Never in my life did I think I would be bald. My mother loves to tell stories about how when I was younger she would often get stopped in the supermarket by women of middle-eastern descent, thinking she must have stolen me from an Indian home. Although huffy and a bit offended, she explains that she couldn’t necessarily be upset when I was in fact born with a thick head of jet black hair. “The sight of you alone would have made your Native American ancestors proud,” she says.

Looking back on it, however, I suppose I was never really attached to my hair. I went through the typical middle school struggle of insecurity and angst, wanting it to be as straight and as long as possible, making it so much simpler to be ‘normal’ and ‘cool’ in the eyes of the suburban white girls I so desperately wanted to fit in with. Once I got over the slump of my awkward teen years, I found that the shorter my hair was, the freer I felt, and the easier it was to find myself. The less hair I had, the more I felt like the best version of me.

About a year ago, I raised over $1,200 and shaved my head for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for cancer research. The  foundation gave me the chance to do the single greatest thing I will probably ever do with my life by helping me spread love and give hope to those lost and those still fighting. It also gave me the revolutionary experience of being bald, something that I will undoubtedly cherish forever.

photo: Alicia Smith
Photo: Alicia Smith

St. Baldrick’s changed my life in ways I didn’t even know needed changing, and regardless of who you are or what you’ve been through, shaving your head is a spiritual journey that every woman should take at least once in her lifetime. Here’s why:

A bald head leaves you nowhere to hide.

Close friends who had already done the charity warned me to “prepare for the stares.” As a plus-size black woman with tattoos and piercings, I was well aware of how frequently people’s eyes tend to linger. Yet these stares, though somewhat different, empowered me in ways that would have 13-year-old me gazing on in awe and admiration. It wasn’t until I lost the most average thing about me that I finally felt comfortable and confident in my own skin.

Photo: Tumblr

Getting ready becomes your new best friend.

Like most of us, I tend to drag my feet on the things I know I’m supposed to be doing, simply because I know I’m supposed to be doing them. Taking a shower and getting dressed are not exceptions to my advanced level of procrastination. However, washing your hair when you have no hair is easily better than ice-cold water on a sweltering July afternoon. I was suddenly taking nearly three showers a day. Not only are decades of time saved by the lack of locks, but feeling every drop of water on your scalp is incomparably revitalizing. In addition, all the time and money I spent doing my hair could now be put to use in accessorizing and dancing around my room half naked.

Photo: Tumblr

You’ll never slay harder.

Going along with my new-found, hardcore confidence, I found myself wearing things I’d never even tried to pull off before. Before the big shave, I purchased tons of earrings and headbands, accessories I had previously worn sparingly, deciding it just didn’t look quite right with my longer hair. Post-shave I felt naked leaving the house without a bold statement of chunky jewelry or intricate makeup, behavior quite unusual for the more tomboyish parts of my persona. When summer came, I shed my customary cardigans and allowed my outfits to be as free as my hair made me feel. I let my arms breathe in just a t-shirt or tank top and even rocked a few crop tops here and there.

Photo: Blogspot

You’ll change lives other than your own.

At the time I decided to participate in St. Baldrick’s for the following year, my aunt (my mother’s sister) had been diagnosed with colon cancer. After losing my grandmother a few years before to lung cancer, such news was without a doubt the most devastating blow my family could have received. Watching her, as strong as ever, fight a disease that could very well kill her, and seeing her feel so uncertain and self-conscious about the loss of her hair, made me realize that this isn’t something anyone should have to go through alone. On the big day, my aunt showed up to the charity event with a hat on. It was still pretty chilly when the sun went down and ultimately the hat made her feel more comfortable. It wasn’t until the barber had finished shaving my head that I noticed she had taken off her hat. I hadn’t seen her so boldly go out in public without something on her head since she began her chemotherapy. I had truly never seen her smile so brightly as when we proudly showed off our matching peach fuzzes to the camera.

photo: Alicia Smith
Photo: Alicia Smith

Hair grows back.

That’s just a fact of life. I’m living proof with my shaggy pixie cut that is rapidly turning into a mullet due to my determination to ignore the scissor happy part of my heart and actually allow my hair to grow out. My warrior of an aunt is thankfully living proof with her well-managed and incredibly stylish spiky salt and pepper do. We both got the possibly once-in-a-lifetime chance of going completely natural, and we’ll never have to wonder what our heads look like underneath all that hair. Most importantly, we’ll never forget what it’s like to find divine, authentic beauty within ourselves. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my bare noggin. Thank goodness St. Baldrick’s is an annual event and the clippers are never too far away.

every woman needs to shave her head
Photo: Alicia Smith

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