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One Bald Babe

Confessions of a Newly Shaved Lady

There's this saying that goes: "a woman who cuts off/shaves off all her hair is about to do something to change her life."

I've seen it spun 900 different ways. "Her life is changing," "get out of the way," "she can't be stopped," blah blah. There's something ahead, and the removal of all or most of her hair is the starting point. I get it—a woman's crowning glory is her hair. This has been especially true as a Black woman. We go into battle over our hair, choosing sides and fighting over what's best. We fight society about what's professional and what's "ghetto." We fight ourselves, trying to find out what's right for our own souls and happiness. I went from my natural baby hair to my unruly kiddie hair (that was eventually relaxed), and my teen years full of either getting it done or doing whatever in-between. I decided, as an adult, to go natural.

That was around 2008, and I've never looked back at a relaxer kit since that moment. I embraced the thick, dark brown tresses that belonged to my 4b-4c head. I became the common product junkie, hopping from tip to tip, and product to product. I found what worked for me, my budget, and my hair, and enjoyed my process. Every now and then, I would cut off more than my tri-monthly end trimming required. I was testing length, not really thinking about how long it would take to grow back.

2008: My old natural look....

Seven days ago, I went a little further than that.

I took my boyfriend's clippers, started at the back of my hair, and stared at myself as I removed my hair. I was thinking about how tired I was of de-tangling it. I was thinking about how done I was with the filed complaints about clogged drains and random hair plugs in the bathroom and on the carpet. I wanted a vacation from the endless daily regimen of some kind of moisture. The painful hand cramps from twisting it so much really set the deal in stone. More than anything, I wanted to love myself again.

I was tired of myself, neglecting my hair because I wasn't feeling my best.

I washed it about three weeks prior, trying to jumpstart a healthy natural hair regimen. Sometime in the year, I'd stopped caring for my hair the right way. I found hacks to keep the curls, to make a nice afro, or to at least tease it and keep it shiny, but I wasn't doing the work. I wasn't co-washing it. I wasn't using the L.O.C. method (leave-in condish, oil, and a hair creme) to set her up for the eventual haphazard (yet iconic!) twist-outs that my little world had known me by.

I wasn't taking care of myself, and my hair was suffering.

I felt bad for her but didn't want to just take scissors to get rid of all the fairy knots and split ends. It was so much work finding every one. I loathed the time and energy it took but vowed never to return to creamy crack again. I took drastic steps, touching my new patches of baldness as I went along.

September 12, 2018 was the last time I had a full head of hair, and it was freshly washed.

I was all smiles, covered in grossness that had been hidden in my hair. The residue of being outside in the Georgia summer, dandruff, the product residue—I was all smiles, hormone imbalance and all. This was something different that guaranteed I could wear hats, but wouldn't need half my scarf and headband collection for a very long time. This was something that was deeper than a TWA (teeny-weeny afro), and couldn't be quietly fixed under my bonnet.

I was bald.

I wasn't worried about what anyone would think. It's funny because I always worry about that. I felt in control of something in my life. I couldn't control the looming debt from taking classes. I couldn't control why I wasn't getting hired. I couldn't control how or why my Pell Grant was taken from me, and now I owed the school over $1K at the end of the month. With my hair, it was different. With my hair, all it took was about an hour and some careful strokes across my head. I decided how much would remain, and how much was coming off.

"I have power in this apartment over something."

I've been feeling pretty powerless these days, trying to make something work for me. My boyfriend owns the place, and I'm here rent-free, paying for the cable and lights. I wasn't trying to own it all, but I wanted a stronger voice. I don't have that now, because I don't earn a lot. I'm frustrated by a lot of things at the moment. Taking charge of my hair was shocking and different because it was something that I'd never done before. I always did "safe" things with my hair, because it was familiar.

I still don't see myself as "special" or "unique." I did acknowledge, however, that depression (or whatever this really is) had been making regular haircare more difficult. It had to be done, I had a schedule, but I kept putting it off. I kept looking over it.

My newfound freedom changed that. I quietly posted a picture on Instagram, declaring that this was definitely not a Britney moment. I hadn't cracked at all. I was ready for something new and different. I don't think my usual stress and misfortune played a bigger part. I wasn't pressured, but rather aware that I needed a change. I was happy to see that my little crowd of friends and associates liked it. It wasn't for them, but I wanted them to know anyway.

Let me just say that I now feel the air. I feel the heat. I don't sweat as much. I don't feel the bounce of my coils, and I don't worry about bugs being attracted to my hair products. I don't feel anything landing on it, and I haven't had a twig stuck in my hair for a while. Silk and satin feel....amazing. Minty hair oil is orgasmic, and head massages from certain bigger hands feel like a long-lost heaven. I'll be damned, there's a whole new world without my hair. I love the little fuzzy spikes at the top of my head. It's nice to see myself, and not feel so weighed down.

I decided to not worry too much about how long it takes for it all to come back. I reflected on how fast my facial hair grows back (yay hormones!) and how my dad's hair grows back after a haircut. I inherited his thickness and texture. I thought about wigs, about turbans, and the joy of a winter with new beanies. I feel good about all of it. Was it my hair that was stopping me from finding a good hat all along? Seems that way.

I was already getting stared at for being fat with natural hair, so I'm used to the looks. I also dress kind of funny. What brings me newfound freedom is no longer having to add an extra hour to get ready. Shower, lotion, body spray, maybe makeup, clothes, and jewelry. Before, it was all of that PLUS styling hair, shifting it under a headband, adding a scarf on top of that, making sure the shape was like I wanted it, and misting it. I had to adjust my regimen for the seasons. If I didn't moisturize daily, it would frizz and lose it curls. The worst I get now is a little flake from dry scalp. It takes me all of ten minutes to wash my head, versus the thirty it took to detangle and section, another forty it took to wash those, and an hour of twist-out fun with Miss Thang (yes, I named my hair...).

I don't know how long I want it to be again. I don't know how short I want it, or if I even want to return to the endless steps to my old routine. I look more like Uncle Fester than Tamar Braxton but feel sexier than usual. I look different. I feel like another person is inside.

Maybe all the sayings are right, and this is the start of something bigger than myself.

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