What I Learned By Shaving My Head

Why On Earth Did You Do THAT?

My decision to shave my head actually was the confluence of a number of forces.

  • I'd always envied the ease-of-use that men with crewcuts had.
  • I love the texture, the feel, of very short hair.
  • I'd always had trouble with my head itching. Dandruff shampoo made it worse. A friend of mine told me she'd shaved her head, and that her dandruff had gone right away.
  • It had been quite hot for quite a while, and I didn't have air-conditioning.
  • I was consulting, so didn't have to worry about the impact this would have on my long-term career (or on what my Controls professor would think).
  • I could see that I was indispensible for at least six more months on my current contract - far longer than it takes hair to grow out to a respectable length.
  • My mother was between jobs and residences and had moved in with me. If she didn't like it, she could just leave.

Shaving head RESULTS
This is Tough!
Shaving a round object with a flat object is actually quite tricky, especially when the view of the round object is partially obscured by the rest of the round object.
I ended up buying a pair of clippers and trimming down to about 1/8" every six weeks or so.

A More Personal Interest In Gay Rights
For the first few weeks after I shaved my head, I walked around very nervously, convinced that people were going to jump out of alleys and beat me up for being a lesbian.

Because I am straight and have a lot of straight friends who I am certain are totally disinterested in hurting my large number of gay friends, I knew that not all straight people hate all gay people. That didn't matter. I was still nervous.

After several weeks of not getting beaten up, I relaxed. But the experience made me personalize the fight for gay rights. Instead of being for gay rights because it was "the ethical thing to do", I now have a personal motivation because I realized there is nothing I can do to prove that I am NOT gay.

My friend Wendy had a (straight) friend whose brother (that Friend hadn't seen in many years) came to visit him in Oregon. Friend gave his brother a hug on the front porch when he showed up. Friend got kicked out of his apartment complex for being gay. "He's my brother!" "Doesn't matter. You're gay, you're out of here." At that time, there were no laws there against discriminating against gay people, and there was nothing he could do to prove to his landlady that he wasn't gay. He had to move.

Being Happier
There is a very intriguing book by Shelby Steele called The Content Of Our Character. It is written primarily for the African-American community, and discusses two strategies for not getting hurt by whites. Remember, lynchings of blacks by whites used to be quite the sport.

One is the "shucking and jiving" role: Don't hurt me because I'm no threat to you. The other is the the "menacing role": Don't hurt me or I will hurt you.

Because I had read this book, I was able to recognize quickly that people got nervous around me if I was neutral. I was scary. I also knew the antidote: smiling a lot.

(This also worked to dispel concerns that I might be undergoing chemotherapy or have some other nasty disease. The image people have of deathly ill people is not of a smiling face.)

And by golly, do you know what happens if you smile? You feel better! You mingle better at parties. People come talk to you. People smile back at you! :-)

Envious Looks
I was certain that nobody was going to ever talk to me again, that I'd get funny looks in the grocery stores, and that I wouldn't get a date for seventeen years.

People responded in exactly the opposite manner! Men who had never given me the time of day before crossed rooms to talk to me. I got looks in the grocery stores, but they were "OOoooooh, I wish I had the nerve to do that!" looks.

I think what happened was that people said to themselves, "She has a shaved head. She must be interesting." Never mind that I hadn't changed anything else; it's just that my native irreverence was more obvious. This caused me to start:

  • Being More Interesting
    Once everyone started treating me as being interesting and unusual, I sort of felt like I had a responsibility to be more interesting. In particular, it was very difficult for me to not buy a motorcycle during this period! In general, I started being more daring, trying more things, and being more "artsy". (It was in this period that I got involved with High Tech Heroes, for example.)
  • No More Itching Scalp
    I started using Ivory soap on my head, and my scalp was much happier. Even now, when I have hair again, I still use plain old Ivory bar soap, and it seems to work just fine. :-)
  • Californians Don't Care
    I thought that I might have to grow my hair back or scare off my clients. Nah. They just didn't care. I suppose that if I were no good at what I did ( timing analysis consulting), then it might have been a problem, but nobody really cared - not even in Chippewa Falls, WI.

    I also noticed that Californians have great license in the rest of the country. I went to a wedding in Chicago, and a friend reported that she heard some women talking about my haircut briefly. "Oh, she's from California", and that made it ok.

1 comment:

ofgreaterheights said...

Props to you for having the courage to chop it all off! A lot of men fear going bald, and do and use ludicrous things just to cover it all up.

I recommend you to use Matte For Men's complete head care lotion. It's great for sensitive skin like bald heads, as it contains moisturizing elements and protective ingredients against the harmful UV rays.

Visit them at: http://www.matteformen.com for more details.