Growing up, I've always associated hair with status. My mother was adamant about combing my hair each and every morning into braids topped with barrettes and ribbons. I would hear a comb snap every now and then from getting caught in tangles, but my mother insisted on styling it. Her baby had "good" hair -- hair that was slightly wavy, not too kinky, soft and greased to perfection. My cousin would lament on how I didn't have to worry about having "nappy" hair and my mom took every opportunity to tell family members just how beautiful her daughter's long hair was. Over the years, I've sat by the stove while my grandma pressed my hair straight, gotten burned by chemicals found in PCJ relaxer, sang to the tunes of Just for Me ads and dealt with breakage after many attempts to go natural.
The one thing that has remained constant: my glorious length. Now, I didn't have hair down to my waist but it was always a pretty decent length hitting my shoulders. My family always equated long hair with being beautiful, so the thought of short hair has never crossed my mind.
My hair care regimen was one that focused on maintaining flowing locks. I measured and rejoiced when I finally hit bra-strap length. But in 2006, I got a bob haircut before it became the "Rihanna bob" and decided I looked hideous. I swore off short hair, deeming it something other people did because pretty girls have long, straight hair.
So when I recently stepped out of the salon with a cool 90 percent of my hair chopped off, I was not only shocked but slightly fearful of how my mom would react. The minute I saw my strands slide over my shoulder and onto the ground, I knew there was no turning back.
Why the 180-degree turn? Who knows! Maybe it was a conversation this summer with fellow beauty girls. Apparently I had the "face" for short hair. Or perhaps it was because I was dealing with damage, trying to transition and had no clue where to turn. The thought of a much shorter look became intriguing and off I went, pinning images for inspiration and looking up "black women with pixie cuts" on Google.
Decision day came and I went with inspiration photos stored on my phone to my stylist, who tried her very best to convince me otherwise. "Mami, tu pelo est nice. Why cut it off?" Sorry Yesenia, this was something I've committed to.
With every snip came a question, a moment of doubt. Remember that time Aunty Nadine cut her hair and it never grew back? Why do you want to get rid of what makes you so pretty? My mother's voice swam through my head -- would she hate it? Also, what about my dating life? I've always gone after guys who loved long hair, so was I now ugly? My first tweet (which was released while I was still at the mercy of the hair shears) was "I look like a boy." That doubt was real, and I was certain I would hate the final look. I cussed and sank into my chair.
By the time she was done, I didn't want to look up but when I did, I think the shock was apparent. There, in front of the same stylist I've been going to for eight years, I looked like a new me. I loved it! I have cheekbones! Did my neck get longer? I walked around Brooklyn with pride. Gone were the insecurities and I truly felt liberated. Nothing to hide behind.
It's amazing how much something as small as hair can impact your attitude. Why are we so connected to something that grows back as quickly as you can cut it? And if it won't grow, slap on some extensions!
If you told me a year ago I wouldn't have the hair I've always known, I would have laughed in your face. Now I don't even want to go back and am even contemplating super pixie -- more like Rihanna late 2012.
Oh, and my mom? She's getting used to it. She said, "You didn't even have this short amount of hair when you were born!" And she even called me pretty the other day. Who would've thought?