I've been happily sporting different variations of a pixie cut for the past five years, but I wanted to try something different this summer. My hair has already been every possible length and color, including an undercut and platinum blonde, so I felt the need to do something brand-new — something drastic, even. When I floated the proposition of shaving my head (an idea sparked by how cool Charlize Theron looks in Mad Max: Fury Road), I experienced a surprising amount of pushback from my friends and family. This only made me want to do it even more. Nothing motivates me to do something like being told I can't, especially when it concerns my appearance. Women's looks are already too rigidly policed by society. I'll also admit that I was simply curious to see how I would look and feel without hair. As I write this, I’m absentmindedly gliding my hand back and forth over my recently shorn head. Running my hands through my hair is a habit of mine when I have writer’s block, but I used to restrain myself because of the laughs I'd get when I got up from my desk with crazy-rumpled hair. Now, a week after shaving off all my hair, I’ve given myself free reign to rub my head as much as I want. It feels great: soft and silky. I’ve learned the shape of my head, the contours of my scalp. If I get up to look in the mirror, I no longer see a burst of messy hair. The only thing I see is my face, unobstructed and free. Other people seem unable to resist rubbing my head. They usually ask, but not always. Women tell me they love it, but that they aren't brave enough to try it themselves. I always tell them they should, and now I’m going to explain why I think you — and every woman — should try a buzz cut at least once. There are the obvious, practical reasons that can be summed up in one word: freedom. Freedom from products and tools, freedom from styling and maintenance, freedom to drive with the windows down, and, of course, free time. The day after I shaved my head, I looked at my crowded bathroom counter and realized, I don’t need any of you anymore. Well, I kept the toothpaste. But my hair serum, hair spray, dry shampoo, gel, wax, pomade, hair perfume (yeah, I bought into that), flat iron, blowdryer, bobby pins, and hair ties all went into storage — or the hands of a grateful friend. Not only am I saving space, but I’m also saving money. I won’t have to buy any hair products for the rest of the summer (not even shampoo, since one bottle lasts me months). And no more paying for salon appointments, since it’s easy to re-buzz my own head every couple weeks. Other than clippers and shampoo, the only other items you need for your shaved head are sunscreen (I recommend a light spray for comfort and convenience) and a big hat. Everyone’s scalp needs sun protection, but there’s nothing like a buzz cut to really give you that extra motivation.
But you'll only appreciate the benefits and the liberation once you decide to take the plunge. Until then, you’re very likely preoccupied with more pressing concerns. A few thoughts that ran through my mind as I turned on the clippers: What if I have a weird head shape? What if there’s a giant mole that I don't know about? What if this looks terrible on me? What if Mom — no, Mom is definitely going to cry. Mothers can definitely be a huge roadblock to head-shaving, but I was also a little worried about the world at large. I wish I could say that I don’t care what other people think, but I’m human and I do. The fact is, a woman’s hair is still very much attached to her value in our culture. Her femininity, her sexiness and desirability as a partner, and her beauty are too often tied up in the length of her hair. Even if you don’t think of your hair that way (although many do, consciously or not), society as a whole certainly does. If you Google “Charlize Theron buzz cut,” the majority of the headlines and quotes from the first page of results offer an air of skepticism parading under a thin veil of support: “Charlize Theron bravely steps out after new buzz cut” (The Daily Mail), “As a woman , growing out a buzz cut isn’t easy” (Huffington Post), “Charlize Theron has no qualms about showing off her buzzedabout buzz cut” (Us Weekly), and lastly, “Did Sean Penn like Charlize Theron’s Mad Max buzz cut?” in conjunction with, “Charlize Theron bravely buzzed off her hair for Mad Max: Fury Road, but she got the stamp of approval from two of the more important men in her life” (People StyleWatch). The takeaway here: Shaving off all of your hair is scary. But as someone who has done it, I can say the scariest part is the decision to do it — sort of like taking that first step out of an airplane to skydive. Once you’re actually doing it, the only thing you feel is exhilaration.
I wish shaving one’s head wasn’t applauded as a brave thing to do for a woman. It’s only hair, and giving it so much weight can only have negative consequences. People going through chemo or those with alopecia are not benefiting from society’s insistence on treating the buzz cut like a symbol of otherness, rather than just a hairstyle. My three brothers often shave their heads when it gets hot in the summer, and nobody bats an eyelash — but, when I said I was going to do the same thing, many of my family members were skeptical and even disapproving. I’m not saying, “Shave your head: Buck the patriarchy!” It’s not that simple. I’m just saying that if the only thing stopping you is the fear of what other people will say, then that’s all the more reason to do it. Since shaving my head, I’ve had plenty of negative comments such as, “I prefer my girlfriend to have longer hair than me,” and questions like, “What if you have a job interview?” from men and women. I’ve gotten lots of compliments as well, from men and women. A few people told me I look more beautiful now than I did before. I ignore the insults and accept the compliments with a smile, but I don’t put much stock in either. After all, I didn’t shave my head to be beautiful. I did it to be free.
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