On Monday evening I was lucky to be a part of my mother’s annual Tennis Team Christmas party. I love this tradition. Every year her tennis team (and some who used to be members and are no longer) get together for drinks and food and a fun gift exchange, white elephant style. It’s so cool to see the women that have been such a huge part of my mom’s life and to watch them laugh and party and have a good time. I usually participate in the gift exchange, but mostly I’m just there to help in any way I can so that my mom can relax and enjoy her company.
Many of these women I only see once a year, and while many of them follow me on Facebook, some of them do not. This past year I’ve had a lot of changes, one of them being my bald head. I expected there would be some questions. Everyone was kind and mostly just a bit curious as to why I cut my hair. It caused me to realize that I haven’t yet written a proper blog post about my hair journey and why I choose bald.
There are many photos of me as a young child. My mom was pretty good at capturing the important moments in my life. One thing that is incredibly clear as you look back over the faded images, is my hair was a firey red. I was born a red head. My hair had a wave to it and my mother used to say it reminded her of the shade of a penny. Sort of a rusty red I suppose. Brown eyes, red hair, freckles. I hated them as a child because it was the most obvious go to for kids who wanted to tease me. I wasn’t the norm. I didn’t have the blue eyes and blonde hair like most of the kids my age.
As I got older I grew to love it. At lease I thought I did. I grew to love the way it made me feel. It turned into a bit of a security blanket. It made me fit in where I thought people wanted me. See, I was overweight…BUT… I had such beautiful red hair. Or, I didn’t fit in with the other girls…BUT…boy I was sure blessed to have such beautiful hair. It became something that defined me. Boys I would meet on dating apps seemed more inclined to date me because they “had a thing for red heads”. I loved it because it sort of over shadowed the things I hated about myself and thought others might hate as well. It somehow kept me from feeling vulnerable about my appearance.
As a teenager I would dye my hair from time to time (like most rebellious teens do) and my mothers response was always
“Oh…but your beautiful red hair!”
To her credit, as a mom I probably would feel the same way about my son dying his hair. I get it. But I just wanted her to see why it was something I needed to do to discover myself. When I met my husband Rob, he encouraged me to really discover who I was and embrace it. For the first time in my life I felt like I could get the tattoos I’d always wanted and dye my hair any color I liked and not have to answer to anyone about it.
I started by shaving a small part of my hair and dying it some funky colors. I wish I could say I just woke up one day and shaved my head cause I’m a bad ass… but sadly it didn’t quite happen that way.
My baldness, was sort of an accident.
My husband and I went on a dying spree and decided to do some fun rainbow colors. First, I had to bleach my hair. I will never forget the way it felt. I leaned over the sink to rinse my hair, and instead of hair I felt mush. It was falling out in clumps at the front of my head. My long hair just falling away.
I was devastated. I cried and freaked out and panicked and every other emotion you could imagine. I refused to go to work. I felt sick. We decided it had to at the very least be clipped with the clippers to make it even. I remember sitting on the stool in the bathroom, sobbing as my husband took the clippers to my hair. When we finished it was no more than a few inches long. I tried so hard to rock it, to embrace it… and my husband, who loved the idea of a bald wife, felt so sad that the process of clipping my hair had been so devastating. It was gone. My blanket, my safety, my beautiful hair. Gone.
That is when it hit me.
Why on earth had this ravaged my heart so greatly? Why did I feel like a part of me had died when I was sitting there, clearly still very much alive? Had I really spent 37 years letting something so trivial define who I was? Was this what I wanted to be remembered for?
When I die someday, some people will remember me as Claire, some as Bird. Some people might remember my voice or my heart or my spirit or how I loved others. Some may remember my laughter or the art I created or how I gave to others when I could. Some may even remember the dumb shit I did. But my hair? Was that really what I was letting define me?
I knew right then what I had to do. I looked at my husband and simply stated
“Let’s just shave it. Let’s do it right now.”
We walked upstairs together and it was the last time I saw more than a smidge of my hair. I rid myself of something that didn’t really matter in the grand picture. It was the best decision I have ever made.
I’ve discovered so many things about myself since that fateful decision was made. I realized that without my hair, I am still funny and kind and giving and beautiful. My husband LOVES me bald and tells me every single day. I feel free and sometimes incredibly vulnerable, which as it turns out, is ok and healthy and therapeutic. Being vulnerable is so important to discovering who we are. I am learning to look in the mirror and see other things besides my hair. My smile, my freckles, the beautiful art on my skin, the handsome man standing behind me admiring me as well. I’ve also learned that the mirror is kinda overrated.
Ultimately, what I want to leave behind in this world is something much bigger than what I see in the mirror. I don’t know what that is yet. I don’t know if I’ll do something important to many or something important to few. As long as it’s SOMETHING. Bald is beautiful. I am beautiful. And I am free.