It’s been a while since I blogged here, and it’s largely because of the Shameless series I have been doing. My personal writing time has been taken up with that project and with academia. Having Behcet’s my usable hours are limited and I have to budget them wisely – do I want to write? Or do I want to buy groceries? For a while things like writing and knitting were winning out and then I almost starved to death with a pathetically empty fridge and I decided I needed to refocus my priorities.
I’ve written about body image in the past and I think it is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I have a blog in which I wrote about fashion and specifically how it is implicated for wheelchair users. I wrote about discovering fashion and style as a young adult only to having to rediscover it when I started using my chair full time. Reality is that this discovery is an ongoing one. I want to talk more about it. More about clothes, hair, nails, all of that! I am going to start here, with hair.
I am not one to be inherently attached to any one aspect of my physical appearance. My hair changes constantly. I have been sporting a pixie cut on and off since I was around 9. I’ve grown it out several times and it will just brush my shoulders before I cut it off again. People laugh when I say I am growing my hair and I’ve since resigned myself to knowing it will not last with any length for long before I cut it off. It’s fine. I’m okay with it.
In April of this year I shaved my head for the 3rd time. I considered keeping it cropped short for a while and rocking the buzzed look but in the end decided to just grow it out. I wanted the color out. I wanted to start fresh. It was an act of rebirth and a personal decision, rather than a fashion statement or act of style. In the past I have had long periods time with absolutely no hair, not even stubble. I was comfortable with my lack of hair and even liked it. It was so easy in the morning to just get up, shower and go. My pixie cut isn’t difficult either, 2 minutes of blow drying and one minute of product application but that’s it. What ultimately gets me with the longer hair is the 45 minutes of blowouts with round brushes, followed by flat ironing. One day I get sick of it and then I plan a trip to the salon. But I digress.
This time I was totally rocking buzzcut. I only went to a #2 but it was short enough. It was a combined effort by me and two friends. We cut it off slowly in my living room, documenting the process with photos. It was only a pixie cut at the start but it was change enough and change I needed. We had fun and laughed during the haircut and I was pleased with the end result. Having shaved my head before, I knew what to expect in terms of societal reactions. I knew people would stop and comment, telling me how brave I was and how well I pulled it off and how they have always wanted to shave their heads but never had the courage. I was expecting random people to ask to touch my head. But that didn’t happen.
Not only did it not happen but there was virtually no acknowledgement of it. Classmates who I had gone to school with for the past few years said nothing. Professors said nothing. I think the only people who said something were my two doctors who commented on it and asked me why I had done it – both approving of the outcome and motivation. I thought for a while and wondered why this time was different. I hadn’t done it for the attention, and quite frankly I don’t like the attention from strangers so I was happy to not deal with it, but I was still left wondering why no one said anything at all. Then I realized…the wheelchair.
I now embodied sickness in every sense of the word. I was in and out of the hospital a lot and my classmates knew that. They saw me taking medications in classes and I guess they just assumed my new ‘do was a product of my illness. What I did was this awesome empowering, redefining, move that only further engrained the sick role in me. I can’t believe I didn’t think it would happen before I did it, but I didn’t.
I knew when I did it that it would make me own my body and my face. I knew I couldn’t hide. People say you can’t hide with a pixie cut either but those 2 inches of hair really hides quite a lot. I played up my features and wore makeup. I wore necklaces and shiny things. I felt prettier than I did with hair. It helped me accept my body and my image in the chair. It helped me be comfortable with me, while simultaneously making everyone else uncomfortable. I guess that’s one of my best skills though – ensuring the discomfort of others and finding ways to thrive on it.