There is a life before and after the 28th of April 2017. You ask why? Imagine you have something a lot of people want and admire, something unique which brings you confidence, pride and joy. Now figure yourself, detaching from it completely, willingly. How does it feel?
The mane character
My mother, my grand-mother, the mother of my grand-mother and so many women before had the same organic power: a crown of curls, black, blond or brown, waving under the sun, surfing on the rain, floating behind them as they climbed mountains or dived into the Red sea, short like pop-corn or long like a cape, wild and free. In other words: a mane.
Since children usually want to be like everyone else, or at least like their friends, they dislike every external sign that could distinguish them. Especially when that sign is obvious, causing you many nicknames and jokes from the whole class. Even some teachers. A more extravert child could have like these marks of interest, but I struggled to reconcile my discretion with that ostentatious gift. You guess that a teenage-hood didn’t help so much. How many years it took me to accept and recognize the beauty of my hair…
People growing up, students becoming smarter (or less dumb, depends how you want to see it), I finally embraced that amazing mass and became familiar with its shapes, its whims and needs. I stopped tying it, and freed the lioness. Grrrrr!
What defines ourselves?
The day I made the decision to stop cutting my hair, I was firmly decided to finding and affirming my true Self. After years of restless wandering, looking for the meaning of life, of my relationships, of my work, of everything, I simply figured out I was living next to myself. Next to my Truth. Not paying a lot of attention to my intuition, my gut feelings and other instinctual aspects of my being. Letting my hair grow was the beginning of a quest including femininity, sensuality and sexuality, but as well adulthood, childhood, sisterhood, expression and affirmation.
4 years later, I can have a clearer vision on what brought me here, on the mystical power of letting this curly part of me becoming bigger and bigger. But I’m pretty sure it is very personal and the experience won’t be the same for anyone. Our education and culture, the society we grew up in and our biological differences, all of that make the relationship between us and our hair special, and if mine has always been a great companion in my exploration of life, it may be very different for you.
The fact is, we all find various ways to define ourselves. And probably for you too, a huge part of who you think you are includes the way you look. I don’t mean your style, even though for some of us it is a daily preoccupation, therefore it shapes how we think, so who we are. I mean the aspect of our physical body, of the body our parents gave us. We associate the reality of that physical body to the idea of « Me », and use it in various contexts to justify our existence. Think about it: how many times have you used a physical trait to describe yourself? How many times have you made the same joke about your body, again and again, to introduce yourself to new acquaintances? It can be your height, the size of your breasts or butt, shape of your shoulders… Now reflect on that. Are you really this specific trait? Or are you using it to define yourself? To be recognized? Appreciated? Is there a Self separated from this physical aspect? Where is the limit?
I was there. Cause I was my hair. My hair was me. The « curly one », Jackson 5, sheepy, and I spare you the French nicknames. When I took the power back and seized my physical special feature, it seemed that I was finally myself. It felt this way. By fully accepting my hair and evolving in my life in the same time as it did, the limit between me and it became a blur. Was it pride, this manner I had to untie it in the street? Was it a shield, this wall of curls between me and strangers? Was it a trap, this lover’s web I let down?
I reached the point where I needed to clarify it, because I wasn’t sure that the self-confidence, radiance and strength I developed on my way were absolutely coming from within. I couldn’t stand to depend on something external, in this world where women are still told to be so many things in order to deserve love, desire and respect. I wanted to test myself, and see how I could feel beautiful, strong and free, no matter what, with or without this precious mane.
Just do it.
Let’s make the long story short: I decided to do it. Not only to know more about myself, letting a lot of memories behind, feeling more free, moving on, but first of all, because I didn’t want to die without trying to have extra short hair. This is simple. This is only hair.
And the more « conscious » we are told to be, the more serious people tend to become. I remember this teacher who said months ago: « Life is about joy. » My inner child woke up, and I found the playfulness of trying back, without thinking about failure at any moment. I was not afraid anymore, because the action itself was more exciting than anything else. Even though my mind tried to find an escape door by pretending that « eh, it might stay a metaphor, you don’t need to actually do it you know… ». I know man, but why not do it? It will grow again!
Respond or react: you choose.
I only realized 1 month later that I had cut everything. It took over 30 days to slowly realize the countless habits I had during 25 years with long hair: removing it under my head on the pillow, untying it before shower, petting it while waiting in a restaurant, letting it down when a handsome man would be around… What an interesting list of the roles it played for me!
Indeed, because of its size and shape and softness (I’m still proud, like a mom with her child), my hair was a huge way to catch attention from others, to be recognized and appreciated. Because before, in the 15 first minutes of meeting someone new, I would have had a word about it, and a smile, and a friendly contact. And now, well… It’s another way to interact. The modification is subtle but definitely real, that’s why I cut it shorter, a second time, when I really felt I had to unveil an old communication pattern.
The Self is like a hypochondriacal patient: when something disturbs it, it exaggerates the event, becomes dramatical and rises doubts about your ability to survive it. Especially when it is the purpose of the test. Getting in touch with your initial intention is a great way to find strength through a hardship you have chosen willingly. It will help to respond to the tests, instead of reacting, as a wounded Self would. Thus, when I started mumbling like a young girl when someone talked to me, or when I found it incredibly difficult to express myself in front of an audience where I had built confidence and charisma the past years, I kept in mind that I had the choice. I could choose between complaining about that experience (reacting) or I could choose to learn from it, and observe as much as I could every thought crossing my mind in challenging situations (responding).
I met nice and wise friends on my way, and received unexpected compliments which supported my sweet curly ego, softening the challenge on my femininity. Yet the best relief came from within, as always. When I realized that regardless of my appearance, I could still speak my truth with passion and confidence, besides finding like-minded people around who truly understood my decision. It even brought some clarity about that need of being understood, that I’m still cherishing so much while knowing it’s pointless: those who spontaneously guided me, shared their story, knowing me enough to trust in my discernment and assisted me in that adventure, they don’t need any explanation. They understand.
I couldn’t predict all what came up. It’s very exciting to observe the process which is still ongoing, and the diverse lessons I get from that experience. I know I will let it grow again, but today, I’m not so sure about when… I kinda like this pop-corned-like hair style!
« … for those who have that mysterious understanding, no need to explain. For those who don’t, no explanation will ever be enough. »
Clarissa Pinkola Estés