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Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's just hair

Across from me in a coffee shop is a girl with an Afro. It is curly, puffed out like a dandelion, a light brown. It is beautiful.

Since I cut 18 inches of golden strands off my head seven months ago, hair has become somewhat of a fascination to me.

When I first walked in to school with my shorn head, one of my classmates clutched her shoulder-length brown tresses like it was her who was threatened with scissors. “I could never do that to my hair,” she gasped.

I smiled at her, but I thought, “It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.”

But hair holds more meaning than we might give it credit for. The Bible says that a woman’s hair is “her glory”. And in some ways, it was for me. It was what I hid behind, what got me attention, the confidence booster I used to console myself when I got a blemish or had bags under my eyes. Some days, it was my saving grace.

But I soon learned that having blond waves that reach almost to your waist can also be a liability. On an internship in Malaysia it earned me many more catcalls and stares than I expected. It even led to one unpleasant experience in my news office when a visitor snapped pictures of me at my desk, saying, “Oh, a blond girl. My son will love this!” I felt utterly used, a commodity, invisible beneath my halo of flaxen hair.

It had to go.

So my sister (who has been dying her even lighter strands in a rainbow of shades for years) and I took a trip to the salon. I brought a picture of Emma Watson and said, “chop it off”. The stylist divided it in three elastics to be sent off to Locks of Love. And then she cut. And I smiled.

It felt incredibly free, incredibly me. I felt like I could actually see my face for the first time, with no distraction. I looked older, I looked my age, years away from the young teenager that I felt had always stared back from my 23-year-old face. There was not one ounce of sadness or regret as I held those 18 inch strands.

That was in February. Now it’s September, and I am starting to feel a bit different. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my haircut. It’s cute, it’s professional and it’s in style. But life is uncertain right now, with a job interview on the horizon, a dwindling bank account, and the cold weather coming. I miss the comfort of my hair. I miss the certainty of it, the sameness.

But when I look in the mirror, I remember why I cut it. I want people to see me, not my hair. I want them to read what I have to say and not be distracted. I want to have conversations where people have no choice but to look in my eyes, because there is nothing hiding them. And I don’t want to ever play it safe. So I pull a comb through my pixie cut, smile, and face the day. I make the choice to be vulnerable, to be honest, to be kind. To smile at people more, because there is nothing to camouflage my smile from them.

And I think about the kind of courage that hairstyles take. For the girl in the coffee shop, it was the beautiful audacity to grow it out the way it was meant to be, instead of straightening it, putting in extensions, dying it darker or lighter or brighter. For me, it meant cutting off something that some people felt was intrinsic to being Megan. It meant changing my view of myself, and, in the process, learning to take myself less seriously. To change what I thought was beautiful. To change my life. It meant taking a chance, with no room for regret.

Because in the end, it’s just hair.


  1. You KNOW how I feel about this without even me even having to say it. I want EVERYONE to read what you write, every time! You inspire me, humble me, awe me and make me proud. I love YOU - hair or no hair!

  2. beautifully written, megan! did i ever tell you about this event I started last year?

  3. Fantastic! I'm donating my hair in December. I'm nervous because I've grown attached to it while growing it out. It hasn't been this long since, well, I don't know when. Also, I started growing it out while working on my degree and since I will also be graduating in December, it's like ending a chapter and starting a new one in my life. I'm excited to help the person who gets a wig from my hair. I already donate blood regularly, and I'm on the bone marrow registry too. I being a poor university student, like that its a free thing that you can do to directly help someone.

  4. Loved the post. Guess I can associate with the whole hair experience, having changed it quite a bit myself over the years. Whereas you cut it to be more genuine, I've got to admit there's been times where I've cut it (sometimes bald) to get more attention. But in the end, it sure feels more liberating with less of it, doesn't it?

  5. brilliant. A great story! Thanks for sharing :-)

  6. Your hair is SO adorable and you pull it off so well!! i am always emotional about cutting my hair, but i have gotten much better over the years. This is so inspiring to see you be transparent with your readers and remind us all that it is about the what is on the insisde and you need people to see you for you. great blog!! :))