For as long as I can remember, my hair has been both a blessing and a curse. I’ve got extremely thick, rather coarse hair that grows like a weed. I usually let it dry naturally and if I’m feeling wild, maybe throw a clip around it to hold it back. While it’s incredibly fun to try out new hairstyles like curves or waves, messy buns, fishtail braids, or straightening it until it burns my fingers, it also gets in the way of LITERALLY EVERYTHING.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten my own hair in my food or mouth accidentally. My brother was still putting gum in my hair when I was in high school. A few months ago, I actually got candle wax in my hair. That was fun to clean out! Most hair ties can’t handle this mane, and I often stretch them to the point of uselessness or breakage.
Not to mention, having long hair is crazy expensive. A large portion of my grocery budget goes towards shampoo, conditioner, brushes, and other various accoutrement. If you’ve got hair like me, you avoid salons like the plague because it costs an arm and a leg to do anything fun like coloring or bleaching. Thankfully, I recently discovered a low-fuss family salon and have been getting regular trims there.
But recently, I have had a revelation.
My friend at work commented in passing, “You have such pretty hair; I’m so jealous!” I smiled and thanked her, not thinking much of it. Long hair has always been part of my identity, something I treasured, and something I never really questioned. Later that day I was reading up on my new obsession, Shailene Woodley, and discovered this beautiful piece of wisdom. In describing her adaptation into her character Hazel for the upcoming The Fault In Our Stars movie (based on the book which I still need to read!), she spun a beautiful story of the lifelong connection and symbol she has had with her long luscious hair. This part gave me chills:
“there was a time when growing my hair out symbolized something for me, but the power of sharing that choice, sharing the ability to have long hair with someone feels far more powerful right now. i know what it feels like to have wind blow through my wavy locks, and i am over-the-top grateful i get to share that gift with another.”
I remembered those five simple words my friend had said and how they made me smile. I want to be able to share that feeling of having jealousy-inducing hair with someone who has never been given that chance. I decided then and there to follow in Shai’s footsteps and donate my hair to Children With Hair Loss. One particularly brave story shared by my sorority sister with alopecia truly inspired me last year, and the notion has been in my head for several months now. I have done this twice in the past and really enjoyed the experience.
The first time, I was in my emo stage and the dramatic bangs really meshed well with my Xanga and love for Hawthorne Heights. The second time, I was starting senior year of high school and wanted a new, adult look. There is something so powerful about seeing your freshly-shorn ponytail in a Ziploc bag, full of promise and hope for some other little girl or boy who needs it more than you.
I’ve recently started to work out again, and it’s actually really hard to get this much hair out of the way during Zumba. Every summer (usually at camp), as I wrestle my hair into an unruly ponytail or hold ice to the back of my neck, I loudly proclaim: “Ugh! It’s so hot. I’m so sick of my hair, I’m totally gonna shave it all off.” Sadly I don’t think I have the head shape or bone structure to pull off the Britney Spears circa 2007 look, so cutting off 8 inches will have to do.
When researching which nonprofit to donate my ponytail to, I came across this article. Although I don’t totally agree with her attitude and rather vain tone, she does make a few good points. Locks of Love doesn’t have the most stellar reputation or data to back up their noble mission, and they charge some patients for a wig. Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths doesn’t accept hair that has been colored, so I’m out of luck there. Children With Hair Loss has the most lenient rules and restrictions regarding length and color, which is great because I think no one should be kept from donating if they want to do it.
I have a few more inches to grow before I’ll be at the right length, but I am so excited. Some people have already approached me with vague expressions of concern when I tell them of my plans: “But why?” “Your hair is so pretty!” “Don’t do it!”
To that, I have but three words:
Ever since I decided to do this, I can’t stop thinking about it and smiling. It’s gonna happen soon – be on the lookout for pictures in the coming weeks!
9 inches of hair is gone! Feels wonderful =]