On March 15, 2014, I shaved my head bald for kids with cancer through the St. Baldrick’s foundation. I sacrificed my hair just as kids with cancer do because of the affects of chemotherapy and radiation on their hair growth. I raised over 625 dollars in the few weeks before I would go through with my decision. Deciding to do something and sticking to it made me feel good about how my ability to hold myself accountable had grown throughout high school. It was odd because many people didn’t want me to, especially my grandmother. In fact she offered to pay me not to shave my head. My peers within my senior class of 2014 were for the most part encouraging but only after bombarding me with question about why I would cut my hair. While it was quite cumbersome this question is not unreasonable because after all we live in a society where women “should” have hair, where a woman’s natural drive in the sphere of her gender expression is to want to have long flowing locks but now after having grown my hair back out to a good length of 5 inches, I can say that my desire for long hair is unnatural for me and I feel myself wanting to go bald again.
Okay, I must admit: I wrote that previous paragraph at the end of my freshman year of college. I wanted to shave my head a second time because growing my hair out had made me feel for a lack of a better word basic but now after thinking about it, I realize that immediately after shaving my head I felt fairly unique. I really didn’t enjoy subscribing to gender roles or even conforming to societal standards in general. The fresh feeling of the spring air breezing over my scalp was a sensation unlike any other. I was free. I was 18 and cutting my hair was my most “adulty” thing I had done. When my hair grew back I felt quite like the Old Des, the Des who was unique not because of any hair atop my head but her originality could be explained by everything that made her up, whether it be her long winded sentences, her speech pattern, or inflections, her own energized animation while telling a spicy story, or maybe her thrifted on-the-go mom aesthetic that made this woman the grandmother of her friend group. Growing my hair out was a journey that called me back to being a woman onto myself not a woman despite her lack of hair.
I find it funny how things change. I distinctly remember jamming out to India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” and what it did for me at the beginning of my first hair journey when I first big chopped (cutting off all my relaxed ends). The next day, the fateful walk into my 8th grade class was terrifying in 2009, in the heyday of the natural hair movement for womyn, but let’s not forget I was only about 13, not quite a woman. We were at the brink of a revolution in the natural world but most of my classmates weren’t ready or willing to ride that wave with me quite yet. I walked into my class of around 18 students at my private school and received a variety of laughters, stares, and even curled up lips due to superiority complexes. Who was I to cut my hair? I was already “not that cute” if you were to ask my classmates. The confidence that I have now is something wholesome that I only wish I could give my past myself, but hey I had to go through it to do it and use it. I eventually let go of their opinions on my own time.
Here I am, 7 years later having gone through 2 big chops, the first in order to achieve healthy hair, and the second for a good moral cause. I’ve rocked close to every style except maybe a few that seemed slightly kooky even for me. Over these years in my young life, I realize that change is so necessary and the image of living my truth has evolved in ways that I have grown to accept. I am stronger and more wise on the meaning of having hair on my head and for it to be mine. I own it and in every way I try to take care of it to reflect the person I am becoming and even the person I am not but hope to be. Most recently I have begun my loc journey and just in a short six weeks, I have seen an improvement in my happiness and overall health. Such a hair journey is definitely a spiritual one marked by good hair days, and bad ones too. To my protest, my hair does what it wants cause it’s popping and I’m learning to let go in one of the hardest ways possible. These lessons are even being applied outside the scope of my hair care routines and choices.
Around 2 weeks ago, around the end of February, my mother called me with news that no one wants to hear. The kind of news that can tear you down and cause denial. My grandmother, the same grandmother who literally volunteered to pay me not to shave my head now had cancer herself. In a divine way, two years ago I shaved my head for her. I sacrificed my hair for a peace of mind that I can honestly say I hold gracefully in my heart. I can’t say I didn’t cry about the situation, her having stage 4 cancer in her lungs making it difficult to talk and basically breathe. I can’t say that my faith was not shaken or that I wasn’t at all upset, because I was but I’m glad I had a faith in my heart that could sustain that shake. I’m joyful that doubt didn’t enter my mind and even when it tries to creep in now I cast it out quickly and cancel out fear. I have let go of my hair many a times in numerous ways and in learning to let go of something as small as hair, I have managed to prepare myself to let go of fear and grab hold to healing which has allowed me the gift of hope and faith to take the wheel in my life.
God is God. And God is Good.
Peace and Blessing Kings & Queens,