day. What he wrote back was so logical, so obvious, that if I’d had time to do it between the eleventy-seven constant items on my to-do list, I’d have kicked myself.
Because it’s about what’s inside a girl’s head, not what’s outside.
Duh. I mean, DUH.
Delighted, I tucked away this nugget in my filthy miner’s pockets to satisfy curiosity in the metaphorical saloons of tomorrow, and did not think much more about the email—except, of course, to credit Daniel whenever I used the line, because I’m not an ass—until I pulled it up to check the date on it for this piece. And as I scanned it for the money phrase, I finally saw an equally important line below it:
How many men can you recognize just by their haircuts?
Whereas I’ll bet that with absolutely no help from Google Image Search, you could come up with five or ten examples of women identifiable by haircut on the spot. Hell, I think Jennifer Aniston and Madonna might be responsible for five or ten iconic styles between them. Every day on Pinterest, I find yet another worshipful gallery of wish-list hair styled created by yet another woman. And so we’re clear on this, I’m not immune.
The more you think about it, the worse it gets: How many hours do we spend on our hair? And how many dollars? Even worse, how much emotion do we have tied up in it? How often do we judge—ourselves, our friends, complete strangers—on something as evanescent and arbitrary as hair? This person is [old/hip/stylish/frumpy]. To be [pitied/admired/envied].
Just how attached are we to our hair? Or, by extension (you’ll pardon the pun), to any of our other external markers?
Like most things I write on my blog, when I say “we,” I’m most definitely saying “me.” When she did my chart, my first-shrink-slash-astrologer warned me that with Venus in Leo, my obsession with my hair wasn’t going to end anytime soon. “You’ll always need to be happy with your hair,” she said.
Which is why I thought of her when I woke up last Wednesday morning and really looked at myself in the mirror for the first time. Could I be happy with my hair, I wondered, if my hair was no-hair?
Because unless I had completely lost my head along with the stuff on top of it, I was actually digging my no-hair, and was thinking of not-keeping it.
* * * * *
Trust me when I say that I have thought through the angles on this baby. I know that my no-hair could easily become as much of a “thing” as my hair ever was, if not more. Already, it’s my new toy: I have endless fun in the store, trying on this or that, seeing what works with the not-hair.1 While I have no hair, I have no less vanity. Indeed, I may have more: I actually like how I look! And I am not at all embarrassed that I like it!
So (a), it’s clear that I have not exactly evolved to a higher plane and, (b) it’s bizarre as hell, but there it is. Me, bald equals me, pretty. Go figger.
But it’s not all vanity. I’ve jokingly referred to the effect the shave has had on me as a “reverse Samson”, and I wasn’t kidding—I feel almost shockingly more powerful than I did pre-shave. Part of all this feeling good is doubtless a residual effect of accomplishment: raising more than $50,000 is a not-insubstantial achievement, and overcoming my fear of doing something I considered impossible is arguably a bigger one. (It’s the lesson I hope anyone looking through all this for one will find, anyway.)
The thing is, I am not sure what the thing is just yet. There’s so much to unpack about this experience that it could take me some time. More time than nature allows: hair grows fast. In a week, I’ve already gone from razor-smooth to sandpaper to velcro to enjoyable fuzz. Seriously—I’d be the hit of the rave these days, if they still had raves, and if I could be talked into going to one. My friend The Other Colleen, who was also bald for a time, warns me of weeks to come that will be filled with people wanting to rub my head like it was a Buddha belly or an especially soft cat.
For now, then—until I can figure this out, and until I can get some mileage from my surprisingly feminine new wardrobe—I’m sticking with not-hair. And when I find I have some answers, or perhaps that I’ve become a wee bit overly attached to turning heads (albeit for reasons of freakiness), or I’m through The Change, or I’m assured that it will grow in the luxurious shade of silver I’m longing for, then I’ll probably grow it out again.
Unless, of course, I don’t.
1Slim, clingy, simple, and dark, for starters; “patterned,” “structured,” and “outré,” my former go-to looks, now make me look like a tiny lesbian court jester. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!