People think that when a woman cuts off her hair, it means something is wrong. “I think she’s going through a rough time,” they whisper. They try to pinpoint the trauma—”it was that boyfriend who broke up with her” or “I think she might have had an eating disorder.” Women are supposed to be attached to their hair, and their hair is supposed to be attached to them. It’s one of the most obvious signs of femininity and if a woman shaves it all off, she either has cancer, is majorly depressed, or is rebelling against society.
My decision to buzz my hair was not for any of those reasons. I am not dying of anything. I’m not that rebellious. And to be honest with you, I am happier right now than I have ever been—I love my work, I love my husband, I love my mom, I love my friends. While the women around me tend to have long, lustrous locks, somehow that just didn’t seem like “me.”
So when I was walking to a thrift store in Brooklyn three weeks ago, and noticed a shop called Unisex Salon out of the corner of my eye, I passed by it and stopped. I turned around slowly, like in a movie. (There really should have been dramatic music.) I thought, I want to get my hair buzzed. It didn’t feel like a big deal, so I went in.
The woman who cut my hair had five kids and eight grandkids, all of them with beautiful names (though I only remember “Fatima,” for some reason). “Are you sure?” she said when I gave her my hair request. “So short?”
“I’m sure,” I said.
“We can start longer,” she replied.
“No, that’s OK. I want it buzzed.”
“Are you sure?”
It didn’t take very long to buzz my hair. When she finished, I exclaimed, “I love it!”
And she said, doubtfully, “It looks good.” For a second, it sounded like she wanted to say “beautiful,” but couldn’t get the word out.
I kept staring at myself in the mirror, feeling more confident about my appearance than I had in a long time. “It’s interesting how you don’t even know the shape of your head until you cut all your hair off,” I observed. She just looked at me, not finding it particularly funny at all. I really did like the shape of my head.
In the weeks after buzzing my hair, I answered the question “Why did you do it?” at least a hundred times. The simple answer I usually give: “Because I’m lazy.”
The truth is that I don’t like dealing with long hair. I don’t like dealing with hair that’s even a little bit long. I am bad at it. My hair is somewhere between wavy and curly, and I am terrible at styling it as is. Meanwhile, straightening it is even more of a disaster. I just don’t feel like doing anything to it at all.
“You know,” said an older woman, a week later, looking skeptically at my new hair, “You could’ve just put it up in a ponytail.”
But that’s not what I wanted: I wanted to not have to think about it. I wanted to take two minute showers. I wanted to not feel like I had this barrier between me and the world.
After I cut my hair, so many people said things like, “It looks good on you, but I could never get away with it. My head is a weird shape.”
This always makes me laugh, because I can’t “get away with it” either. My dad likes to talk about how he called me “cone head” when I was born, because my head was elongated and misshapen during an obviously harrowing passage through the birth canal. It’s not deformed, but it’s definitely not a perfect oval either. Also, I have a big nose, which I remember reading in Seventeen must always be matched with long hair, so as not to attract too much attention to itself. Also, my neck is not long and graceful, which seems to be the requirement for buzzed hair. The only reason I am “getting away with it” is because I did it anyway.
A funny thing happened once I got a buzz cut. I feel sexier than before. I feel more feminine. I started wearing higher heels, I started dressing up more. I was suddenly striking, and it has been incredibly fun. My closely cropped hair draws attention to the little things that make me different. It highlights my strong nose, my profound love of big belts, my smile.
The day after I got my buzz cut, I was waiting for a friend in lower Manhattan and three men walking by said, “I love your hair!” It was so predictable and flattering that I was a little tempted to keep standing on the corner, by the pizza place, looking unusual. But I didn’t, of course, because I have things to do and because I’m not completely in love with myself. But I do like that now wherever I go, strangers tell me that I look great. Buzzing your hair knocks down that fourth wall.
In the end, here is what I like most about my hair: I am in love with my ability to decide how I want to look, regardless of what women are supposed to do with their hair and how they’re supposed to feel about it. So maybe it was a little rebellious, after all. Maybe I did it to prove that I can look good, even though I don’t fit the usual descriptions of gorgeous women.
Or maybe I did it to find out what I really looked like.