Growing up and even to this day, for many African Americans having long hair was something to admire, aspire to and possibly even envy. “Don’t you cut that hair.” Elders, friends and sometimes strangers warned those of us whose hair dangled past our shoulders. It was as if the tresses that covered our heads didn’t just belonged to us, but to them as well. As if it was to tell white folks, see our hair can grow long too. Like having long hair was some form of badge of honor and we knew no matter what to never cut it.
For many years I held this belief with me. Scolding friends who toyed with the idea of cutting their own hair, and even myself when I saw pictures of women with gorgeous short haircuts. I knew better than to ever cut my own. Until the day I decided to go natural. After years of color and heat damage my once waist length hair barely reached my shoulders and the parts that did were thin, split and holding on for dear life. A month after my 21st birthday I did the big chop and cut all of my hair off. I found strength in the small but growing community of natural hair women I found on Youtube and hair boards. I rocked my twa (teeny weeny afro) but only with the intention of growing my hair back long, naturally. I still felt a twinge of jealousy when I saw women with long hair, and wanted nothing more than for mine to grow back faster. Fast forward to now 7 years later with me standing in front of my bathroom mirror with a pair of sheers from CVS in my hand. I caught myself staring at my long hair and saw someone I barely recognized.
Much of my life I’ve equated my own beauty with my long hair and used it as a shield to cover my insecurities. I felt like I needed it to be beautiful, unique, myself. Even though at times I didn’t even like the way my long hair looked on me, I still kept it because well, I felt I had to.
With my wedding 8 months away and me reminiscing on my family relentlessly criticizing a bride who chose to cut her hair right before her wedding, the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me don’t you cut that hair girl, and my fiancé looking at me like I was crazy as I headed to the bathroom, scissors in hand. I simply could no longer hold on to hair that I no longer felt suited me, so with little hesitation I began chopping away. With each snip I felt a little freer, a little less inhibited and a little more beautiful. I cut away years of feeling like my hair defined me. I got rid of inches that only weighed me down, and when I was finished all I could do was smile at the short curls that adorned my scalp and perfectly framed my face. It was in getting rid of the thing that I felt was hiding all of my insecurities, that I felt most secure, most naturally beautiful. In the short time that I’ve been rocking my cut I’ve already learned a few things about myself.
1.My hair doesn’t define me
For many years I was known as the girl with the long hair, and then the girl with the big hair once I went natural. My hair was a part of my definition. My hair booked me acting jobs, started conversations my sometimes shy personality would have never allowed me to initiate and in some instances created opportunities for me. My hair has been such a big part of my life in so many ways at times it was difficult for me to imagine myself not having it. Cutting it forced me to come to the realization that I in fact do not need it. I am who I am not because of my hair, my clothing, my appearance, or any other outside factor. I am me because of my spirit, my soul, my personality, the way I treat myself and those around me, not because of something as trivial as a hairstyle.
2.The only opinion that matters is my own
Before I cut my hair I knew of course everyone would have an opinion. I anticipated being bombarded with the obvious, why did you cut your hair question. I knew it may not have been everyone’s cup of tea and that was ok, because I loved it. I was shocked at how well I was able to cut it, not being a professional cosmetologist, but it turned out great. Regardless of what anyone else felt I loved the way my short hair looked on me and how it made me feel, and frankly that was all that mattered. I bombarded my social media with pictures of my new do’ not to get feedback or likes, simply because I felt so beautiful and took a million pictures. To my surprise my friends and family also loved my new hair, and shared my sentiment in it suiting my features.
3.Short hair is simple
I don’t have to spend tons of time detangling my hair, removing dead hair from the shower or applying globs of product for my hair to do what I want it to. Detangling time has been cut in half, and so has styling. I’m not closing my hair in the car door, or wondering if it will be dry by the time I make it to my destination after washing it. I simply wash, apply product and go. I’m no longer a slave to my hair and it feels good. My hair was never extremely difficult for me to deal with and I never shared the same issues as my sister or friends when it came to styling but it is definitely much easier dealing with shorter hair and for me the more time I can spend on my craft the better.
4.My fiancé loves me either way
My fiancé has seen me with relaxed hair, red hair, honey blonde hair, jet black hair, long hair, short hair, someone else’s hair and extremely damaged hair. Though my hairstyles have definitely changed in my almost 9 years of knowing him, his love for me has never altered. He allows me to feel free and do what I please with my appearance and that is so important to me. Even as he nervously watched me purchase those sheers on a whim and asked me not to show him until I was done, he would be attracted to me either way because it is not only my physical appearance that attracts him but my personality, the way I treat him, and the way I treat myself that makes him love me.
5.It’s ok to act on a whim
In society we are so use to planning things out. We have to have all of our ducks lined before we make a decision and if not, we’re sitting on pins and needles afraid of what could possibly go wrong. Though yes cutting ones hair isn’t a huge life altering decision, it made me think of other things in my life I’ve been wanting to change for quite some time. I often over analyze things and instead of thinking of all of the things that can go right, I immediately think of all of the negative possibilities. I now see my haircut as a reminder that sometimes acting on a whim and doing what you want without apologies can turn out beautiful, for me that is enough reason to at least try.
I don’t know if I’ll ever grow my hair back, but I can say that for now I’m extremely happy with my cut and I realize that long, short, relaxed, natural, colored, hair is just that – hair, and it’s up to me to decide how I choose to wear it.
Have you ever rocked a short haircut?
Ashley Renee is a licensed esthetician, makeup artist, natural hair enthusiast, writer and poet from Chicago, residing in Los Angeles! Follow her on instagram @ashleyreneepoet, twitter and personal blog why I Waited