27 July 2015

The Long & Short Of It

Hair can be a major identity for somebody or even something they actively try to hide behind. I believe both applies to me.

As a child, my mom would keep my hair long and I always loathed when she helped brush it all out after a bath because it tangles so easily. Throughout my school-aged years, I experimented with different colors but kept the same length: medium or long. In fact, I felt comforted or "safe" with my long hair that I could hide behind during my worse episodes of depression or anxiety.

There was only one brief time that I had my hair above the shoulders in length. I was a junior in high school going to a school that NPR did an entire piece on about its rampant bullying and very blind administration five years after I graduated. There was a group of girls and boys who seemed to harass me non-stop about every little thing.

When I had my hair shorter, it was a field day for those bullies who said I looked like a boy or asked if I was gay/trying to turn into a boy. I vividly remember going home after a long day of whispers loud enough for me to hear about my "skeletal body" and that I was a junkie, dyke, or anorexic and crying myself to sleep while desperately wishing I could have a "fuller" body.

I never battled an eating disorder, which I am very thankful for, but I remember even before that incident being hateful toward my own body. I would always try to make myself "hide" by wearing baggy clothes, large hoodies, and growing out my hair to be very long (passed my waist sometimes). I wouldn't wear makeup, dye my hair but rarely styled it. I would cut or scratch or pick at my skin because of how much I hated being myself.

It wasn't until I was about 20 that I finally started to shed away those years of insecurity and begin to embrace who I am and not trying to hide behind baggy clothes or frizzy, long hair. It felt like I could put those memories from high school behind me and forget about those bullies.

But I started to slip back into that same mentality of hating how I looked. It's so weird seeing myself look this miserable even though I do enjoy having red/burgundy hair. But I believe it wasn't enough, you know? I still hated my body, how I looked, and had this ugly perception of how others saw me in my mind.

I had enough.

The shaved cut with longer hair at the top is something I find works for both men and women. I've always identified as a more "masculine" female in terms of personality even though I do enjoy makeup, shopping, and looking pretty. The undercut on females looks empowering, aggressive and I decided I wanted to finally take the plunge.

Emotions were all over the place the days before my hair appointment. Would it look good? Is this a mistake? Am I being irrational? I was returning to my go-to hair guy who dyed my red into a more burgundy-purple color. A hairstylist who understands a X-Men reference is good in my books. John was all about the change and did an absolute amazing job--I thought I would have to explain every little detail, but all we did was look at a couple pics I had saved on my phone as I expressed my worry about thin hair and then BAM! He worked that magic.

At the first big cut John asked, "Are you ready?!" as someone else filmed the transformation. Instead of having an anxiety attack or crying like most of my friends, family, and co-workers said I would do, it was an incredibly freeing moment. That hair shed away so much grief and frustration and years trying to figure out my own style and space in this world.

When I left the salon, I felt great but also extremely nervous how people would react. I had to go into work after my appointment and the response was nothing but positive, one co-worker mentioned how it really suited my personality. My family was also very supportive and friends liked the change as well. A completely opposite reaction from being mocked or bullied, it was almost hard to believe.

I absolutely love this new hair and feel different in that awesome, hear-me-roar way. Instead of trying to hide from bullies or have them affect my own emotions so much, those same doubters and haters can essentially get screwed.

You can also say Brienne has become my spirit BFF.

And that's the long and short of it. :)

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