For those of you who are regulars to my blog, you’ll remember I shaved off my hair to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support back in September last year. (For the newbies you can catch up by reading Who needs hair anyway?!) I have been meaning to post an update or a series of updates documenting the re growth journey but as we all know, life gets in the way. 5 months on, I figure I really should update you all and let you know what (if anything) I’ve learnt.
Right before the shave, I wasn’t sure if I’d cry. It had been quite a build up and I’d been talking about it for what felt like months. I travel across the country for work and so I’d had the same conversations a million times about how mad I am and how I’d cover up my baldy head. I thought there would be tears but there weren’t. I felt tired, but that was it. I’m well endowed in the ear and nose departments and having no hair did make me feel like these features stuck out more (literally) but not as badly as I’d imagined which was the biggest relief.
For the first few weeks I felt very liberated. I could roll out of bed and not waste all that time fighting my hair to make it straight and tidy. It wasn’t just the extra time that was liberating, it was the relief of not feeling the pressure to do my hair in order to be an aesthetically acceptable member of society. In fact, I felt pretty bad ass with my shaved head (very “This is England”) and it seemed to suit me. It was when I went to the wedding of a friend of a friend that I suddenly felt like I’d lost all my confidence. I was in a dress, heels, lipstick, everything was normal apart from the hair. I didn’t feel feminine or pretty at all and I really wanted to.
After that day I must have been more self conscious in general. I noticed that I was slightly more invisible than I used to be. I don’t consider myself to be the most attractive person but I’d say I’m average enough to get the odd side look or stare from a bloke. I was tending to get nothing at all, or at best, a bit of a defensive vibe from men. I can’t explain it properly, I only know I didn’t like it. Now, that bit surprised me the most. As you know, I’m a proud feminist (see This pussy bites back) and I’m also intelligent enough to know that the opinions of others (male or female) don’t validate me as a person. Especially on something as surface level as appearance. However, there’s something in my subconscious that wants other people to find me physically attractive and part of that is about having hair. The educated, rational person in my dies a little bit whenever I think that.
A few months ago I stumbled across @bodyposipanda on Instagram. She has beautiful rainbow hair and promotes body positivity. I had never heard of it and so I fell down the internet rabbit hole and got a bit lost along the way. What it appeared to be were larger women, dressed in their underwear saying it was OK to be overweight.I was confused because while it’s great to love yourself, should you condone and encourage an unhealthy lifestyle? This couldn’t be right…..I felt like I was missing the whole point and so I read a bit more and now I understand the movement and it’s meaning. Body Positivity is simply that; every person should feel worthy of love and happiness regardless of their body shape, size or appearance. That’s it. It’s not about encouraging one body “type” over any other, it’s not about health or judgement in any way. And as I was reminded, weight isn’t the only indicator of health. There are many factors and just because someone is seen as “slim” does not mean they are healthy. Body Positivity is simply saying we are who we are and we are all equal. Where the fuck has that message been all my life?!
In the same vein as Body Positivity, Alicia Keys recently decided she doesn’t want to wear make up anymore. The media response was essentially – “Wow what a brave move!” Really? Why is it brave? Whether she has gunk on her face or not doesn’t mean anything. She is a powerful, articulate and talented artist, why should it follow that she has to wear make up? In the same way – why should it matter if I have hair or not?
Then it clicked.
Of course I’m going to want people to think I’m attractive, because that’s what is valued in today’s culture and that’s what I’ve been programmed to think. We see it EVERYWHERE. In the media, looks and age are always commented on before any other aspect of that person, especially for women. We’re force fed an airbrushed image of beauty that isn’t even real. Strip away the cosmetic surgery, fake hair, tan, eyelashes, nails, contouring and snap chat filters and we’d see a very different image. And as for my “big” nose and ears, who says they are big or ugly anyway? Beauty and body image are socially constructed. We can see this from how different cultures value certain physical traits and how this has changed over the centuries.
I’ve started to think and make conscious decisions. Do I want to wear make up every day? Do I need to use 19 different products before I leave the house? (Yes, really, 19, I counted them) Does it matter if I have cellulite or that my belly is bloated? Do I really want to wear high heel shoes that kill my feet? Should I read that magazine that is fat shaming celebrities? Should I watch that programme about how to “look good”?
No. Just no. I don’t want that shit polluting my brain anymore. Hair or no hair, everyone is beautiful.