I did it. I cut off all of my hair. Here’s what I noticed.

If you’ve been following me here, you might know that I made exactly 1 resolution for 2019: blog weekly, 100 posts in 2019. But I have several other goals for this year, all under the umbrella to stay curious.

One thing I got curious about is my hair–mainly, what would happen if I didn’t have it any more? What time could I gain by not messing with it daily? What would I learn about its connection to my identity? What could a dramatic change in this area of my life possibly catalyze? So on December 31, 2018 I added “Cut off all of my hair” to my list of goals for the new year.

You might be thinking I’m being melodramatic to attach all that meaning or questions to hair. Hair, really? Let me tell you what I have learned since cutting 16 inches of it last Friday.

One: Doing something dramatic is really, freaking fun.

If you’ve been contemplating doing something that feels big (even just to you), if that thing scares you a just little (or a lot!), I am telling you to DO IT. Travel to that place alone. Get that tattoo. Adopt that dog. Buy that instrument. Get that hair cut/color. With all our routines, life can begin to feel predictable. One way to remind ourselves of our power is to take charge of something small in a dramatic way.  I had so much fun throughout this process–from the collective squeals of stylists who have known me for over a decade to the wide-eyed moment of silence from my friends when they first saw me to the burst of laughter that bubbled out of me the first time I looked in my mirror at home and for a second didn’t know who was staring back.

Two: We all have a relationship with our hair.

That relationship can be playful, loving, intense, contentious, or estranged but it is a relationship. This is not just informed by my recent experience cutting all my hair off. Before I went to college, I completed a year-long cosmetology school program. Throughout college, I worked in 2 different salons and ran a small side hustle out of my dorm room. Fun fact: my “salon station” was a red-and-black DeWalt tool chest. Throughout all of this, I observed the relationship people have with their hair and how that relationship often mirrors broader truths about their self-perception and self-love. Not always, but often.

If our hair doesn’t have a deep connection to our identity, why have several people reacted to my dramatic hair cut by exclaiming, “You are so brave!” If we don’t have a relationship with our hair, why would it feel scary to change it?

One woman said to me: “I would cry for days if I cut off all my hair.” To which I became very curious–what does that reaction show us about our relationship to our hair? What does it show me that I wanted to cut mine all off in dramatic fashion? What does it mean that I had fun doing it? We have a relationship to our hair, and I will just posit that taking time to explore it a bit might reveal some important truths.

Three: Hair remains a deeply gendered place.

In true millennial fashion, I posted some pictures to social media and was fascinated by people’s reactions. Two men made comments in the vein that I should run for office. Women often used words like “powerful” and “sassy” to describe my newly shorn look. At work, a male colleague made a comment that I looked like a “younger, thinner Hilary Clinton.” This did not offend me (I can hear the cringes crossing time and space), but, again, it did make me curious. What in our psyche identifies power with short hair? And conversely, do we automatically associate longer hair with weakness? Further, do we then connect short/powerful strongly with “masculine” and long/weak with “femininity?” I don’t think I’m too far out there by saying, likely yes.

At work, my team provides a workshop around the culture of governing boards. In that training one way we define “culture” is “the written and unwritten rules that guide a team.” In cutting off my hair, I feel like some of the unwritten cultural rules that guide or push or grind down on us became apparent. In making what many would deem a deeply personal choice–how we wear our hair–we are actually making a larger choice about how others will perceive us and what assumptions we will encounter every time we walk into a room.

I did suspect this even before I cut my hair. In my work, I often am entering a room of people who are likely to be older than me by decades. They are likely to be mostly male. I wondered how my credibility, authority, and presence might be affected by my appearance changing from long hair to short.

All of these thoughts are merely reflections from my experience. I don’t have a broader theory or research to underpin these musing, but I wanted to process, document, and share them. If you have an experience that resonates or conflicts with what I’m sharing here, would you mind taking a moment to comment? I’d love to hear other’s stories.

I’ll keep staying curious, and I’ll keep sharing.

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