As Free As My Hair

by Robbie Romu on February 25, 2013

hair
That I’ll die livin’ just as free as my hair”
– Lady Gaga

The experiment is over. The waste-bin is filled with the remnants of my latest misguided attempt to grow out my hair and I feel… relieved. There was something disingenuous about the whole ordeal, something sordid and not quite right.

I’ve been shaving my head for the better part of a decade, out of sheer convenience and utter laziness mainly, but also because I am too cheap to pay some gay guy good money for something I can do at home for free. It wasn’t something I thought about too much, unless somebody else brought it up. Not having hair was never a part of my consciousness, until I decided to grow it out.

A few weeks in and I realized that I was spending much more time in front of the mirror, poking and primping my new Chia Pet, trying to make it look… well, different than it looked.  A month in and I began to wear a lot of hats.  After 6 weeks I invested in some product, indignantly paying $15 for “sculpting gel” whose entire purpose was to make me look like I had just rolled out of bed. Yes, it did occur to me that I could have just “rolled out of bed” instead, but my version of that particular look and the actual look were very different.

I began noticing other people’s hairstyles a lot more than before. Some long forgotten, frightfully bitchy hair Nazi was unearthed and he didn’t pull any punches when it came to criticizing and critiquing other people’s choices. I went from care factor zero to Ken Paves in no time flat. I started to worry about what my hair looked liked way too much. I felt like I was 21 again, standing in front of the mirror (with a blow dryer and tears in my eyes) obsessing about every little strand that wouldn’t do exactly what I wanted it to do.

Which brings us to a few days ago, when it all suddenly dawned on me in a wave of nostalgia and regret. I thought, “What the Hell am I doing? Who am I and who am I trying to impress?”

Ultimately, I do not want to be a person who cares what other people think of me.  As long as I live my life within my own moral compass and give back when I can then what does it matter?  I have friends and family who love me for who I am, on the inside, for things that matter, like compassion, kindness and a wicked sense of humor.

There’s this picture of me, at 28, after tree planting for the summer, where my hair is flawless. I’d let it grow (because nobody gives a fuck what you look like when you’re tree planting) for several months into a wavy mass of sun-dappled excellence that I could drag my fingers through without worries.  I’ve often thought, “I wish my hair looked like that again.” It was taken just before I had my nervous breakdown, at a time when I was feeling invincible.

It occurs to me that by growing my hair out I was chasing the feeling I get when I look at that photograph from so many years ago… unstoppable, carefree, unafraid. It wasn’t the hair I was after – it was the moment.

I miss him more often than I’d like to admit, that naïve and fearless kid with perfect hair who thought he had it all figured out.  Perhaps, in some small way, I was trying to honor his memory. Pay homage to the qualities he possessed, especially the ones I have trouble finding in this older, more battle worn version of myself.

Maybe I will take a new picture, as I am today, head freshly shaved at 43, and pin it to my bathroom mirror.  If I look long enough and search hard enough maybe I’ll find some new feelings worth honoring…

Like hope, or wisdom or bravery.

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