What shaving my head taught me about beauty standards

Beautiful women exist everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. I grow sick and tired of feeling like one size fits all when it comes to beauty. If you are not considered standardly beautiful, ask yourself, who made the standards? Did they create your standards? No. You do.

Barbie, the actress on television, Rapunzel, the cool girl at school. Hair everywhere except for where it shouldn’t be. The same image with the same meaning is replayed to us over and over again in different ways. I have to grow out my hair otherwise he will not find me attractive. Wrong. That thought is wrong. And even if it’s true, why the fuck are you dating him?

I shaved my head about 4 months ago. What is a messy pixie was once a velvety to the scalp cut. And of course, my parents weren’t pleased – but they are used to be being a little extreme when it comes to challenging society with my feminist killjoy attitude. But what is wrong with challenging? Some people challenge the rules because they are curious. Curious enough to change them.

What started off as a distant thought many years back to shave my head, turned into a long process of indecision. I thought I wanted to – and then really thought hard about the reality of having no hair – and I changed my mind. Back and forth. For a very, very long time.

Finally, I’m 23. In Seattle by myself, and I see a sign that says “BUZZCUTS FOR 15$.” So I figured it was a sign from the punk gods and if I didn’t do it, Patti Smith would be very disappointed in me if we were to ever meet (besides in my dreams.)

When I sat in the chair while the lovely lady at Rudy’s got the buzzer ready, I stared in the mirror and was smiling but also not trying to dive deep into myself right away. I just wanted to feel the moment from a point of view that wasn’t cluttered with what if’s, or second guesses. I just wanted to feel the loud buzzer take away years of trying to please men, while my bald spot at the back of my head got its first outing.

I caught myself looking in windows after I left, feeling so surprised that was really my reflection. Oh, it was so fresh and right down to nothing when it first happened. I remember feeling fearless like I didn’t care if any man or woman thought I looked strange. I kind of liked being a different character in people’s minds. I always played it so safe, long hair, no tattoos on the arms. But this year in my life is different.

After weeks of the shaved head high came down, and I was home from traveling and seeing old friends and flames, I began to feel some insecurity I thought I no longer had. With someone who always had hair to be hairless in a sea of people who say “you’re so brave!” or “I could never do that,” affected my psyche whether I thought it would or not.

I began wearing more makeup. At first, I didn’t know why but then I realized it was because I felt I had to balance out the “masculine” part of me. The masculine part being the no hair part. That felt obvious, but it also took me back a little. I am always challenging society and others, without really challenging myself.

So, there I was, feminist, whose mind was still soaked in the garbage I worked so hard to be rid of. But that’s the thing about our societal and beauty standards: they are embedded. Ridding of them takes immaculate work. And who likes work?

It’s easier to keep my hair long, dress how my boyfriend wants women to look, paint my nails and do all the things that doesn’t push against the pressure. I’m not saying all women paint their nails in order to give in to society’s standards, I’m saying there’s all these little things indiviually we must feel we need to do in order to stay attractive. And I’m over it.

But I calmed myself down when the thoughts get out of hand because I have to remember it’s not totally my fault for thinking these thoughts. Barbie had long hair, all my favorite cartoon, and early childhood shows featured girls with long hair if they featured girls at all. I’m not blaming the creators of young adult television but their content exists for the bigger picture: girls are this and boys are that.

Why was their a little pink ribbon around my graduation certificate when I graduated kindergarten and a blue one around his? I question these differences now because I see the thoughts they make in the adult of these children. Right down to a haircut. So, it may not necessarily be my fault for thinking these thoughts about my haircut,  but it is my choice and my responsibility to change these thoughts into ones not soaked in society’s downpour of disapproval. I think great change takes great time.

personal essay by megan gray

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