October 4th, 2006 09:40 EST
It's Only Hair...isn't it?
Never judge a book by its cover, that`s what they say, but who, exactly, is they? Where are they? In my experience, they exist only in our imaginations and in perhaps, the greater works of literature. Those few sterling examples of humanity, the noble, the magnanimous, they. In this world, I doubt that they really exist.
We all judge people by their appearance. Though we may try not to, though we may not admit to it, it happens every day and I have learned the lesson firsthand, these past few weeks. A book is indeed judged by its cover. Back in August, I shaved my head. Not too extreme by some people`s standards, yet living in the middle of ultra-conservative, small town, Texas, it has been interesting, very interesting.
After a cancer scare in my family, I started thinking, and decided that I wanted to donate my hair. My friends and family, of course, tried to persuade me otherwise, but my mind was set, and it is only hair, after all. Mine will grow back, lucky me; but there are many people out there that do not have that luxury.
So I went to my stylist one afternoon at lunch and told her to chop it all off ". After she recovered and her color improved, she did just that. She braided my long, chocolate tresses into neat little braids and then, after a quick prayer, chopped them off. I was left with hair about half an inch long. It felt cooler in the Texas heat already.
I busied myself with stuffing the braids into a bag and filling out a form for Locks of Love ", the organization that I donated the hair to, and she went about trying to style " my wisps. It was a lost cause. Whether from hysteria or the heat, I decided to just put my poor head out of its misery without delay. Cut it all off ", I said. Shave it ".
Again, once she had composed herself, the clippers came out. Big, honking, military style clippers came out of the bottom drawer and she shook the dust off them. I suppose in a women`s hair salon, those do not get much use.
She flipped them on with a click thuuuuung " and held them just over my head, hesitating, waiting for me to call her off and say, Just kidding! " Well, I did not, and was not. She proceeded to shave my head with a one guard. Now anyone that has been through the head shaving process knows that a one guard is as low as you can go without just taking the bare clippers to your head.
It was invigorating. Liberating. Cool, comfortable, and totally empowering. I will never regret that decision. I sat in that chair, shoulders squared, grinning like an idiot, ready to take on the world with my bare hands.
A few days later, I went in to the grocery store and the fun began. Do not ask me why, but when a bald man walks into the room, nobody cares, when a bald woman walks in, well, it is an entirely different story. I may as well have been on fire. People, young and old, male and female, all the people; just stare. I have to admit the older people are a lot worse. I see them staring at me and can almost feel the panic in the air. They just don`t get it. I suppose it upsets their concept of male and female, night and day, good and evil. That is just a guess.
I went to a local Dairy Queen a few weeks later, with a considerable amount of new growth on my head. Again, the small town mentality took hold and opened up some weird portal near the Dilly Bars. I stood at the counter, placing my order, and could feel the eyes of the elderly patrons boring into my back. Meanwhile, the table full of high-school boys had a conversation at their leisure and my expense, just behind me. They just could not figure out, was I a Dude or Chick? " I can assure you I am neither, I`m a woman.
I ignored them all, finished my business, and went on about my day as usual. When I got home that night, however, I was annoyed. How dare they stare like that? What is wrong with people? They don`t know me, they don`t know my story. Why am I bald? Did I give my hair away? Am I undergoing chemotherapy? Was I in a horrible accident and had to have neurosurgery? Those people do not know me and they do not know why I am bald, so how dare they presume to judge me. How dare they look at me as if I am a lesser being, just because my hair 1/8 of an inch long.
Tell me, what is the appropriate length for hair? Would they stop treating me with disdain if it was an inch long? Two inches? 12 inches? What is the magic number?
Again, I do not know the answer, nor do I much care. I decided it was my head, my business, and boo them all if they want to stare.
In fact, if they want something to stare and point at, I`ll give it to them. As soon as I got home that evening, I pulled out my trusty pink Daisy razor and proceeded to shave my noggin bald. Yes, slick bald. No hair. Nada. Zilch.
My children call me Mrs. Clean ", rub my scalp, and giggle. My mother rolls her eyes and shakes her head. She does not understand. I shave my head. I`m cooler in the heat than all the rest. I walk with my shoulders squared and my chin up. I mentally high five Demi Moore, Sigourney Weaver, Natalie Portman, and all my other sisters out there that have dared to cross that line and ignore that taboo. It`s only hair, after all.