Women and their hair. It can be a torturous relationship for some. I hate when people tell me, “You never want what you have” when I mention wanting to change up my hair. Isn’t that the cultural crux of American capitalism? Because if we wanted what we had, what would we buy, hate, change and keep changing with the trends? But I digress.
I appreciate what I have, and change is good.
Me changing my hair isn’t about being unhappy or dissatisfied with it. I don’t hate my hair. I actually love it. I haven’t always felt this way. When I was a little girl, I wanted curly hair, kinky hair or thick hair like my other Puerto Rican friends, anything but my straight, limp hair. My friends’ hair seemed to have more fun than my hair. It had personality and character. It had height and depth. Their hair did its own thing, while mine just laid upon my head. It didn’t help that my mother started giving me curly perms when I was six years old. (Did I ask for it? Why didn’t she just tell me, “Girl, accept your hair! It’s beautiful as is!” That would have saved me some money in therapy.) We braided it. We put curls in it. We used lots of hair spray and chemicals to give it texture, height, body, anything! But my hair was committed to staying straight and limp. It wasn’t until I hit puberty that I got some waves and volume. Now it’s not totally straight or curly. It depends on humidity and its mood. It’s both straight and wavy. But I don’t fight her. I do whatever my hair feels like that morning.
I remember reading somewhere (or maybe somebody told me) that women tend to use their hair to show changes in their lives. When a woman chops off her hair, people will say, “You know she’s going through some things!” I don’t know if I unconsciously knew this the first time I chopped off my hair, but I wholeheartedly believe this saying, or at the very least I use my hair as an indicator of my emotional state.
Technically, the first time my hair was chopped off wasn’t even my choice — my mother and aunt chopped off my hair I was 8 or 9 years old after a perm went bad. The tiny rollers wouldn’t come off. The chemicals had severely damaged my hair, and my aunt ended up giving me a pixie cut. Oh my god, did I cry! I had never had short hair before. I was a femme-femme little girl, lace and all. I needed long hair to complement my hyper-femininity, My mom bought me big earrings and even let me wear some lipstick to help me deal with the trauma of my very short hair.
The first time I voluntarily cut my hair that short was years later under very different circumstances. About a year after I came out as a lesbian, I cut off all of my hair and got a pixie cut. It took three cuts with three different stylists within two weeks (not to mention hundreds of dollars) to go really short. I felt super self-conscious. The last cut was great. It was by some random stylist in LA who I found while I was visiting a friend. It was probably one of the best cuts I’ve had in my life, because she followed the shape and texture of my head. She didn’t divide my hair with a comb and then cut it. She started by just feeling the scalp and went from there. Even though the cut was amazing I immediately grew it out.
My 2000 pixie cut was a statement. I was no longer the same person. I had fully embraced my identity as a lesbian, a feminist and a recovering Pentecostal. I had stepped out of the narrative given to me by my family about what my life should look like. I felt empowered, strong and independent. I also felt vulnerable and scared. I felt exposed because I literally was — I couldn’t hide behind long locks and bangs. Without that amazing stylist and still feeling insecure in my new do, I went back to long hair as soon as I could.
In 2010 I cut my hair short again. When I say short, I mean shorter than a short bob, like a pixie cut or maybe a little longer. Again, my life was dramatically changing. I was graduating from social work school, moving somewhere that wasn’t home, and after a series of bad relationships, I was ready to find my life partner. This time I kept it short for two years before growing it back to medium length hair. I think I was able to keep my hair short longer this time because I was more comfortable with myself. I entered a healthy relationship with someone I would later marry. I felt supported by the community I had built for myself. I was working in a field that was helping me to grow emotionally and spiritually and I had moved to another city (shoutout to Oakland) where the culture felt free but grounded.
I can’t say I love my hair short. I struggle to style it every morning, and I can’t just quickly put it in a ponytail. I realize when I have short hair how much I feel pretty because of my longer hair. I get lots of compliments on my hair, especially when it’s long and shiny. It looks healthy and full. And being a fabulously large-sized woman, I think my hair helps to contain my size, or should I say helps people focus on my hair and face and not the rest of my curves.
All that said, I am ready to cut it all off again. Not because I think I look prettier with short hair — I don’t. Not because I look younger when my hair is short — I actually think I don’t. Not because I think it will be easier to do — it definitely isn’t.
SO, WHY THE FUCK CUT IT OFF?
Good question. I’m glad you asked. I feel like I need to cut off all the baggage of 2016. It was a rough year, a year I am really ready to let go of. All that dead hair needs to go. I need to start fresh with a fresh cut to move forward. I am ready for new beginnings. A new me. I will be 40 and pregnant in a couple of months. And even though I might struggle with a short cut (I’m curious to see how I feel about myself once it’s short this time), symbolically it feels like the right thing to do.
And like my friend Paulina said, if I hate it, I can always rock braids this summer!