Whenever a girl tweets about needing a haircut but doesn't know what style to try, there’s always that one friend that suggest she just shave her entire head as a joke. I’m the crazy girl who actually did it.
I’m not actually crazy, despite what my friends might say. But, my first year of high school had me itching for a way to reinvent myself. Whether it was coordinating my outfits to resemble 90s grunge attire or increasing my involvement within my faith and temple youth group, I was doing some serious soul searching. I had a myriad of ideas for ways to “find myself” but never found any of them worth pursuing. That is, until I learned of One Mission and their annual Buzz-for-Kids.
In the backseat driving home from my favorite coffee shop, a billboard caught my eye: a pediatric cancer patient on a plain white background with a tagline about how shaving my head could give her a head of hair. I had previously cut and donated my hair to Locks For Love, but that was just eight inches, leaving my hair long enough to still put it in a ponytail. Something about that billboard stuck with me. I figured, like each of my other crazy ideas, my desire for this one would fade quickly.
The event was in June, and my freshman year had just begun. By reading my internet history, you could tell this was something I wanted to do, but with that much time before the event I feared I would chicken out. To combat that, I did what every other thirteen-year-old girl would do: I told everyone. In my head, the more people I told, the more that would hold me accountable. I told practically anyone who would listen to me, starting with my family and friends, making my way through classmates and teachers and even my rabbi.
In order to shave at Gillette Stadium with One Mission (and Rob Gronkowski), participants had to raise a minimum of $300. I did not have a lot of experience with fundraising and hoped that my parents would not have to front the money. Because of this, I started fundraising early. I reached out to my local newspaper, made multiple social media posts in multiple groups, and tabled at various community events. For a while it was looking more and more like my family would be paying a large difference to meet this goal. Despite my tendency to give up, I was determined to reach my goal. I exploited every last relative and family friend I could think of until the very last day. In the end I raised and donated $1,200 for pediatric cancer.
Before I knew it, June 8th was upon me. My mother drove my sister, best friend, and I to Gillette Stadium. As we were ushered through the registration tables, people kept commenting on how brave it was for me, a teenage girl, to shave my head. Walking in, I noticed that the buzzees were mostly males, or adult women. I saw only a handful of other girls that looked to be my age. It never occurred to me that teenage girls would be less likely to shave their heads, especially since the only other person I knew that had done the Buzz-Off was a girl in the grade above me.
Suddenly, I started to become self-conscious. I had no idea what the shape of my head looked like. What if I couldn’t pull off the bald look? The comments my peers had made when I told them flooded my thoughts. “People are going to make Holocaust jokes.” “Really, are you sure you want to shave your head?” “What if it looks bad? What will you do then?” As I sat in the chair waiting for my head to be shaved, I tried to hide my anxieties from my mother, sister, and best friend. They took pictures throughout the process and I knew if I looked nervous in the pictures, I would regret it. In less than five minutes I went from having a full head of hair, to being nearly bald (less than an centimeter of hair on my head).
I had yet to even see my reflection when a woman who had just shaved her head came up to me and told me how beautiful I looked. I do not know how she knew exactly what I needed to hear, but she did. Encouragement from my family and friends somehow did not mean nearly as much as this compliment from this stranger. After hearing those words, I knew I was going to be okay.
I spent so much of my pre-teen years hiding behind my hair, and I didn’t even know it until I no longer had the hair to hide behind. Shaving my head was not just the perfect icebreaker, but allowed me to flourish in social settings I would have previously been anxious in. Without having hair to play with in times of distress, I learned to stand tall and proud with my hands beside me. The only thing I know for certain is that without shaving my head I would not have become the woman I am today.
As for other important things I learned about being bald, here they are (in no particular order):
1. You can sunburn the top of your head
2. You can subsequently sunburn the back of your neck
3. Being bald cuts approximately twenty minutes out of your morning routine
4. Shaving your head does make your hair grow back healthier and stronger
5. Children do equate hair length with binary genders and you have to be confident enough to have your gender questioned by five year olds in the Home Depot check-out line
6. Most adults equate female baldness with cancer, and if they are a cashier they will try to give you free things--- they will then be so embarrassed when you explain you do not have cancer and give you free stuff anyway
7. There is no better feeling than rubbing a whiffle-cut head; other people will pick up on this and feel your head without your permission
8. You do not need hair to feel beautiful
9. Being bald will remove the natural oils produced from your hair (because you do not have hair) and their absence may temporarily clear up your skin
10. No matter how short you cut your hair, or how bad you think your haircut is, it is just hair, and it will always grow back.