What it felt like to shave my head

On holidays in Costa Rica in 2008.

With the trend of women shaving their heads on the rise, I’ve felt compelled to reflect on what the head shave experience was like for me a decade ago.

Even in 2008, the shaved female head — which is rooted in ancient traditions and spans various cultures and beliefs — wasn’t new.

Britney Spears shaved her own head a year before I did. And before her both Grace Jones and Sinead O’Connor were baldies in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively.

But there hasn’t really been a movement in the past that’s similar to what’s happening now. Currently a growing community of women are dismissing the traditional notion of long hair being equated with femininity.

More and more, hashtags like #BaldiesGettheJobDone on social media are being used by a fearless group of females who dare to defy societal standards.

Whether inspired by popular culture (how badass was Danai Gurira’s baldness in Black Panther though?) or an act of rebellion, the reasons why women are choosing to shed their locks are varied.

Before the shave

There were two main reasons why I chose to do it.

Firstly, I wanted to raise money for cancer and donate my hair since I had grown it out really long.

Another major reason I felt compelled to do it was because I simply wanted to experience for myself what it was like. I had never been (and still am not) attached to my hair, but I knew taking it all off would force the opposite of vanity upon me.

Without being overly dramatic, I thought it would be a mental and emotional challenge, which is something I just felt I needed at the time.

Back when selfies weren’t called selfies.

After I told my colleagues at the restaurant I was working for back then that I wanted to get a buzz cut for cancer, someone came up with the great idea for us to host a charitable event and recruit more long-haired participants.

A few months later, after lots of fundraising, preparing and organizing for the event (we even managed to get local media to cover it), the big day came.

Six other participants shaved their heads that summer’s day — all of them males. Together we raised around $4,000 for cancer research.

While I remember feeling slightly nervous the previous day, I knew I wouldn’t back out. I knew I wouldn’t let down all the people who had already sponsored me up to that point.

The actual moment the first bit of hair was shaved off and my scalp was suddenly exposed doesn’t stick out in my mind though. I imagine this is because there were so many people around watching and I was in a bit of a tizzy.

What’s far more vivid in my mind are the weeks and months which followed.

After the shave

Sans hair I noticed I got looks from people I hadn’t ever got before ranging from confused to sympathetic facial expressions.

Judging from the downright sad, sympathetic faces I sometimes got, there were times I think people thought I had cancer.

The confused looks I received happened on hot summer days when I was wearing shorts and a tank top with a headscarf to protect my noggin from the sun. People were presumably wondering why, donning a headscarf, I was exposing so much skin.

Interestingly, a hairless head also meant all of a sudden that I got hit on by men much more than I had prior to the big shave.

As soon as my hair grew out though (and I started to look more and more like all the other women around me), the looks and the attention tapered off.

Liberating and powerful

Needless to say, I learned that our outward appearances have a huge effect on how others perceive us.

For me personally it was liberating in that, if for but a few months, I had the chance to break out of the neat little box that society had squished me into.

As I had hoped, it enabled me to challenge traditional notions of beauty and femininity — and something about that felt powerful.

Posing with a travel mate on holidays in Costa Rica.

Besides, being a baldie set me apart from most other women and I liked that.

I also enjoyed getting designs shaved into my head and experimenting with new hairstyles every few weeks. It took about two years for my hair to fully grow out, and a while longer until the awkward stages of various hair lengths finally ceased.

These days the urge to shave my head again hits me every now and then; I decided after the first shave I would do it at least once more in my lifetime.

Now in my 30s rather than my 20s, if I shaved my head today I know I’d have a much different experience and I’d get something completely new out of it.

But I won’t give in just yet for the simple reason that it doesn’t feel right. Maybe I’ll feel differently next week, next year or five years from now. But when I know, I’ll know.

Whatever your reasons are, if you’re considering rocking the shaved female head right now, trust your gut instinct. You won’t regret it. When you’re ready, you’ll know too — at which point I implore you to have the courage to follow through.

This piece was originally published on May 13th 2018 at Medium.com.

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