Why are you Bald? Becoming bald gave me permission to do what the hell I wanted to do.
To many, and to even myself at some point, being bald means limitations. It means that a woman is no longer able to adorn oneself through hair manipulation and design. However, this assumption is only partially true. Moving from buzz-cut to clean shaven meant that I could explore even more possibilities, not only related to how to express my beauty physically but how to combine healing and creativity in order to inspire self-love.
When women cut their hair off or lose it due to varying types of alopecia, there are all types of question and all types of pity that emerge. That’s not what I need. That’s not what I want. People ask in melodramatic ways, “oh no! What happened to you? Is everything ok?” They’d assume that I am out of my mind - that I’ve dropped my religion & all my senses! In one aspect, these assumptions would be right. Losing my “mind” has meant realizing that everything I’ve been told about beauty and worthiness from a hetero-patriarchal, sexist, racialized misogynistic society is a lie. I’d been taught via media and elsewhere that in order for Black women to be cute or worthy of romantic love, meant that we had to be light, with curly hair, that was preferably long. So yes, I lost and removed myself from a mind that had been conditioned to think that beauty came in a particular package that excluded me from the norm. I lost a mind that had distanced me from my true self! Becoming bald gave me permission to embrace a new mind and nurture it with new messages. Embracing my baldness meant reclaiming and embracing my body for myself. It meant empowerment. It meant my facial features stood out, that my eyes looked darker and deeper, that the apples of my cheeks had a platform to say “hello” whenever they wanted. It meant an un-hiding, which was important given that hiding is linked to shamed. And shame was something I had to desperately move beyond for my own spiritual, emotional, and mental health. Needless to say, my self-acceptance and defiance to the norm allowed me to have a closer relationship not only to myself, but to my family and lovers as well.
I started losing my hair in 2007. After processing my hair twice in one night - “realizing” I rushed and didn’t leave the perming product in long enough, I proceeded to try just one more time before heading out with friends. About two weeks later I noticed a burning sensation all over my scalp and I had no actual explanation for it that I could think. A friend told me to visit the dermatologist, which I didn’t do because I didn’t think it was that serious. It was. That’s the first step anyone should take when they notice hair loss that is small and regrows or that is small but broadens. A lot of people would ask possibly very valid questions: why would she perm at all? Why twice? If she was already at risk of alopecia areata, how come she didn’t make more proactive decisions for the health of her hair? Blah, blah, blah. I would pose the question back: where does your internalized oppression lie? What aspect of yourself do you hinder or deny in order to fit a bit more neatly into this world? How much education do you have on all of the possibly unhealthy decisions you make? My education on scalp health (not hair health) didn’t come until going through the process of hair loss. I didn’t know this was important until it was immediately relevant. I went natural also in 2007 and learned how to cover up any bald spots in cute little natural styles. But still, the hiding was a headache. In December 2009, I grabbed some clippers and cut it all off in my bathroom.
The irony of it all is that my self-love is deeper and stronger than when I had hair hovering over mid-length or thrown up into an afro-puff. Could I love myself naked? Could I love myself with hair and without, especially knowing how that gender component intersects with racism? To be Black, dark-skinned, wide-nosed, and bald? Quite the anti-thesis to the current standard of beauty. Thankfully, a bestfriend/ lover was tremendous support system that aided me into my journey of self-appreciation, teaching me how to shave properly and which products were most useful. This detail is important as I learned my vulnerable places of trauma and shame could be renewed as loving, healing erogenous zones.
So yes, I shave my head every one to two days. It’s a part of my ritual now, along with wing tipped liquid eye liner, mascara, and lipstick. This journey has thrusted me into my personal calling to dismantle systems of oppressions that operate to threaten my sense of authentic wholeness. I’m a community educator, but the education and healing had to first start with me in order to help others.
Mavis Davis is a community educator who focuses on race/ethnicity & gender as they intersect with other identities and healing practices. More of her writings can be found on www.baldgyrlmemoirs.com