Long story short: Cutting my hair set me free

“It is safe to say that cutting my hair was one of the best decisions I made, albeit an impulsive one.”

Image credit Tiffany Chan

By: Simran Randhawa

We live in a society which puts extra pressure on women to look and act a certain way. I come from India, a society where there’s a little more tradition behind the societal pressure and where the norms push you to care about your looks.

I was raised believing that my hair was my main asset, and that without it, I lack everything that makes me a girl. I spent hours every day just turning and tossing my hair until it framed my face in just the right way. Until it made me look the way I was supposed to. Until it made me pretty.

I never saw any trouble with my identity being anchored to some dead cells attached to my body. It was just how things were and I never questioned it. I would like to say that I shifted away from this pathological dependence all by myself, and that it magically snapped like a twig one day, but that would be a lie.

It started when my friend was battling cancer. In the face of chemotherapy and radiation, she was holding on to her last few strands of hair as long as she could, refusing to shave her head. For her, her hair wasn’t just a societal norm; it represented how her very life was slipping out of her grip, no matter how hard she tried to hang on.   

That was when my twig snapped.

I had wanted to donate my hair for a long time, and now the time had come. I went to the salon in UniverCity, at the Burnaby campus, and asked to donate my hair. They asked me what hairstyle I wanted after. The answer was simple: none. I decided to shave my head completely.

Now keep in mind that I have always had hair that, at its shortest, still reached the base of my neck. I hadn’t had an exposed scalp since I was born, but there the razor was, going around my head.

In that moment, I was terrified, because I didn’t recognize the person I saw in the mirror. But I was also free, for I saw my smile and saw no flaw. For the first time in forever, I didn’t look in the mirror and think about my appearance: how my hair looked too thin or too imperfect, how my buck teeth looked when I smiled . . . For the first time, I looked at my reflection and just smiled (maybe like a maniac). Things in my life would never be the same.

For starters, it gets cold without your hair acting as a natural scarf.

Apart from that, the way I looked at myself changed. The first time I looked at myself after leaving the salon, I couldn’t believe what I had done. There was no quick way of going back now. It’s not like I was Harry Potter and my hair would grow back overnight.

I was terrified, but of nothing in particular. It just felt alien. An unchartered territory. I hate to admit this, but my fears were mainly about what people would think, including people who I might not know. Despite that fear, there was also this sense of pure and unadulterated joy, and I am proud to say I have never been more comfortable in my skin as I am now.

I shaved my head in March, so I am no longer completely bald. However, I still have really short hair, and I couldn’t love a hairstyle more even if I tried to. This hairstyle gave me confidence again.

The continuous pressure to be someone I wasn’t had gotten to me. I didn’t realize that I was toning myself down so I wouldn’t be someone else’s eyesore. Getting rid of my hair brought me out of a cage I didn’t know I was in, and reminded me that we all owe it to ourselves to know who we are.

My family, however, didn’t approve of this radical choice. Everyone liked to point out how unladylike it is to be without your hair. How no one will find me attractive, and the best of all, what would people say? Thankfully, I still had one person in my corner: my mother. She diligently pointed out how good I looked and gave the mantra of a lifetime: “Who cares?” Well, I agree.

It is safe to say that cutting my hair was one of the best decisions I made, albeit an impulsive one. I no longer scrubbed my rough edges to fit in. Instead, I learned who I was.

A person who loves to smile and show off her buck teeth. A person who, despite how much she loves colours, once stopped wearing pink because it was “girly” and that was apparently a bad thing. A person who is opinionated and loud.

A person with short hair, loving it.