From when I was about 15, I started fantasising about shaving my head. I think I had some kind of outlandish teenage desire to look like Natalie Portman during her edgy V for Vendetta era, or Demi Moore in the '90s.
The only reason I waited until I was 27 was that every time I mentioned that I was thinking of cutting it, I would be met with comments like "Oh no, not your beautiful hair!" My hair gave me cachet, and it was a part of me that other people valued. So I kept it.
But in 2021, at the age of 26, I started experimenting with colour. Aided by a boy I matched with on a dating app, I bleached and dyed the front pieces of my hair bubblegum pink in my bathroom one summer's day in January. This kind of unhinged energy continued over the months that followed. I tried tangerine orange money pieces, which then veered into a shocking shade of copper.
When I looked in the mirror, my hair didn't make me feel beautiful anymore.
Come May, I was ready to go all in with the red. I left the comfort of my bathroom, booked into a salon with a photo of SZA as my inspiration, and got the help of a professional. I think it was at this point that I reached Super Saiyan status. As the kids would say, I was 'serving c*nt', it was a vibe, and I was feeling myself. But I suppose inevitably the surge in my ego had to come crashing down.
Why I shaved my head
In June, Sydney went into lockdown and like everybody else, I spent a lot of time at home, feeling trapped. I tried to make house arrest look cute. I bought a wardrobe full of matching loungewear sets and did my hair every morning. But after a while, all of the vanity started to feel suffocating. When I looked in the mirror, my hair didn't make me feel beautiful anymore. I would have brief moments of dissociation and completely disconnect from the person I was looking at. My hair simultaneously made me feel old, silly, and like a child in a wig pretending to be a grown up.
Cut to October, and just like everyone else who'd just emerged from another Sydney lockdown, I went to the hairdresser to tidy up my 'do, thinking that it might ease my mind. It didn't. The hairdresser had done a great job, but the bleached and grown-out remnants of my dalliance with the e-girl trend bothered me. So — I cut it myself.
The only problem was, I couldn't stop.
I hacked at my hair until it looked like a Joan of Arc wig that had gone toe to toe with a lawn mower. It was bad. Shocked (and somewhat disturbed) by my own actions, I covered my hair up and styled it in a way that allowed me to leave the house without drawing stares from strangers. And I texted my housemate's girlfriend to ask if I could borrow her clippers.
Getting rid of my hair felt like the first step in opting out of heteronormativity and the hyper-femininity I'd adopted to fit in.
The next day, I wrapped myself in a towel, found a long extension cord for the clippers, set myself up in front of an antique mirror in my backyard, and started shaving.
Because my hair was so thick, it took longer than I expected, and I had to ask one of my housemates to help me at one point to reach all the uneven tufts of hair at the back of my head. The combination of blunt clippers and my novice skills resulted in a jagged number 3 buzzcut that closely resembled cheap astroturf, but for the first time in a long time, when I looked at myself in the mirror, the person I saw staring back at me was me.
I bleached my buzzcut in the summer of '22, and enjoyed life as a blonde (brows and all). I briefly toyed with the idea of a pixie cut and grew my hair out in the colder months, before coming to the conclusion it just wasn't for me. Now, I'm fully committed to my bald persona. I even make fortnightly visits to the barber for regular tidy-ups.
Shaving my head was the catalyst for remixing my life
I thought that changing my hair was the crux of an era of personal change, but in reality, it felt more like a tipping point. After I shaved my head, a number of my personal relationships ruptured; friendships failed, my share house fell apart, and my dating life with men started to feel like an act of self-inflicted punishment.
After a change of location (I moved in with my cousin and his miniature Schnauzer), I shifted my focus and put more energy into the friendships that fed me, I stopped just saying I was queer and actually started dating women properly, and lo and behold, I got into the first real relationship of my life.
I entered into an unprecedented era of peace in my life.
Now, I'm not saying that shaving my head unlocked nirvana for me, but retrospectively, I do think it was the physical representation of a desire for internal change. It also became an unconscious catalyst for me to examine the ways that compulsory heterosexuality was influencing me, and my subsequent rejection of it. Looking back, I know that my queerness was demanding to be heard; I just wasn't paying very close attention.
Getting rid of my hair felt like the first step in opting out of heteronormativity and the hyper-femininity I'd adopted to fit in. My voracious need to be desired by men had outweighed my desire to live authentically. It's something that I still struggle with, because the further I get from patriarchal beauty standards and masculine desire, the more I question the validity of my own beauty. I don't miss dating men; in fact, the only men in my life are either gay or relatives or both. But disconnecting from the heteronormative male gaze feels like a mammoth undertaking. It's more than just shaving my head and being in a relationship with a woman. It's a matter of unlearning a lifetime of behaviours and putting to bed all the stories that fuel the feminine romantic fantasy. Understanding comp het and the ways that I participate in it has allowed me to look back on my life and find threads of authentic behaviour amidst a tangle of ill-informed decisions that resulted in me chasing unavailable men that I didn't even really have feelings for.
When I did it, shaving my head seemed like a superfluous and superficial attempt to feel different in some way. Now, I realise that it forced me to come to terms with my most authentic self.