Throughout time, shaving of the head has been used to represent endings and new beginnings. In some Hindu traditions, widows shave their heads. The same is true of mourners in many Native American cultures. Head shaving has often been performed prior to pilgrimages and as ritualistic cleansing. In some cultures and religions shaving of the head is prohibited. Some cultures have underground movements leaning on all sides of the spectrum that represent themselves with shaved heads. “People whose hair falls outside a culture’s aesthetic standards may experience real or perceived social acceptance problems.”♦
I wasn’t thinking about any of this before I shaved my head. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing, and it wasn’t until I looked in the mirror afterwards that I realized how drastic of a change it would be. The funny thing is, this was the first time in years that I had looked into the mirror and recognized the person staring back at me. Everyone had a reaction to my hair (or lack thereof). It was winter, so I could wear a hat, and often had to due to the increased heat escaping from my now unshod head. But indoors, I mostly didn’t. I revelled in people’s expressions towards me. Before this I would avoid people’s attention, blend in to the background. I prided myself on being unnoticed. This was definitely something noticeable. I received a lot of compliments, people saying they liked it or it looked good on me, it suited me. A lot of people didn’t like it, but they still respected that i had done it. The most extreme reactions came from relatives. Not from my parents, whom I had initally been afraid to show. My parents didn’t like it personally, but they were pretty much “that’s sarah,” and shrugged it off kind of thing. It wasn’t until I got flack from a cousin I am not close to that my Mom stepped up to defend me. A cousin, whom has had little to say to me over the years, felt the need to express her displeasure on my facebook page. “Don’t you think it’s about time to grow up and act a little more mature,” she asked. “You’re getting a little old for teenage stunts. I’m all for freedom of expression but this is a little too far.” I was taken aback because I felt this was no reflection on my maturity. I maintained my household, taking care of my pets and paying my bills. I went to work everyday and stayed involved in my community. And hair, not to sound obvious, grows back. I had done nothing to harm anyone, not even myself, the cosmetic changes being temporary. It was at this time my Mom left a message on my wall: “Your are beautiful and brave. Love you.” And therein lies the crux. My Mom was able to see past my appearance to the girl she’d raised from a baby who was struggling with being a grown woman, but finding her own way.
In retrospect, shaving my head was both an ending and a new beginning. It was when I made a conscious decision not to care what other people thought and to spend some time finding out who I was. My hair is growing back in and I plan to let it grow for a while. I’m at a stage where I am content with where my life is going, so I’ll just go with it for now. Since I left home 11 years ago, I have lived in at least 10 different buildings in four different cities. I actively seek out divergence from the norm. So eventually, I’ll be ready for another change. But for now, I’m just letting go.