Vicki Watts, British living in the US
Since my mid-teens I have had very long, extremely luxuriant curly, no, wildly spirally springy, red hair. (Well, really more auburn or coppery than ginger, but that's not really the point...) I had been teased mercilessly as a child, but as I became an adult it seemed to be my most striking feature. It was an object of envy or desire but I still carried many of the negative sentiments I had learned to associate with it from childhood. Moreover, it was extremely time consuming. I would need to spend an hour at least each time I washed it; I couldn't use a hairdryer or it would explode horizontally away from my head, so were I to wear it loose it would take several hours to dry on the outside, and a day at least to cry out underneath. Once secured away in a braid or a bun it would have to stay that way until I could wash it again.
Since I studied dance at University, and have worked in that field ever since, it was mostly tied away from my face - it's 'beauty' hidden yet its hassle factor clearly apparent only to me. I often fantasized about cutting it all off. Of course a short hair cut would not work - I don't really suit an afro and its really too curly to do anything else. My only option would be a radical crop. But I was terrified I would become the ugly girl of my childhood once again. Vanity tied me to my unmanageable locks. And the numerous men (father, lovers, friends) who insisted that I would be insane to cut it.
Last year I moved to the US, started Graduate School, and out of nowhere seemed to reach the end of my tether with it. I no longer really cared whether I looked pretty or not. I was 26, and didn't really mind if I stopped turning heads. For Heaven's sake, this is Columbus, Ohio - being attractive is totally redundant here! December - I spontaneously decided to get it all cut off - from waist length to barely 5mm! I was terrified as the hairdresser hacked great chunks of it away, but also exhilarated. Liberty just an hour away. When he started shaving my head I was overwhelmed with delight. This was the first time I had felt my scalp in years. I walked home with a cold velvety skull and, to my shame, a renewed vanity. I couldn't stop staring at my perfectly shaped skull, couldn't (still can't) stop rubbing my head - it feels so good. I'm used to how it looks now (the vanity thing has stopped) and am totally complacent about never having to comb it, condition it, tie it up, smooth it down, or even think about it. No regrets. Well, at least not many, not often...
Am I less sexy now my head is regularly shaved and always very short? I think I probably look less overtly attractive, or perhaps just less eye-catching, less striking. My hair, though, was never sexy to play with, to touch or to stroke. I was always too conscious of how course it felt, of how it tangled if hands tried to run through it. It could be grabbed and squeezed and pulled - but that stuff is far more intimate than an everyday interaction would allow for. Now that my head is shaved everybody wants to rub my head. This is a hugely sensuous experience for me; one that I encourage. And experientially (from inside my body) my head is now far sexier than my rampant hair ever was. My head is receptive to touch and very very sensitive. And of course, I'm confident that I will wake up in the morning looking unruffled and ready to go - a vast improvement on the backwards through a bush look of the past. Of course, a lot of this has to do with feeling confident about my sexuality as a thing apart from my physical appearance (or apart from any received ideas about how my physical appearance should be). I think that's the joy of getting older