For most of my life I have flip flopped between different codes of morality and ideologies, try to find a little direction in this often daunting cosmos. The struggle for me is that I grew up in a household that knew very little peace or stability, and my parents were both driven by self absorption and ego. I forgive, mostly, what they have actually changed, because my parents were in their very early 20s and holding this awful age against them would mean I would get no pity myself in another 20 years…
This however is not a story about them, mostly. It’s about my hair. Or at least partially about my hair.
So back to my flip floppy in the world of morality and philosophy. Basically in my late teens I had adopted the philosophy of Roman Stoicism. Mainly because from about the time I turned, we basically the day I was born, but especially 15-18 a lot of bad shit kept happening. Deaths, murders, kidnappings, and court cases, plus the regular abuse I endured from my mother, I was seeking a way to keep myself sorted. I was never given the room to really mourn any of the people I lost during this time, never had a chance to confront and work through all of that trauma. Roman Stoicism in a nut shell is facing every calamity with grace, and understanding there was probably nothing you could do to control what happened, but you could control how you reacted. part of this practice is to observe how you could have reacted better in any given situation and then, put that into practice. This worked for me, I wasn’t really allowed to express anything in the household I grew up in, and I thought with complete regulation or gauging of my reactions maybe I could get through.
Pan to 21 year old me just going back to college after having a break down and taking time off. I was still essential a Stoic in all way, no indulgence, very little flexibility in my thinking, and so much self control my shoulders are still tight from it to this day. I started going to a Soto Zen Buddhist meditation center very close to where I lived with an ex boyfriend. I found the philosophy of Zen to be very similar to that of Stoicism with a few exceptions, Buddhism allows your feelings to flow through you until they have more naturally dissipated and then leave. Rather than with Stoicism, trying to condition yourself to be void of feeling and reaction. Zen Buddhism, definitely fit me much better, as it gave me the goal of healing and letting go rather than trying to push past and “get over it”. Which my recent development of panic attacks at the time proved, was not really a working strategy for me.
Skip ahead to last January. I had finished college, was dating someone who is much kinder and better suited for me, but still something weighed on me. I had never really gotten past my aversion to vulnerability, and had stopped meditating at the Zen center after my break up. I still did so alone at my own home, and read up on Zen and Buddhism, rounding out my own personal practice. But I had carried years of sadness, anger, attachments, and vanity around that still bugged me.
So I shaved my head. I was never allowed as a kid to so much as cut my hair or really do anything fun with it. My parents insisting that I just grow it, and then it would hurt my neck so once every three years or so I was allowed to cut it maybe to the shoulder. Now I am not talking about thin, manageable hair people. I am talking 2.5-3 ft of thick black curly hair, I am pretty much a 3 way split between Native American, Black, and Southern Italian. So if that gives you a visual of thick hair that grows way too fast, it should because it does. My hair was something that people regularly compliment when I had nothing else to be remarkable at. I am a surly, short, non white femme, with zero litheness of delicacy in any of my nature. So people fawning and complimenting anything about me was nice, I wasn’t really getting it anywhere else. Even into college when I could have done whatever I wanted with my hair there were threats of “You’ll look awful,” and “I will be so pissed.” From friends and family alike if I had the audacity to cut my curls. Then I graduated college, and got tired of carrying my old life around. And I have always called my hair “my only vanity.” I’ve spent so much time and money get my hair to lay right, stay clean, and look the way I want it. It became too much of a defining feature, something I had attached myself to and begun conflating as part of my genuine “self.” Detaching me from forward progress.
Hair for many people is complicated but for a person who is both Black and Native American it is spiritual as well as political. Cutting my hair wasn’t an act of defiance or rebellion, rather one of delayed healing. To let myself have the first year after college to mourn the trauma I had put off acknowledging and reshape myself into a better person. Shaving my head wasn’t to defy anyone but rather to give myself room to define myself as more than just “the girl with pretty hair.” To take control of a physical feature that I had let grow so out of control it was causing me back and neck pain. None of these things are spiritually or philosophically what I believe in anyways. I loved my long hair, and now I am in the process of letting it grow out, but I will never hesitant again in cutting it to mourn, or to have it be a reasonable length, that doesn’t cause me pain, or take and hour to wash. I define it as letting something be something i enjoy for me vs important in defining me. No physical feature should take on that much life or definition that one loses themselves in it.