I Cut My Hair Off And It Made Me Feel Strong

I cut my hair off
Photo by Rachel Claire

I waited four months and three days before I had my hair cut off.

I didn’t want it to be a rebound response after ending my marriage. I wanted it to be a decision I was sure about. A decision I didn’t regret. A decision where I could hold my head up high as I waited to collect my daughter at the school gates. I knew others would have their views about my dramatic transformation. Other people always have their opinions. And that’s okay. I wasn’t doing it for them. I was doing it for me.

A woman cutting off her long hair doesn’t go unnoticed and is still a source of debate. Feminist debate even. Begging the question, who does a woman’s hair actually belong to? It invites a reaction from both men and women, even if not asked for.

In my experience of wearing short pixie styles in the past, the women have called it brave. Yet, all except one adding as a caveat, that they didn’t have the courage to pull it off themselves. Or they claimed that it wouldn’t suit their face shape.

The men admired the spunkiness of it for a limited period. Hopeful that I would grow it back again once the phase had passed. Admitting, they would prefer if it were a little longer.

What statement was I making on this occasion? Was I trying to make myself unattractive? A punishment for ending an abusive marriage. A punishment for staying when I should have left. Was I trying to reinvent myself? Or reclaim the part of me I had repressed for too long. Was I rebelling against female stereotypes? Turning my back on the long and luscious princess hair that many little girls desire? By cutting my hair, was I trying to deny my gender?

As open-minded as we try to be, long hair in the West still symbolizes femininity. Boys with long hair get confused for girls, and girls with short hair labeled boyish or gay.

In the past, long hair on a woman was also a sign of fertility—an asset to a father when trading his daughter as a commodity. My fertile days were over at the age of 48. I didn’t have the opportunity or inclination to bear another child. But did cutting my hair make me less of a woman?

By no means a justification, but here are MY reasons. I did it because:

It looked better.

For years I tried to emulate the coiffured mane that permeates popular culture. But my hair never played ball. Although curly, it wasn’t ‘good’ curly. I had loose asymmetric waves at the front of my head and tight, frizzy curls at the back. My cowlick parting never sat right. And as I grew older, my hair began to look thin and wiry. In reality, most days, I scraped it off my head into a tight ponytail. Avoiding having to deal with the nest that inhabited my head.

It was easier.

When I did attempt to do anything constructive with my long locks, it took ages. As a single mum of a young child, impractical even. When I washed my hair, it molted. It was time-consuming removing the thin, slippery strands from my neck, body, fingers, and bath. And after that, I spent ages rubbing in serums to encourage soft, non-frizzy curls. I waited for hours for it to dry, not daring to use a hairdryer in case of more frizz.

Okay, I’ll admit—after that was all done, it did look half decent for about five minutes. But by the time I had returned from the school run and the rain and wind had done their worst? I looked like a weathered witch once again; the hairband reemployed.

It was fun.

Nervousness and excitement incite similar physical reactions. Indeed, we can sometimes get them confused. Naturally, I was a little nervous about the change in appearance, but the excitement won over. I felt cheeky.

I chose to avoid a military-style buzzcut. I had done that once before, and it didn’t suit me. Too severe. Instead, I opted for a shaved undercut and a manageable longer curly section on top, which I can play with.

So far, I have dyed it blue, red, orange, and now pink. Why should the young have all the fun? Like rebellious teenagers or undergrads experimenting before they get a serious job. I want some fun too. Hell knows the last few years have been anything but.

It made me feel strong.

I am the opposite of biblical Samson. I gained strength, not lost it when I clipped off my locks. I felt empowered that I could. I felt formidable that I didn’t care if anyone said they didn’t like it. As I ran my fingers up and down along the velvety bristles at the nape of my neck, I felt invincible. I had taken on Mike Tysen and won. I had managed to end an abusive relationship all on my own.

My new, short hair made me believe that no matter what knockbacks I receive from herein, I could do anything. Nothing can stand in my way ever again.

It defies convention.

I want to live an extraordinary life, not a conventional one. Having an edgy/punky haircut means I don’t have to should any longer. Cultural beliefs say you should try and make a marriage work, even if you’re beyond unhappy. My haircut reminds me I don’t have to. When my limiting shadow self says I am not good enough to become a writer, I should get a steady, sensible job. My haircut reminds me I am good enough, and I don’t have to. I can achieve all my dreams.

Having a haircut after a break-up might seem a cliche. Out with the old; in with the new rhetoric. And perhaps it is. To me, it signifies my new beginning—a refusal to allow a difficult past to stain the beautiful present or block a magical future.

At some point, I may choose to grow my hair long again. But, if I do, it doesn’t mean I have reverted back to the old me. This phase has not passed. The new will continue to grow within me. My life now is about feeling cheeky, having fun, and daring to be different. It’s about feeling strong, free, and defying convention. It’s about learning to move to the pulse of my drum and no one else’s.

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