to cut or not to cut

buzz cut

I have short hair.

I mean really short.

And, as of about 6:30 this evening, it is even shorter. I have measured. It’s just under an inch long – all over my head.

This is going to make just about everyone in my life – family, friends (male and female), employer – unhappy.

I, on the other hand, am ecstatic.

I used to have really long hair. Down-my-back long. I finally cut it all off about three or four years ago when I realized that I was developing what may be the beginnings of female-pattern baldness. The hair on the crown of my head was very thin, and even when I had my hair pulled back into a ponytail you could still see my scalp in places.

I was only in my late thirties, but I felt like a woman twice my age, hair-wise. I never, ever, wanted to have “fluffy head” – the teased, female equivalent of the comb-over. I always admired the honesty of men like my brother who, when he began balding in his mid-twenties, simply started buzzing his hair off. I mean, it is what it is, right?

So I buzzed my own head, and donated 13+ inches to Locks of Love – a charity in the States that makes wigs for disadvantaged children. Hardly anyone in my life was enthusiastic about the cut, but there were comments along the lines of “It suits you,” and “You have the bone structure for it.” One client matter-of-factly declared that “at least it [would] grow back.”

I didn’t grow it back, however. I’d had hair this short once before, in my first year or two of university, and I’d loved it at the time. I’m sure my family was terrified I was going to come out as a lesbian (I didn’t – because I’m not – not that there’s anything wrong with that), but we all survived my first escapade into super-short territory, until eventually I succumbed to girly-ness and grew my hair ultra-long again.

But I missed the FREEDOM of short hair – the deliverance from the hassles of styling, “product” and accessories. When my hair is ultra short – get this – I don’t even need a comb. All I need is a toque to make everything lie flat until it’s dry (I tend to look kind of like a dandelion, otherwise) – and I dry in ten minutes.

I’ve tried growing it out a couple of times since the last big cut. Each time I get to about two inches long and realize that my thinning hair hasn’t miraculously grown back. Styling becomes a hassle. The bald spots will not be covered up. And I hate the way my hair feels with goop in it – put there in hopes that I can make all the stray bits behave.

This time I think everyone in my life got together behind my back and made a pact: Let’s convince Michelle that she’s absolutely gorgeous with longer hair. They almost had me fooled, too. I was keeping my hair long until I got a job. And then when I got a job, I kept the hair long until after my dad’s birthday. And then, the weekend of the birthday celebration, everyone (and I mean everyone) had something good to say about my longer hair.

(And a few choice things to say about my sometimes-shorter hair.)

I gave in. Figured they must see something that I didn’t. I thought I would look beautiful with no hair, but maybe I was wrong. I began practising conscious hair-growing-out. And hated every minute of it.

Sometimes – from some angles – I thought I could see what other people were talking about. My face did look pretty with a frame of hair. Sometimes. But other times my bangs wouldn’t lie right, or the bald spot would show too much, or my hair would be too spiky from the eco-friendly hair gel I found. I began obsessing about my hair. When would it look really good again? How long would it take for my hair to grow long enough to satisfy my low-maintenance-but-looks-great dreams?

I quickly began to dream about buzzing it all off. I vacillated back and forth. I preened in front of the mirror, hating every second I wasted trying to make a decision.

This afternoon I read an interview of Pema Chödrön in O Magazine. Chödrön is a Buddhist nun who has very short hair. I like her hair – and more importantly, I like her. She is beautiful to me because of who she is on the inside – and what she does with her life. I made my decision: The hair was going.

The cut itself was traumatic. Not because I hated to see the hair falling to the floor (well, okay, that did kind of bum me – I mean, I’m the one with the immaculate-floor fetish) – but because my hair clippers really need to be sharpened. Dull clippers – can you say ouch? And the itchiness of cut hair on bare shoulders… (shudder)

I don’t know what other people see when they look at my buzzed head. A butch lesbian? A boy wannabe? A cancer victim? A skinhead? A prisoner of war?

I don’t know what they’re repelled by, but I don’t care anymore. Life is too short to be so miserable about something that is so easily remedied. I felt old with my thin, growing-out hair. I felt like a middle-aged schlump. Now I feel fresh and clean and edgy and gorgeous. I can run my hands over my head without collecting a gummy residue. I am once again happy being me.

Enough said.

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This post was originally published on my previous personal blog, The Rest of My Life.