By Kalee Prue
I had long gorgeous locks once upon a time.
Wavy, luscious chocolate brown with hints of red and sun kissed flecks of gold. The wispy ends of it grazed the back pockets on my blue jeans. It caught eyes and turned heads. But underneath the head of hair and trailing the compliments, I was broken in a million pieces from the neck down; filled with fear and self loathing—ugliness from the inside out.
I stopped brushing it for two years in an attempt to shun my vanity; hiding from the gazes of men.
My Nanu loved me dearly, but despised my dreadlocks. Every time I went to visit he would ask when I was going to cut the pile of poop off my head. When my Nanu died, to honor him I spent the day before I was to give his eulogy sitting in a chair, while my mother and sister and a large bottle of conditioner tried to salvage a precious few inches of my dignity. The short inches left curled in perfect, adorable spirals around my features.
Each and every hug to comfort me the day I sent my Nanu off to the heavens was accompanied by a 10 minute conversation about how much better my hair looked, now.
My head felt lighter, but my heart was as heavy and tangled as the masses of twisted and gnarled hair I had cut from it.
When my son was three I handed him a pair of scissors and let him hack off most of those few ringleted inches. I wore his ragged, punky handy-work for three days before I borrowed a pair of animal clippers from a farmer friend and, with the help of an Orange BIC, I freed myself of the last bits of that auburn beauty I could not own.
In the two years my head was simple and clean I learned what it felt like to feel the rain tickle my scalp, and learned a sunburn on my shiny dome is not fun. I learned that my head could be an amazingly sensual place and forehead massages can result in something that could almost be described as an orgasm.
I learned that without the distraction of hair, completely independent of what had once been my greatest beauty, I was still radiant and sexy.
That while I had expected to repulse them, beautiful men saw just as much beauty and noticed and noted the kindness in my eyes, the feistiness in my walk, and the full sensual shape of my lips. I discovered that my desirability was not only found in my physical features. I found that when I had no curtains to hide my face behind that I had to stand and be seen.
In the face of jeers and stares, snap judgments about my values and my sexual preferences, I had to be stronger than I knew I could be.
I climbed over walls and jumped through fire without fear of being caught by nails or sparks. I pushed through brier bushes and crawled under barbed wire without snags or snarls. Some of the most inspiring (and unexpected) moments were finding connections to women who had lost their hair to the ravages of things beyond their control.
Though for many of them, their lesson came with a medical cancer diagnosis, mine had come from a cancer of the soul. I realized that my hairless scalp was as much a part of my cure as theirs was. I found a kinship with these amazing survivors that I may have never noticed were it not for the beacons of each of our bald heads, glowing in the sunlight; a silent testimony to our trials and triumphs.
It’s been nearly four years since I last felt a razor blade glide across my my scalp. When I stand naked my hair tickles the bottom of my rib cage. It is still mostly a chocolate brown, but now my glowing heart is painted into it.
My artist hands smudge and smear streaks of purples and turquoise; blues and green dye; bits of pink stand out in the sunshine.
It’s as if every strand on my head is radiantly skipping and cartwheeling. My multicolored hair is, not an act of rebellion, but of shouting for joy that I am alive to wear this glorious crown! I won’t always wear a rainbow on my head. Nature will take my head back from the bottles of blue. The brown I was born with will hopefully someday give way to grey and I will wear each stage as gracefully as my soul allows.
However, for the first time in my life, at 34 years old I know that the waves of beauty cascading around my face are owned.
When I walk by a mirror I see an accurate reflection of the beautiful woman I finally know that I am on the inside. When a strand blows across my face I greet it lovingly as a part of me. I feel delight (delicious even!) as I brush silky strands out of my eyes. I could take it off again tomorrow. I have no need of it. I am me and I am beautiful from the inside out with or without these locks, painted colors or not. It’s a silly and frivolous thing, really, but I am grateful that I have been given such a gift to wear for my years on this earth—to decorate and wrap the gift of my heart with.
A loved one recently noted how much my hair had grown. I smiled. It is not my hair that has grown, it is I who have finally grown into my hair.
Kalee Prue is an unschooling, single mama, certified yoga teacher, artist of life, seeker of understanding, writer of thoughts, an eater of sharp cheddar, grower of flowers and an assortment of other clever descriptions that can be summed up by simply saying: she is a quirky but likable human worthy of receiving and capable of giving love, just like you. She writes usually the old fashioned way, with a pen and a notebook, but sporadically shares thoughts, poems, and perspectives on her blog. She has been published thus far on elephant journal, The Manifest Station and The Tattooed Buddha. Kalee can be found and followed on Facebook.
Photo: (author’s pic)
Editor: Alicia Wozniak