Although my sun sign is Leo, my spirit animal is more like The Cowardly Lion. I can be really timid and afraid at times. Especially when it comes to writing. I can read one good piece by another person and my confidence just crumbles. Or I’ll overwrite something, trying to excise out of it anything that anyone might possibly find offensive or disagreeable. The Internet being what it is, someone will take offense anyway, and then I’ll be like, fuck it, why put myself through this?
Despite my cowardly bent, I’ve been inspired to do some things as of late that require courage. And just today, I came across this wonderful interview with Samantha Irby – comedian, founder of the blog bitchesgottaeat and all-around hilarious writer person – that spoke to me about having the courage to tell your story the way you want to tell it.
So I want to talk about this really courageous thing I did recently:
I cut off all my hair.
We black women have a special relationship with our hair. For most of my life, mine has been long. I wore it pressed and swinging down my back until age 25, relaxed and bouncing around my shoulders until age 32, in two-strand twists for a short time, and in long locs for the past 12 years.
Until about two weeks ago.
I was tired of my locs. I was tired of the weight of them. I was tired of the heat of them against the back of my neck. I was tired of how heavy they were when wet and how long they took to dry.
And I was tired of the things they reminded me of.
When I first loc’ed my hair, my son was barely a year old. He’s now 13. The locs had taken me through my divorce, the death of my mother, and the end of my first serious post-divorce relationship. They had seen me through some good times, as well – but the negative energy was outweighing the good. I kept talking about cutting them off, mostly to hold myself accountable to my public statements. And a few days before my birthday, I made good on my promise by standing in front of my bathroom mirror with a pair of scissors, and cutting them off one by one.
A week later, I got my hair professionally cut, styled and colored.
So what have I learned from having super short hair?
1. I’ve had to be okay with being invisible to men.
My son gave me my first glimpse into how the male species looks at women with short hair. He had two main reactions: 1) “You look just like Grandma with your hair cut short” and 2) “It freaks me out that your hair looks so much like mine now.”
In other words, with short hair, I’m a boyish-looking Grandma.
Not really, but you get the picture.
I went to a lawyers’ networking event the other evening. In years past at this event, I would have gotten a wink and a nod from a gentleman in the room. I would have earned a little bit of play, though I do not go to networking events to collect phone numbers.
This year, I got as much male attention as if I had not been there at all.
I get it. Men like hair. Even though I’m carrying a bit of extra weight, my locs would have gotten a shout-out. I didn’t balance out the short hair with a form-fitting, ass-hugging dress and a pair of Louboutins.
And you know what? I won’t.
Here’s what I know: I’m cute and I have a great figure. Whoever sees me, sees me. Those to whom I am invisible didn’t merit my time in the first place.
2. I’ve had to be okay with unruly hair.
There’s only about an inch of hair on my head right now. It’s soft and curly. I like touching it.
And touching it is BAD in natural curly hair world.
My daughter has schooled me on the products to use to release my curl pattern and get it to stay just so.
But I don’t particularly want it to stay just so.
I like combing out the curls in the back into a curly semi-fro. I like fussing with the curls in the top. I like touching that one patch I never knew existed – the patch of hair in the back, near my left ear, that is the exact same texture as my dad’s silky curls. I didn’t know I had one strand of hair in my head like my dad’s. I’m gonna play with it. Fuck a curl pattern.
But that means frizz, which is the enemy of so-called natural curls.
Right now, I have an inch of hair. I’m ok with frizz. When it grows out, I might be less okay with it. Or I might chop it again.
3. I’ve had to answer the “why did you cut your locs?” question almost daily.
It’s a big deal for someone to go from mid-back length hair to one inch. And locs are spiritual for many people. For the most part, I haven’t gotten into the trapped negative energy conversation with folks. They mostly don’t need to know all that. Those I have had the discussion with, fully understand.
4. Cutting off my locs got rid of some bad ex-boyfriend juju.
It turns out that my timing on cutting my locs was impeccable.
I’ve written – sparsely – about my first serious post-divorce relationship. He asked not to be a character on my blog, and I agreed. I’d seen too much chatter about one’s own relationship go badly for other bloggers. And really, the ins and outs of our relationship were not for public consumption. (Hindsight being 20-20, I now know there are other reasons he didn’t want me to write about him.)
That relationship ended last October, and when I finally chose to write about it recently, I still put a positive spin on things. I was pleased with and proud of myself for remaining friends with him after the breakup. In the piece, I chronicled the things that went wrong, but emphasized that his friendship was still important to me. I felt all adult and shit.
And then I got an email last night from a woman who claimed she was his wife of 15 years.
No, this isn’t going to devolve into another “my man done did me wrong” post. The Internet is rife with those. The only thing unique about my story is that it happened to me. Hell, it’s not even the first time I’ve dealt with hidden wife/fiance syndrome. So I bagged up the few remaining belongings he still had here and set them out with the trash. I’ve commiserated with the people I needed to commiserate with – those who knew him or at least knew of him. They registered an appropriate level of shock and awe, and then advised me to do what I was going to do anyway – be thankful and move on.
And, whether old girl is really his wife or just the new chick trying to clear away the competition, I believe my haircut had something to do with the revelation.
I mentioned that my locs saw me through a lot of changes in my life. Dude – his arrival and his departure – was one of those changes. We started off well. We ended with me telling my friends, these men ain’t loyal. In the middle, I rediscovered some things about myself I lost during my marriage and divorce.
And now he, and my locs, are gone for good.
A woman in a group I’m in boasted about a fantastic sexual experience she recently had, one she said was truly the best sex of her life. That story was the perfect antidote to a day of miserable reflection. It reminded me that there’s still much life ahead to look forward to. I’m long overdue for a good, solid relationship with a man who deserves my trust. And some earth-shaking sex. Having those two things in the same package isn’t too much to expect.
So I’m expecting it. And settling for nothing less.