Sense and Sensibility: Big Chop Edition

I’m taking a major step next week. I took this same step many years ago … sort of. Back in 1988 I made the decision to cut off my hair. It was a big deal then. A very big deal. I wore my hair short for several years after that. But that was forever ago. I haven’t had short hair in more than 25 years, and next week I’m cutting my hair short … not as short as I cut it in 1988, but short.

Cutting my hair in 1988 was a big deal because that was long before the natural hair movement that has been spreading for the last dozen or so years. As a Black woman, having natural hair is still a big deal, and cutting off a head full of hair is still a big deal. When my kinky coils are stretched out, my hair is anywhere from 20 to 24 inches long. I’m probably going to ask to have all but six inches cut. That will leave me with about five inches more on my head than I left in 1988, but it’s still quite short.

And the short part is exciting. I’ve been missing my tiny afro for years. I mean, I was entirely adorable with short hair:

I was also, you know, 30 years younger than I am today.

That’s the part that gives me the stomach ache. I’m getting ready to cut off my dyed hair, wash out the temporary color that’s been covering my grey, and let the world see my real hair for the first time.

I started dying my hair in my mid-40s. I got sick of it quickly, but I wasn’t ready for my grey. I started telling myself that I’d cut off my dyed hair before my 50th birthday. Yeah. That perfectly good milestone came and went. My vanity convinced me to keep dying, told me my face didn’t look like I should have grey hair. (Seriously, what the hell is that?) With my 50th birthday behind me, I started telling myself I’d cut my hair by my 55th birthday. Vanity blocked the move again.

I stopped using boxed dyes and switched to henna — it was natural, after all, surely that was better for my tresses than the chemicals I’d been using, right? But henna was still permanent dye (and red!). A couple of years ago I gave up the henna and swapped in a temporary color that matched the henna. Still, I was moving further and further past my 55th birthday, and I was still hiding my real hair.

Today, I’m in the countdown to 60. I am still just as vain as ever, but I’m also sick, sick, sick of coloring my hair. Or at least, I’m sick of coloring my hair so that it isn’t clear I’ve gone grey. I think it will be fun to play with silly colors in my grey hair — making my tips rose gold or purple, for example.

My vanity still has me worried, though. What will I look like with so much grey? Am I ready to say goodbye to people guessing my age 15-20 years younger than I am? Will seeing that I’m older than they imagined make people judge me for where I am in my life? Can I just calm down and accept that none of that matters and be comfortable moving forward as my authentic self?

I guess we’ll see, won’t we? I’m going to the barber on Saturday.


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

20 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility: Big Chop Edition

  1. Thank you for this reflection. We are about the same age. I struggle with this issue, but I’m not ready to give up dying my hair yet. I have a very fair complexion, so I just keep going lighter so that I don’t have to color as often. Not sure it is really helpful, but as you pointed out vanity (or whatever that little voice is??) keeps winning for now. Can’t wait to hear how your feeling about at the end of the month.

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    1. One of my best college friends is blond. She started gradually lightening her hair years ago — an excellent advance planner, that woman! She said she was doing it so no one would notice when she started to grey … and that’s exactly what happened. Her hair is fully white now, but it looks exactly as it’s always looked. Since my hair is dark, my grey is much more obvious. I really want to stop covering it, however, so I’ll be taking that plunge come Saturday! 🙂

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  2. NYOCW

    Excellent questions in your last paragraph. “Am I ready to say goodbye to people guessing my age 15-20 years younger than I am?” (My personal answer: no. 😂). “Will seeing that I’m older than they imagined make people judge me for where I am in my life?” I wonder about this too. Hair is loaded. I like the way you unpack how this is true. I could relate to all of this.

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    1. My answer is “no,” too! For real. I love that people never guess me anywhere near my age. I’m vain enough that I was actually sad when people started guessing that I was in my 30’s … and I was 50 then! Hair is super loaded. And ageism is a real thing. I’m curious (and trepidatious) to see how this change plays out!

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  3. I can’t wait to see the updated photo! I think it sounds like a really nice length for your hair. But I do like the very short that you had in the photo. I started going gray when I was 27. About three years ago I decided that I would stop dying it all together. Now I have a lot of gray, but it’s happening slowly. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it, but I am 100% sure I don’t wanna pay to have it coloured anymore.

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    1. The nice thing about being more mature is that you don’t care about what other people think…at least not consciously. I think gray will look fine on you snd you will own it. As you say, it will give you a blank slate you highlight it with any color that strikes your fancy. Hope you post some pics.

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    2. Two young women friends of mine began to go grey in their late 20s. Both are in their late 30s now and more grey than brown … and looking lovely. During the first year of the pandemic, I watched (on zoom, of course) as one of my coworkers let her grey grow out. She looks amazing. She actually looks years younger with her grey than she looked with black hair. I’m holding that image of her in my head as I prep for Saturday.

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        1. I’ve been able to be super spoiled about not looking my age. Having grey hair won’t change my face, but it will change how people see me. I’m working on being prepared for it.

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  4. I like the way this entry took us on two journeys. One was the history of your hair, and the other was the journey of your thinking. My guess is that after the initial reactions that people have, the remaining time, people will respond to the human being, not the hair. That said, I used to have a beard, but when it started going grey in my 50s, I shaved to stave off the reactions, since the hair on top of my head hadn’t decided to turn yet…and I, like you, wasn’t ready to be seen as…old.

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  5. Nice post! And yes you are cute with short hair! I hope you will post about you new haircut. I hope you love it, and its new color. All the best.

    P.S. It was great to see you on Sunday at the meet-up. Congrats on being here slicing for 15 years!

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    1. I will definitely post a picture from Saturday, no matter how it all turns out! (Whew! I’ve gone and said that out loud now … I guess I really have to do it!) It was nice to meet you, Denise. Thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂

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  6. You may be thirty years older than your last big chop, but that beautiful ageless smile is still there! It’s going to take a lot more than grey hair to make you look old. Your spirit is still young, that will counteract. And what’s the saying – snow on the roof, fire in the hearth?

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  7. I loved, loved, loved this story! Your voice, your adorable (true!) picture. Your thoughts about how women negotiate the cultural signs of aging. I can’t wait to see the results and hear what you think of your new look. FYI, been grey since my 30s (and am now completely white/pearl grey), never colored it and keep it “boy cut” short, so I am on your side completely!

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    1. Thank you for reading (and for the compliment!). I just made a date to meet up with friends after my haircut. That way I have to be brave and show it off right away, no running home and coloring the grey! 🙂

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