I’ve had a buzz cut for a week now, and only yesterday had my first smile from a stranger. I was carrying Peanut through the local mall to change him, a man in his 50s looked at me, did a double-take and grinned. Most of the time I get people looking away or just plain staring, particularly women who seem to have opinions on other women with shaved heads. Whereas I think every woman I’ve seen with a shaved head, particularly black women, look beautiful.
Some days I do feel better than others, some days I feel invincible, my eyes look huge before I’ve even done any make-up. Conversely, when you’re tired, you’ve also nothing to hide behind. I’ve got four pairs of glasses, two frames look funny on my face with no hair, two frames look fine. The glasses thing, I didn’t think about, didn’t even consider. I’ve also not yet gone up to the gym, where I know I’m going to get more stares, for someone who has had struggles enough in her own skin, this is something else I probably didn’t consider and give enough time too. There are a few days a month I am clumsier than normal, more bloated and snappish, guess what week I chose to shave my head in?
So I’ve mostly this week I have felt vulnerable. I’ve had short hair most of my life, in fact I’ve only had long hair three times. But I am really conscious that at the moment my whole head is on display. My hair is growing quickly, it already needs tidying up as I don’t want to look like a tennis ball, but my head is still out and proud for everyone to view. We went to the RSL (Returned Serviceman’s League) for Hubs’ birthday yesterday; when I’ve got more time I’ll write about clubs and my experiences of them, but mostly, it’s not good. In a nutshell, Groucho Marx famously said that he would never belong to a club that would admit him as a member, and that is the key, the membership. If you’re just on the outside, ‘the other’, you do not fit in.
In we walked, Hubs, Hanno, Peanut and I, already we stood out – because we had a toddler with us. For an age base of 60+, toddlers mean noise, disruption. Hubs is a member, Hanno an affiliate member, I signed in, while being stared at. Hubs asked what he needed to do with his birthday voucher that he’d been sent. The receptionist asked if it was his birthday today? He said yes. She was still too busy staring at me to do more than just vaguely say ‘Happy Birthday’ and mumbled something about adding his points to his membership. I popped to the bathroom, Hubs took Peanut into the children’s play area while Hanno settled at our table. Sitting down with Hanno, I was acutely aware that I was being looked at. Looked up and down. Judged. I turned in my seat to find a pair of old ladies looking at me, making that funny tsk-hissing sound under their breath. I met their stares and they looked away.
I do not care if I go out the house without make-up on, or out in scrubs or comfortables. However I’ve always liked having hair that had a strong cut on it. For someone who couldn’t control a lot of things in my life, I will pay a lot of money and be a good returning customer to somewhere that looks after my hair, and ergo me.
People don’t care that I raised $700 (and counting) for a charity. People don’t care that my son doesn’t mind, loves stroking my head and tells me it ‘Looks pretty Mama!’ People don’t care that my husband thinks I look lovely. Some people are just judging that I have shaved my head, making snap-decisions about me and my apparent lifestyle, which hasn’t actually changed, I’ve only had a haircut.
Makes you think doesn’t it? How often do we look at something and assume we know. Or thinking we are comparing like with like, when we are actually missing the point entirely, because what happened then, hadn’t happened now? Every day is different. Your perceptions of someone else’s reality are often so far from the mark, perceiving something as ‘the other’ causes more problems than recognising yourself in others.
One day late last week I found myself trying to tie a scarf round my head. Was that really for my benefit, or yours? Would it make you feel more comfortable if you couldn’t see my head, or would it make me more comfortable? Or would it make you look closer? The man that gave me an open smile yesterday morning as I whizzed through the plaza with Peanut made my day, it gave me strength when the women at the club were talking about me. I don’t know whether to give my head one last go over with a closer comb, or to ask Hubs to begin to graduate it up into beginning to style it back into shape, either way – it is just hair!