“Why Do You Shave Your Head?” – Marisa Valotta

It’s been almost exactly two years since this happened. I forget what it feels like to brush my hair, to braid it, to put it in a ponytail, to run my fingers through it, to have its weight resting against my back, to feel it tickling my face when the wind blows, its warmth on my neck in the winter. I dream about having long hair again all the time, and I don’t know why. I don’t miss it. I continue to shave it when I have the choice to grow it back.

People ask me all the time why I shave my head, and that’s a question I didn’t have the answer to for a long time. I could go on and on about how it’s a money-saver because I don’t need nearly as much shampoo and conditioner, or how it’s less maintenance because I never have to brush, dry, or straighten it. I talk about these things, but those aren’t the reasons why I shave my head.

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The first time I did it, it was simply because I gave myself a horrendous haircut. I’d been sporting a pixie cut for a few months, which was already a big leap for me since I’d always had long hair. I was too cheap to pay for regular haircuts, so after the initial chop, I cut my own hair. Things were bound to go wrong eventually, and when they did, I felt I had no other choice. In the beginning, I started to grow my hair back, but one day, I shaved it again. Two weeks later, I shaved it again. Every two weeks for the past two years, I’ve shaved my head.

I’ve gotten used to people asking me why. At first, it was about fixing a bad haircut, but once I began making the conscious decision to keep shaving it, I had to ask myself why I was doing it. For some, hair is just hair, but for some, it isn’t. Sometimes it’s tied deeply to culture or identity.

For me, it’s tied to my identity as a queer woman. I grew up in a conservative Catholic family and was taught that being gay is wrong. Because of that, it took me nineteen years to be able to come out to myself. It’s only been three years since I came out as a lesbian, and I’m still not fully out, but it feels like it’s been a lifetime. I rejected myself for so long that shaving my head has become my way of continuously embracing myself for who I am, no matter how many people tell me it’s wrong.

Every time I pick up my razor and click the guard into place without an ounce of hesitation, it’s a reminder to myself how far I’ve come from not even being able to cut my own hair to willingly doing it every two weeks. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come from not being able to accept myself to feeling confident and happy with my identity. Every time I step into the bathtub and run the razor over my head, I take joy in watching the clumps of dark hair fall onto the porcelain. I love gathering it all up at the end in one big bunch and throwing it in the trash. Every time I do that, it feels like I’m casting away all those years of self-hate and rejection. Every time I run my hand over my freshly buzzed head, I revel in the fact that I feel more like myself than I ever did when I had long hair.

I realize I fit the short-haired-lesbian stereotype. I want to remind you that not every lesbian has short hair and not everyone with short hair is a lesbian. For me, my identity as a lesbian and having short hair go hand-in-hand, but I was still a lesbian when I had long hair. Choosing to have short hair fits with my identity because I feel like it reflects on the outside the way I continue to cast away my family’s expectations (and some of society’s expectations) of who I’m supposed to be.

At the end of the day, shaving my head has never been about making a statement or rebelling. It’s about choosing to express myself in a way that feels true to myself. When people ask me now why I shaved my head, I tell them I did it “because I wanted to.” And that’s the truth.

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