I shaved my head last Halloween. Four years prior, in a desperate attempt to win back the heart of a woman, I cut off a reasonably shaggy rag because she’d once told me she liked the shorter hair better. I lost about eighteen months’ worth of growth in an ultimately futile gesture.
Four months later I was over her and missing what I’d had (on my head). Six months further on I quit my job and moved to Chicago, finally free of a haircut requirement. With lots of gel and patience I finally got what I’d wanted in a hairdo since I was eleven years old; hair long enough to tie back.
Goal achieved. But now what? Tying it back was infinitely faster and easier than brushing it every morning, so I kept it. Over the course of the next four years I got one trim to even things out, then I let it grow and promptly forgot about it.
I was fond of it, sure. The previous twenty years saw several aborted attempts to grow it out only to give up when I hit a new level of in-between stage I couldn’t tolerate. It was even great fun to wear it down once it was past my shoulders.
Once I got to grad school it became the dominant topic of most conversations I had. Most of those conversations revolved around when I was going to cut it off. Not if; when. For more than a year I had, daily, people asking me what it would take to get me to cut it. Would you cut it if I asked you to? Would you cut it if she asked you to? When are you cutting it? You know they’re going to make you cut it, right? Say goodbye to it, it’s going. It was relentless, and it was annoying.
Finally my irritation began to surface. More than half the people I interacted with on a daily basis only spoke to me to taunt or goad me about it. I consider myself an interesting, dynamic, dimensional human being, and I was insulted at how infrequently someone wanted to talk to me about anything else. To this day there are people I’ve now known for two years with whom I never had a conversation that wasn’t centered around the length of my hair.
I began getting defensive any time the topic was brought up. My answers about its length changed from considered responses to flippant retorts. While working a scene at the end of my first year my acting teacher told me I’d have to tie it back so it wouldn’t block my face. When a classmate blurted out, “Or cut it off!” I fired back, “You know what?! YOU FIRST,” and bit my tongue to avoid unleashing a poisonous tirade.
I was embarrassed that I’d lost control, but worse was the perceived confirmation that I was very, very emotionally attached to my hair. I’d heard rumored the belief that my personality was inextricably linked to its length, and that outburst only served to confirm this.
A few months later I was ready to cut it, yet I was hesitant. I didn’t want to bend to the pressure of others, but truth be known it was getting in the way. I’m a fan of periodic large changes, and I felt it was time for another. But the biggest factor influencing me was, ironically, one of the most considered and rational arguments that came from a classmate.
As an actor I’ve always embraced the philosophy that keeping a longer beard and shaggier hair than I otherwise would was a wise decision. These things can always be cut down to a preferred size and shape rather than be easily grown to accommodate a role. Indeed, one of the answers to “When are you going to cut it?” was “When someone asks me to,” meaning that if I wanted a role that required it I’d be happy to do so. But one of the directors in my class told me my hair had reached such a length that she would specifically not cast me because she wouldn’t dare asking me to get rid of that much length in one go. Instead of allowing me freedom once I reached the professional world I came to understand that a keeping my hair would have been more detrimental than beneficial. I decided I needed a cut.
I didn’t need to get rid of it all. In fact my girlfriend tried to advise me to cut it off in stages to curb the emotional impact I’d have if I lost it all at once, but by that time I was more interested in proving a point. I wanted to be seen and considered beyond my surface aesthetics. I wanted to be seen as a person. I wanted to have different conversations.
But mostly I wanted to prove I didn’t need it.
It took a good two hours using nothing but a pair of scissors and, eventually, a shaving razor, but I took it all the way down to the skin. We measured the pony tail at 26”, and it was ultimately donated to Locks of Love. I’d never had a shaved head before, and all the physical sensations that came with it (pillows, hats, scratches) were a joy and a wonder.
I considered leaving it that way. I had lived a long hair lifestyle for years, and I was curious as to what a bald lifestyle would be. Three days later I tried shaving it myself in the shower, but it took for-fucking-ever, so I decided the maintenance bit just wouldn’t be worth it. Besides, I hated the way it looked.
It’s just now reaching the point where it’s a bit in the way, shaggy and unruly, and I’ve decided I like it. I miss that long hair. I’m glad to have had the experience of doing something so drastic, but if I had it to do over again I would have kept most of it. My girlfriend loved my hair and wanted me to keep it long, but her respect for my personal choice kept her from overtly saying so. She even held the scissors and did most of the cutting and shaving. She showed me an unmatched level of respect and consideration in this as she did in so many other things, and today I wish I had known the full extent of her feelings so I could have taken them into account more than my own desire to stick it to my colleagues.
It’ll be back, soon enough.