The first time I shaved my head I was 19-years-old. It was a few months after my birthday and a friend Brian and I raised $600.00 for St. Baldricks, a nonprofit that funds children’s cancer research. I wanted to understand my relationship with my hair, my beauty, and my body, thought maybe not consciously. We went to an event where people who had raised money for the organization were having their heads shaved on a stage. My mom came and at one point yelled to the volunteers, “She can sing!” As if to let them know, “if you need entertainment, here’s my daughter!” Whatever experience I was having to that point was very interrupted. But I have to say, it was one of the first times I felt how proud she was of me, and in that way, it was wonderful.
Later, on the drive back to Las Cruces from Albuquerque, Brian had teased me about looking like I was going to cry when the volunteer started shaving. I denied it. But the truth is I was about to cry on that stage. I didn’t know it at the time, but my hair didn’t just represent feminine youth to me. My hair represented my father’s love, my first boyfriend, and all the positive, and negative, attention I had from men my entire life. But it also represented how I saw myself in relation to other people. And I was able to start fresh.
Since that day, I’ve shaved my head two more times, each time during a time in my life I needed a fresh start. The second time was when I moved away from New Mexico, my home, for the first time. I had lived in other places for short amounts of time, but New Mexico had always been home. Moving to Portland, Oregon felt different somehow, and has ended up being such.
The third time I shaved my head was when I was just tired of my bleached hair. By this time, I had realized my relationship with my hair is different than society’s expectations of my relationship; it’s even different than how I previously saw it. I now see my hair as an extension of my physical body – it’s not perfect, but it’s mine and I both will use it to achieve goals and attempt to love it as much as I can.
Britney Spears shaved her head in 2007, two years before I did, and this cultural moment was still very much top of mind for me when I shaved my head. I was afraid that people would talk about me the way they talked about her – people who think I was “crazy” and “having a mental breakdown.” I was afraid of this, but I also wanted it.
I was raised with Britney and in many ways, I was raised like Britney. …Baby One More Time was the first CD I ever bought when I was 10. I loved her; she seemed perfect to me. She seemed to embody the independence and beauty I craved as a child. Plus, her music bopped.
Being raised in the 1990s meant being told primarily by men that my value was in my appearance from an early age and I believed until too late in life that if only I were prettier, people would like me more. No one flat told me, “no one cares about you if your aren’t pretty,” but I got the message. I shaved my head for what I think is a parallel reason to Britney – I wanted more control over my life and I wanted more control over how others see me and how I see myself. I don’t know her personally or anything, but when she shaved her head it felt like a desperate cry for control rather than a cry for help to me.
Britney inspired me to shave my head for that reason.
I was very depressed in college. I think shaving my head was a way to tell the world and myself that I’m not for you and to gain that control for the first time. I didn’t want help and I don’t think Britney was asking for that either. Maybe I did need the help, but shaving my head had little to do with that.
After a few years when I discovered metal music in middle school, I stopped being so die hard about Britney, but she will always be a integral part of my childhood and young adult experience. I still love her and wish her the best. #FreeBritney absolutely.
Comment below about your experiences with your hair and with Britney. How has your relationship with your hair or Britney changed over time? Are they connected for you like they are for me?