When I was about 9 years old, I lived in such a dysfunctional atmosphere that I was prone to dissociation. I was profoundly depressed, so I learned to “go somewhere else” inside my head. I had a rich inner life, because my outer one, in a nutshell, sucked.
One day I was abruptly wrenched from that world, though, when my mother cut off about 12 inches of my hair. I screamed. I cried. But the damage was already done.
She said to me, “I told you and told you that if you didn’t wash your hair properly, this was going to happen.”
The thing is, I have no memory of her giving me that warning. None. I remember being shocked when she said that.
Maybe she did warn me. Maybe I was somewhere else at the time. There’s no way for me to know.
In my profound depression, it wouldn’t surprise me if I wasn’t taking particularly good care of myself. Looking back at this as an adult, you’d think this might have been a red flag that called for some sort of intervention on her part, rather than an opportunity to violate my body in such a horrifying way, but no.
Please understand what hair is to a girl with low self-esteem. It’s something to hide behind. It’s practically all you have. When someone chops it all off without your permission, it leaves you exposed, vulnerable, and feeling completely out of control.
And while a pixie cut may have looked cute on Twiggy in the 60’s, one glance at the photo of me below and you realize I wasn’t exactly rockin’ it in the 70’s. When you’re 9 and have no other thing to identify you as female, it’s devastating. I was mistaken for a boy for about a year. I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.
I took to wearing a big, ridiculous looking floppy hat. But I couldn’t wear it at school. There, I wore things with flowers. I hate wearing things with flowers. It’s not who I am. But this hairstyle was not who I was, either.
When you’re a few short years away from puberty and already confused about who you are, the last thing you need is to have what little ability you have to express yourself wrenched away. I don’t know if this was the only contributing factor, but to this day, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
Please don’t do this to your daughters unless they want short hair themselves. There has to be another way. Communication would be a great starting point.
Very few photographs of me from that time still exist. Whenever I see them, I can see the pain in my eyes. I want to take that little girl in my arms and rock her and tell her how wonderful she is. Someone should have done that at the time. Nobody did. That was the crux of the problem.