Under these shelter in place orders, I've gotten a lot of satisfaction from rebelling against the patriarchy in small ways. I haven't worn a speck of makeup or hair product since March 12th. I haven't put on a bra, except for the sports variety when I'm getting ready to jog or ride a bike or do yogic inversions. Exactly three times, I've worn pants with proper fasteners. The rest has been an ecstasy of elastic waistbandedness.
At the moment, loosening the reins- or the belt, as it were- may feel a little more accessible, since many people are leaving the house so much less often. For me, though, I wasn't wearing fancy clothes or a lot makeup even before all of this. Living in San Francisco, working as a teacher (in a strong union), and being who I am, getting fancy rarely felt required or enjoyable. But even my jeans and skincare routine got to feeling like a drag sometimes.
If you've also been enjoying some freedom from primping lately, and want to turn your rebellion against conventional beauty standards up a few notches, might I suggest shaving your head? I did about a year ago, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.
First off, I want to acknowledge that there was a lot of my privilege involved in this act. I was (and still am) quite healthy, and I had a lot of hair. Plenty of people I know have suffered the trauma of hair loss for various reasons, and I feel incredibly grateful to be able to choose whether or not I have hair. Also, I knew beforehand that, as a white person, though I'd certainly face negative gender-based comments, I'd never be fired or kicked out of school for any hairstyle, even one that some people might consider radically inappropriate. Toggling with my gender expression even feels fairly fun and comfortable for me, most of the time, as a cishet woman.
So. Why on earth did I make this decision in the pre-COVID era? And what have been the perks?
On March 25th of last year, the first day of spring break and the morning after I'd shaved my head, I sprung out of bed at 6AM like a kid on Christmas. When I’d gone to bed after the big chop, I'd been worried that my excitement would dissipate all too soon. I was convinced that when I woke up, in that groggy space where it's hard to know if you're remembering reality or a dream, I'd reach up to touch my head and be flooded with shock, then tears of regret. Instead, I found that I felt even more free than when I'd laid my bald head down the night before. My skittish giddy nerves were now replaced by that purer joy that comes with the calm of knowing you've made the right decision. I nearly floated from my bed to the bathroom mirror to admire my whole self, the most naked I've been since the day I was born, which was precisely 39 years and 2 months prior. I couldn’t stop grinning.
That kind of calm is pretty rare for me. If you know me-or have read some of my other posts- you know that I often continue to doubt decisions I've made, both big and small, sometimes even years after making them. As I discuss in that linked piece, however, so much of the difficulty of decision making is that it involves a permanent loss of some sort. If you choose to do one thing, you give up the chance to do the other. Not so with hair. Chemical treatments mean you can experience having both straight and curly hair in your lifetime. Pink now, green later. If you have no hair, you can join in on the fun for the price of a few wigs. You can try it all. (Well, not all. Note to my fellow white folks: locs are one of the exceptions for us. Just. No.) And even though my certainty is undoubtedly buoyed by the low-stakes impermanence of hairstyle decisions, I want to think that also, just maybe, I'm getting better at this. This process of sitting back into the choices I've made and stretching my legs a bit.
is a health-seeker and health educator living in the US in San Francisco, California. She is also a former (and maybe future) high school English teacher, and she loves words. Maybe health seeker looks better with a hyphen, or maybe it doesn't. You should just get over it. Even if she cannot.