What My Hair Was Trying To Tell Me

They say that every woman has a story about her hair. This is mine.

When I was thirty I cut off all of my hair. I did it slowly. First, I cut off four inches. Two weeks later, I went back to my hairdresser and asked her to cut off four more. Two weeks after that, I asked her to cut it all off.

I was living with a man, at the time, who consistently broke my heart and was pursuing a career that didn’t want me.

I didn’t draw a correlation between how I was dying inside with my need to cut off all of my hair.

It’s funny to me now that I didn’t see the connection. After all, my hair had defined me at various stages throughout my life.

When I was a young girl, it was flaxen; storybook princess hair that my great grandmother liked to braid because she’d gone blind and mostly deaf at ninety-six and touching my hair brought her back to the world.

My hair made me feel invincible and beautiful before it mattered to me.

Shannon Age 7 500X300

Until I entered puberty.

Then my hair became a curse. It betrayed me by growing in coarse, frizzy and unruly. I wanted to contain and control and annihilate it. It made me feel self-conscious and ugly.

Me big hair high school 500X300

Until I turned twenty, in the mid-80s, and then it was badass heavy metal hair that didn’t require extensions or hairspray to be huge. It made me feel fierce. It made everything and anything seem possible.

After all, who could stop the tidal wave that was my hair?

Big Hair 80s 500X300

Until I turned thirty in my painful relationship, and it just became too much.

Too much to manage, too overwhelming for someone as exhausted as I’d become. And so I let my hair go. Inch by inch, it fell to the floor and was swept away. Without my hair, I felt raw and vulnerable. Unrecognizable to myself.

Shannon in Prague Short Hair Final

But that wasn’t entirely bad. Because I also felt somehow lighter, too. As if I’d shed a dead skin.

When my hair started to grow back, I cut it short again and again, until finally, unconsciously, I began to cut the pain out of my life, too.

First, I let go of the career. Next, I let go of the man. And then, I let go of thinking I knew anything about anything and I just stopped. And waited. And did nothing.

And while I did nothing, I let my hair start to grow.

When it reached the tips of my ears I went back to school. When it reached my chin, I graduated and started a new career. When it reached my shoulders, I fell in love again, got married and had my babies.

Michael and Me Honeymoon 500X300

I haven’t cut my hair for years now.

As I approach fifty, I can’t help but let it continue to grow, just to see exactly how far it will go.

There may come a time I’ll need to cut all of it off again, and if that day comes, I will try to read the strands of hair lying at my feet, like tea leaves, and trust they will tell me which way to go next.

Shannon at Henna Lighgter

Have you changed your hair when you needed to change your life? I’d love to hear your story! And share this one if this resonates. xo S

8 thoughts on “What My Hair Was Trying To Tell Me”

  1. I had some seriously bad haircuts in the 80s. Probably the 70s too, due to my scary-ass perms that my dad said made me look like all the girls his mom tried to make him date.

  2. I’m going to be 52 next month. My hair is one length — with bangs. And longer. I keep wondering why I don’t cut it. Just for something different. My husband has asked me to cut it so many times he’s quite asking. I get to salon and even my stylist says “why cut it? It’s so pretty.” I need to cut it just because I won’t. Make sense?

    1. Hey Jamie — you do have beautiful hair and should keep it if you like. But there’s something very bold in changing something entirely. I don’t know why it’s hair with women, but when we change our hair, somehow we are inviting something new and bold to enter. I’ll be curious to see how you look the day you decide you’d like a change. xo S

  3. Oh, the 80s and early 90s were glorious for hair like ours! Then the straightening iron hit the mainstream and it’s been an uphill battle since. Most days, I just let the frizz do its thing. Kind of like Janis Joplin on a bender but way less cool.

  4. The breakup perm…i looked like a deranged poodle for months after my boyfriend broke up with me in high school. Not really sure how I thought a perm would fix anything, but my hair welcomed it enthusiastically and went all in. The few pictures stille make me cry from laughing…and this was after 2000, so I don’t even have the 80s excuse!

  5. Last summer while I was planning a divorce from my husband, I cut 7 inches off of my long, poker straight hair! I coloured it red and cut it into an adorable asymetrical bob. Just as I expected the husband hated it!
    Luckily the husband desperately wanted to remain married. I am now growing it out 😛 The big cut was very ceremonial for me. I needed to rid myself of my expectations and baggage. My hair is now growing out and my marriage is in a really good place.

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