Sunday, January 3, 2021

Still life without hair

 So…

Back in early November I messed up my bangs so badly I couldn't stand to look at myself.

So I slapped the #1 guard on my clippers (which I normally was using to keep my undercut and fade as immaculate as possible given -gestures at the pandemic/2020/etc-) and… shaved my head.

Entirely.

Break/Content Warning: discussion of childhood trauma, abuse, and bullying.

To be fair, I'd been mulling over shaving my head since the pandemic started, but was worried about doing it because job interviews.

A couple things have happened since March 2020, like… realizing just how neurodiverse I am, and… that to some degree I'm actually pretty genderqueer. Still on the Femme side of things, just more dark goth hard femme than I had initially thought.

I managed to get a contracting gig, and also managed to get some pandemic assistance unemployment after four months of waiting on the State of Oregon to process my claim (that finally happened in August, right before everything caught on fire and smelled like smoke for a month and could barely take my dog out to go potty).

So… yea. Chopping off all my hair felt like the right thing to do. I gotta get used to living with this weird Clancy Brown shaped head of mine (ye gods, with my undercut I was able to do a passible "Kurgan from Highlander" closet cosplay if I gunked up my hair and didn't wear makeup) and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ what better time than now.

Fast forward and it's now January 2021. A couple weeks ago I decided that I would go full q-ball when the presidential inauguration happens, because I want to start from scratch for this next chapter of my life. The last four years and change were some of the hardest and also most productive of my life for sorting myself out because I've basically had to confront like… 90% of my complex PTSD trauma sources, get to the bottom of some physical health issues, oh, yea, and grapple with the fact that I am somewhere in the 3D locus space of Autism, ADHD, and mood disorders. All of this shit while trying to hold down or find work  which meant I was masking so hard I was losing 30-70% of my mental energy trying to pass for a neurotypical (read: normal) human, which… y'all? I am not. I just… am not.

I was looking at my hair in the mirror this morning and see how badly I've goobered up trying to do a fade with my still pretty short hair, misjudged how long of a guard I needed to clean up the top, got like… 20% of the way in to cleaning up my hair and…

Well, I broke out the #1 guard again, and bzzzz bzz bzz… goodbye hair!

Picked up and got rid of the recently shorn hair. Took a shower to wash off all the awful little bits. 

Looked in the mirror.

Grabbed the clippers again, took off the guard, set the blade to its shortest setting and…

This is as short as I can get my hair without using shaving cream and a razor.

I… don't know how I can tell you, oh imaginary readers, what this means to me, a 36 year old assigned female at birth person.


Y'all, for so much of life the only thing I was noticed for was my long, red, stick straight hair.

Like, it was my only defining trait. "Hey Red" that wasn't too bad, that was an old guy my dad worked with.


But at school?


Somehow I can't remember all of the names I was called. "Duracell" still stands out as maybe the most interesting one — that was in grade school. Copper top, red hair? Ok yea that was kinda creative.


I am thankful that South Park didn't come out until I was in late middle school. They didn't come for the ginger kids until I was in high school or maybe at university.


Worst of all, there's my mom. She was so incredibly controlling over my hair.

Like… all I had to offer as a "good" child was my hair.

I have a lot of bad childhood memories about my hair. Smelly dandruff shampoo. Too tight of ponytails. Too hard of hair brushing. Hairbrush bristles that scratched my scalp. The hair dryer being turned up too high and it feeling like my scalp was burning. I think one time she even broke a hairbrush spanking me with it.

I spent a very large portion of my life with very long, very straight red hair. Up until I was 12 I had long straight heavy bangs that went right across my forehead, and would inevitably grow too long and get caught in my eyebrows and sometimes poke me in the eyes.

I wasn't allowed to cut my hair myself.

Weirdly, as I remember it, I wasn't allowed to wear my hair in braids after a certain point (although maybe I stopped because I was sick of getting called "Anne of Green Gables" and "Pippi Longstocking" all the time).

I feel like the braid ban also prevented me from learning how to french braid my hair myself. Or, I may have not wanted to because the few times my mom did french braid my hair it involved a lot of hair pulling and getting yelled at to not move, but that may be a few bad memories overshadowing everything else. I did love getting my hair french braided when it was haircut day, the family stylist was so gentle about braiding my hair.

I did eventually get a lot of my hair cut off in 97 or 98, and kept my hair short through high school, varying from the "spiked with glue" punky look to a bob.

That… led to a lot of bullying about me maybe being a lesbian which… ok high school "peers" you were close I'm actually a pansexual queerdo, and I stand by my "I'd rather date a goat than any of you even if we were the last humans on earth" remark.

I desperately wanted to bleach my hair and dye it purple in about 2001 but that was not allowed. I did get a few white blonde bleach highlights, but it wasn't the same. (Yes, gentle readers, I wanted to look like Konoko from Oni, y'know, the weird cyberpunk martial arts game Bungie put out. Yea it was kind of a weird ripoff of Ghost in the Shell and it bombed terribly, but she was so badass.)

I was starting to grow my hair out at the end of high school.

Then bad things happened, and… I just let it keep growing. And growing. And growing.

It was a shield. I could hide behind this massive wall of red hair. I could pull it in front of my face and make a very convincing Cousin It from the Addams Family cosplay.

But it was also an unwanted beacon.

People would come up and start petting my hair.

Without asking.

Strangers. Classmates at university. People on the bus. People at my part time job at the Apple Store.

I got a lot of unwanted attention from creepy dudes who were way too into various red-headed actresses from early 2000s TV shows.

A manager at the Apple Store saw a young woman come in who had partially dyed her red hair black and told me I should never do that to my hair.

A friend at the Apple Store would dye her hair all sorts of colors, I liked hanging out with her because it was the only time people didn't notice me for my hair, because she'd always have something bright and outlandish.

I spent about a decade being "that girl with long red hair" — it was easier to hide behind just being my hair.

I would occasionally get 8-12" of hair lobbed off at the stylist and donate it to locks of love and would still have really long hair.

Then in 2015 I got some streaks of blue and green and white dyed into my hair paired with a very sharp bob and… things finally started to change (to be fair, I also started therapy at just about this moment in time exactly).

I finally got away from my family, and moved out entirely on my own.

My first year out on my own was tentative. It was weird, adapting to being in an environment that I alone controlled. Well, mostly — I live in an apartment complex with neighbors. Thanks to my sensitive neurodiverse hearing I could tell when my old downstairs neighbors kids were crying, can identify what episode of the Mandalorian people are on, can tell when folks start playing Destiny, and can tell when people turn on exhaust fans or water for the next door and downstairs units.

For a bit I just trimmed the ends of my hair myself, and chopped out the bleached stripes when they eventually faded and got raggedy.

In 2016 I went to a new stylist who pointed out "hey, uh, your hair is actually pretty wavy" and learned my hair wasn't only meant to be stick straight — it can actually do some really gorgeous beach waves (which, in hindsight, it probably has always been able to do, it sure as heck tried in summer 2002 when I was in Japan due to all the humidity).

Then I got fed up with the weird leftover bits from the old bleach spots and gave myself anime bangs.

From there I started getting little bits of my hair highlighted, got layers, played up the fact that my hair wants to be wavy, and had some delightful beachy years.

Summer of 2018 I got fed up with how thick my hair was, and got the sides of my head shaved (ostensibly, this was also partially to make it easier to gauge my ears, before I got the sides shaved hair kept getting stuck in the gauges, and it was so gross).

…Then February 2019 rolls around and suddenly I'm dealing with a stalker at my workplace.

Red-headed me is super identifiable. So the second thing I do after "hey uh how do I make sure this man can't come find me in the office at work?" is contact my stylist with "help, I need to look different, ASAP" and my best friend, to borrow some very not-me clothes until I can get in to get my hair changed.

It's some sort of weird magical kismet that I ended up with purple hair out of this stalker incident.

Suddenly I was free from being "the girl with long red hair" — coworkers couldn't identify me. A lot of my friends went "whoa" at the change. There was a fair bit of "aw but I'll miss your red hair" comments.

It makes me sad that thanks to the stalking I don't feel comfortable posting color photos of me at this point. I had a LOT of fun with my hair from Feb 2019 to Nov 2020. At one point I had amazing gradient ombre hair that went from fuchsia/magenta to purple to black. I taught myself how to use permanent professional salon color at home, and have been mixing up developer and color and DIYing since December 2019 to cover up my roots every 2-4ish weeks.

I am… kinda sad I fucked up my hair in November. I had finally gotten to "fashion forward vampire" and felt really, really happy with how well I had paired my hair and makeup. (I also have an OUTSTANDING driver's license photo where I very much look like a vampire/ghost that is from literally a week before the great bang disaster.)

But also… Shaving off my hair and keeping it short has helped me process a lot of things.

There's a lot of "who am I?" questions that it has brought up for me around my gender and gender representation. I spent a week with hot pink neon Furiosa hair, and got through things by taking the time to put on a full face of makeup. I won't lie, I felt really lost and couldn't see "me" for a couple days and it was scary. (But still less scary than the bad haircut.)

Mostly it's been freeing. Showering takes a lot less time.

I can dry my hair by quickly rubbing a hand towel over my head a couple times after I hop out of the shower.

There is literally no styling time involved, which… Even with an ionic ceramic hair dryer and judicious towel drying back in my long red hair days? It could take an hour to get my hair dry. If I braided it when it was wet in the morning it would still be wet 12-16 hours later. Even with my undercut (I had from my temples down shaved all the way around my head at the end) it could still take half an hour to get my remaining hair dry.

I'm sticking with my plan to shave down my head on inauguration day.

I need the fresh start.

Also, this time I'm gonna let it mostly grow, and not try to keep the fade from my undercut up… that… was not working out so well.

Hopefully by the time its long enough to reach my ears I'll be able to go to the stylist again. At least in the meantime I can keep running through the gamut of purply colors.

For now though? I'm gonna enjoy rocking my goofy Sluggo from the old Power Computing Mac clone ads look.

(But I also really, really have to grow it out, my dog is way too invested in licking my scalp right now.)

Bats and liches,

-V


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