Getting A Buzz Cut Made Me Feel Braver About Everything

05/22/2012 11:33 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

My husband Bear and I decided to get our hair buzzed together. It was his idea. He went first and came out looking like summer.

Then I sat down in the chair.

"Buzz it," I told the elegant French stylist.

She had a good laugh. Then she looked at me hard. "You're serious?"

"I'm serious."

She needed some convincing. I promised I wouldn't be mad at her. I swore.

She did it with a disapproving look on her face. I was encouraging the whole time. When she was done, I grinned at my reflection. "I love it!" I said.


(and then I did this, to be more convincing)

She looked at me skeptically for a long time. Then she said, "It looks good on you. But only because you are young."

"Then it's a good thing I'm here now!" I said, and hopped up.

Bear rubbed my head. "You look great," he said. "You look like a peach."

"You too!" He looked really manly with his very short hair. There was a chance I looked really manly, too. In my own way.

Off we went. It was Sunday evening. There was nothing to do. So I tried on a bunch of my favorite outfits with my new hair. My new/old hair. This is the second time I've gotten a buzz cut. The first time was a year ago. And I realized suddenly that I'd forgotten. Over the year, as my hair had grown back and grown wavy and puffed out and done curls and played tricks and I'd trimmed it a little and tried gel to tame it -- and I'd forgotten what it feels like to get a buzz cut. The way your ears appear newborn. The way your face is brought into sharp focus. Everything about it is so present, so eager. So bold.

I'd forgotten the way a buzz cut makes me feel about everything.

It makes me feel bold. It makes me feel brave. It makes me stand out. There's nothing I can do except stand out. And I remember that I love standing out.

It's funny, for someone who has been known to feel ugly. For someone who let a surgeon open her face with a knife. I like to be striking.

But it's more than that -- my hair won't let me not be bold. It won't let me not be brave. It won't let me hide. And so with it, or, I guess, without it, I am my bravest self.

Weird. That not having some hair can do that to a girl.

But fantastic.

I bought a dress I'd been wanting -- without sleeves. There was no time to feel self-conscious about my chubby arms, because my hair was commanding all of my attention. My hair had a mind of its own. It said, "Get that dress! Work it!"

It's sort of amazing how simple it is, as though I am cutting off my inhibitions with the hair. At a party, wearing the new dress and some very tall heels, I felt like being funnier -- like talking more. A girl with a shaved head wouldn't hold back. A girl with no hair in a long, fabulous dress would have something to say. She would be warm and clever and opinionated. She would be comfortable in her body. Otherwise, she wouldn't be able to cut off all her hair.

So there I was.

I hadn't been feeling particularly bad at being myself before my buzz cut, I just felt better at being myself after. The way I did last time. The way I am pretty sure I will feel every time. Every time I am brave enough to try something ridiculous and striking and sudden. Every time I trust myself to carry it. I trust myself to be beautiful, anyway. Not because of, but just beautiful. Period.

Sometimes your comfort zone is cozy. It's warm under all that hair. Sometimes it's good to jump outside it and see how it feels. You might even find out what your ears look like, for real. They're so pretty!

Or, you know, keep your hair and try something else that's totally different. That's fine, too

A version of this piece originally appeared on Eat the Damn Cake, where you can find more essays about body image and also pictures of women eating cake. Yay!