It was a sweltering and most unexpected ninety degrees here in New York City on Tuesday, and as I finished my daily power walk — yay endorphins! — I realized that I needed to do something about my hair. This is not a complete non-sequitur. I have very thick hair (good Jewish hair, my grandmother calls it), and it is hell in the summer. The frizz! The strands sticking to the sweaty neck! Oy vey!
So I think I might be shaving my head before summer truly arrives. I’ve done it before, and it’s truly freeing. But my eagerness to be all-but-rid of my hair is tempered by the knowledge that it will lead to stares and assumptions, because it seems that only lesbians and Sinead O’Connor and Natalie Portman’s V For Vendetta character have license to shave their heads. It’s been nine years since I last buzzed off my locks, and I still remember the gawking it invited, as well as a few “dyke” slurs thrown my way, the only time that ever happened to me (it somehow never actually happened when I was with one of my girlfriends). The absurd politicization of women’s hair makes it impossible for me to simply shave it off and expect that it won’t attract stares from passersby and comments from people I know.
So is shaving your hair a statement? Sometimes. Certain Orthodox Jewish women shave their heads upon marriage, choosing to don wigs so that no man other than their husband will see their actual hair. Other times, such as in the case of Britney Spears, it’s viewed as evidence that someone has gone off the deep end. The conundrum is that I want to shave my head, but know that the inevitable perception will be that I am only doing it to make a statement about the interplay between standards of beauty and gendered norms. Part of that is true, and I do enjoy tweaking some of the conventional notions of beauty. But part of this is simply a wish to make my own choice about aesthetics and comfort, and others can read into it whatever they want to. Hopefully I’ll be too busy enjoying the breeze on my fuzzy head to care.