“Oh she’s a cute little girl…and look at all that hair!” This is a statement I heard throughout my childhood. Whenever my mother decided to let my big hair hang out (which wasn’t often), old and even young people would flock around me, admiring my mane as if I was the second coming. After many years of enduring this reaction from others, I came to the conclusion that the world equated long hair with beauty. I knew at a young age I wanted no parts of this warped way of thinking. And as soon as I was old enough to whack all of my hair off, I was going for it…..or so I thought. Little did I know (and I would find out years later), the twisted beliefs regarding hair and beauty from others had seeped into my psyche, and I too had been socialized into thinking that having long hair was one of my most cherished attributes.
Of course as a teenager I wanted to try new hairstyles, and I did. But no matter what hairstyle I tried, if it involved cutting, I made sure I kept my hair at least at the end of my neck or shoulder length. I figured if I kept enough hair to make a ponytail, then I would still be considered “beautiful” in the socialized people’s eyes. I kept this shoulder length hair antic up all the way into my late 20s. I always wanted to go shorter than the nape of my neck, but never got the guts to do it. Living vicariously through singer and songwriter Kelis, I would often search pics of her and admire the funky and fun hairdos she sported. Then I got the courage one day to cut my hair kinda past my neck.
After getting this short bob, I went to my now old job the next day just as happy as can be with my new look. I strutted into the building throwing my short locks from side to side. Soon after I settled in my office and prepared to waste billable hours by searching the web, a lady busted through my slightly opened door with a stern look on her face. My heart dropped because I just knew someone had discovered my internet shopping history on the company’s computer, and I was about to be called out for it. But no, her face was contorted because of my new haircut!! Do you know this lady sat beside my desk and proceeded to quote some bible verses to me about why I shouldn’t have cut MY hair??????!!! I was outdone!!
The sweet lady with the bible incident was just one of many depth-less reactions to my haircuts over the course of my adult life. I’ve had an intellectually challenged EX-boyfriend (emphasis on ex thank God) request that I wear my hair down when we went around his friends so that he could show off my length. I’ve had people actually get angry at me for cutting a few inches off MY hair. I’ve had people suggest therapeutic interventions when I shaved off the side and back of MY hair (even though MY hair was still long enough to cover up both shaved parts).
As you have probably gathered from reading, I have been traumatized by other people’s hair expectations. I’ve had to encounter too much bull when it came to MY hair which in turn made me a little self-conscious whenever I wanted to try a new style. But guess who’s finally shaking that paralyzing mentality and evolving into an “I don’t give a damn” kind of woman while swaying freely to I Am Not My Hair by India Arie? You’ve guessed right….me!
So I finally let my hair down. I got my hair cut the shortest it’s ever been, and I couldn’t feel more liberated. My liberation does not come from barely having any hair (although this is super fun I must admit), it comes from being free of anyone’s opinions or projections. I’m finally learning that it’s okay to live my life according to my own standards and not society’s. This new independent way of living has lifted so many weights off my shoulder.
I’d like to thank my girl Ashlee Rene for this bomb cut! And to my loved ones who encouraged me to jump out there and try something new……bless you all.
Beauty and hair are not synonymous. Beauty and freedom are.
- Samjah Iman