I wrote this to merely share an experience. An experience that went beyond me, to speak volumes for me, before I could. Although the previous sentence sounds a bit invasive and silencing, this was all of my doing, and sort of a social experiment.
I am sitting in a chair anticipating the moment. My name is about to be called. I am about to graduate from college! A place where my purpose in life was confirmed through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and those who were around me helped to affirm that as well. My peers and professors saw me as the dancer, the leader, the “girl who co-lead Bible Study”, the student on several executive boards of organizations, the disciplined student, the listener, the counselor to a few, and much more. I had reached a milestone in my life that millions never got a chance to reach. And this chapter in my life was about to end…. But what is scaring me, what is actually on my mind is what I look like….and what I am about to look like. And no, I do not mean the “Is my makeup okay for the photo op afterwards?” “Will this cap stay on my curly wig??” “Do I look like a whale in my cap and gown??” type of questions. I was passed this portion of anxiety.
I knew that after my day of graduation, I had a decision to make that would affect something so pivotal in my identity. I was cutting my hair. To a low fade. No color added to “soften” the look either. What.are.THEY.gona.THINK!? “They” included family, friends, and potential male suitors. With just a few of the titles I had mentioned above, I knew that I held a certain place in lots of people’s lives and it made me nervous to shatter an image they had of me. So fast forward to Memphis. I am sitting in a chair anticipating the moment. My name is about to be called. I am about to cut off all of my hair.
THE LEAD UP
Hair was always very important in my family, as it is in many African American families. I remember the days of the burning relaxer, or the soreness of the scalp after sitting for hours for individuals, or the headaches after wigs being tightened a little too much for a little too long. Did not matter how I was feeling or what was happening in my life, my hair was to be tamed and admired. Yea I said it, Admired. If there was nothing cute on my person that day…week..(there were some rough college weeks) I lived for the compliments of my hair. It made me feel good. I put a lot of time in styles and spent a lot of money on my hair. Many do not know, but I have a scalp situation called seborrheic psoriasis. It is not fatal and it was NOT the cause of me cutting my hair. But with this condition, my scalp is very dry and dandruff are my shoulders’ best friend (ew, I know right). When I heard of people going days without washing their hair or rarely dealing with dandruff, I thought wow, what does THAT feel like. I know I am sounding pretty dramatic right now, but I basically have to wash my hair about every 3 days. I am PUSHING it when I wait until 4. It is not that bad of a condition, but it has always made me self-conscious about how others saw my hair and scalp. I had to be very selective on hairstyles or I could run the risk of scaring people thinking I had lice or something. So long story short, my hair was my pride and joy for it felt like an accomplishment for my hair to be praised with all of the work I had to put into it.
To add to the scalp insecurity, I have struggled with body image just about all of my life. Plus size, heavy set, fat, whatever you want to call it, that is the body type I identify with. Because of this insecurity, I focused primarily on the neck up. I loved, and still love, my face and the grade of my hair. If I put my energy into those two, surely no one will pay attention to the rest of me. Irrational thinking, I know. But if I was able to ignore my body, then I just expected everyone else too.
You might be thinking, Well Ashley if you loved hair so much, why is it all gone? Sigh, let’s keep digging shall we.
I was asked this question a lot. And that is understandable. It was pretty abrupt and seemed “out of character” for someone like me and my hair history (haha, hair history really tickled me). So to cut it all off without warning—I get it. I get the confusion.
Homegirl must be going through.
Wow, she’s so brave.
You know what, I don’t usually like when women cut off all of their hair, but it’s real nice on you.
Wow girl you got the face for it, couldn’t be me!
Just to name a few responses.
But when people would ask me, I could usually tell if they wanted the sugar coated version or my real answer. Just like when people ask “how are you?” in passing, they are NOT expecting the real answer to slow them down from their destinations. A simple “fine” would suffice. Just like a simple “Trying something new” suffices for most people. And trust me, I am not salty about that. Repeatedly explaining it gave me a sense of accountability with my reasoning (good ollllleeee accountability).
Earlier, I discussed my body image insecurity briefly. God has a funny way of reminding you that it is impossible to fall in love with Him and His people…and forget about yourself.
Mark 12:30-31 NIV Love the Lord with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all of your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.
And that is what I have tried to do knowingly and unknowingly since I decided to give Him all of my being in December of 2015. Cutting off my hair meant I couldn’t run from ME anymore. I was forced to face who I was and what I felt about myself. Some readers who have interacted with me may be a little confused at this point. “But Ashley is so confident, I don’t understand”. “But Ashley lead the Bible Studies with so much authority, I knew for sure she was confident in who God had created her to be.” “But Ashley has encouraged ME to be a better me.” But Ashley….But Ashley….is human. Is flawed. Is imperfect. BUT loves the Lord with all of her and allows Him to use her/me as a vessel for His people. Trust me, I am not here to brag on my reputation, for none of the glory belongs to me, it belongs to my Father.
I played multiple scenarios in my head to brace myself for impact. Impact of reality- I was going to be a 5’10” plus size female with no hair. There was no way I could “hide” from myself anymore. I could no longer distract the men in my life with my various and unpredictable hairstyles from my excessive weight gain. But the beautiful thing in releasing something so important to you, whether it be hair, food, control over your destination, whatever, God is able to show you just how much it is not needed to be whole. I didn’t need it to be beautiful. I didn’t need it to be accepted. So as the compliments and criticisms continue to pour in, I see that I have never been happier with a hairstyle before now. I am not sure how long it will be this length and I am not sure if this is how it will be forever, but this experience altogether has pushed me to see myself more as my Heavenly Father sees me. It has also pushed me to write to you all. To challenge you to literally “let go” and let God show you more than what you bargained for.
To God be the Glory