This article originally appeared on HelloGiggles.
Growing up, my grandmother taught me one cardinal rule: “Never let anyone cut your hair.” In fact, Kathleen Collins wrote about it in Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, her collection of short stories:
“She had even committed the final sin, the unforgivable final sin of (‘negro’) girlhood: she had cut her hair.”
It’s as though it was against Black Girl Code to shed our locks, lest we be deemed unattractive (according to Eurocentric standards).
Plus, this was the ‘90s, and #BlackGirlMagic, natural hair, and Solange weren’t yet trending topics.
In an act of rebellion, I got a short bob when I was 25 (I also got it so I would no longer be mistaken for a teenager). And that lasted for a few months before I grew tired of it and let my hair grow out.
It’s been said that a woman should cut off all her hair at least once in her life, but the idea never really appealed to me. And then, a few friends of mine got pixie cuts and never looked back. I was never that bold…until now.
Originally, I was going for another short bob, but my hair stylist convinced me to go shorter.
As I watched several inches of my hair fall to the ground, I started to panic. “Oh no,” I thought, “What have I done?!!”
I tried to keep calm while she styled my hair, but on the inside, I was freaking out and crying hot, silent tears. My hair! What happened to my hair??
When she turned the chair around for the big reveal, it took everything for me not to burst into tears.
Sensing my apprehension, my hair stylist assured me it would take some time to get used to because it was so drastic, but I would learn to love it.
Her words fell on deaf ears. Once I got on the train, all of the tears I’d been holding back came gushing out at once. I’m sure the other passengers must have thought something was wrong with me, but I didn’t care.
I sent a selfie to my sister, who convinced me that it wasn’t the style, but rather my pouty face that was unattractive. My friend who has been effortlessly slaying short hair for years also promised that the pixie was cute.
But I refused to send my husband a selfie on the way home for fear that he would hate it. I’m ashamed to admit I was worried he’d be less attracted to me because of my pixie cut.
After all, I consider myself a feminist, so why would I care what my husband thinks about my hair? Because I’m still human, dammit. And humans are beautifully flawed creatures with insecurities.
Everyone but me loved the pixie cut. My friends said it was a “bold” cut that made me look “sassy.” Too bad I thought I looked like a boy, or rather, a Black Ruby Rose, but with glasses.
In an effort to make me feel better about myself, my husband shared India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” with me. But I was just not in the mood.
As a Black woman, my hair is my crown. Like many Black women, I take pride in my hair, often enduring hours at the salon, and sometimes wearing painful protective styles, all in the quest for beauty.
And, for much of my life, I’d been led to believe that longer hair is better hair.
So who am I without my mane?
When talking to a coworker after what I now refer to as The Cut, she shared how she felt exposed when she had short hair — and a light bulb went off in my head.
The uneasiness and fear I’d been feeling was because I could no longer hide behind my hair.
It was just me, plain and simple.
I have a keloid on top of my right ear from a cartilage piercing back in the day — a scar I’ve gone through great lengths to conceal over the years. I feel like everyone is staring at it, but then I realize it’s probably just me being hyperaware. Then there’s the tiny star tattoo behind my left ear that I got on a post-grad trip to Thailand with my best friend — can’t hide that with a pixie cut!
And then it happened.
After a particularly stressful day at work, I signed up for the cardio kickboxing class at my gym.
At the peak of the workout, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror — drenched in sweat, hair slicked back, throwing punches with my pink boxing gloves — and that’s when it dawned on me: “I am a badass.”
It literally does not matter how long or short my hair is, I can still kick someone’s ass and I can throw a punch like nobody’s business (just ask my instructor). During that class, I felt simultaneously sexy and strong — and I have to admit, the pixie cut gave me a bit of an edge, like J. Lo in Enough. It’s a look that says, “Don’t fuck with me.”
Despite having short hair, I am the same smart, talented, and awesome person I’ve always been. No hair style could ever change that.
Every now and then when I catch myself in the mirror, my short hair shocks me. To be honest, I’m pining for the day when it’s long enough to put into a ponytail again. But until then, I’m going to make the most of this pixie cut and embrace my inner badass.
Because as India Arie wrote, “I am not my hair. I am not my skin. I am a soul that lives within.”