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!