Emancipation

There was a time in my childhood when I used to face the mirror and drape a white blanket on my head, pretending it was long, flowing hair. I’d secure my (fake) hair with a hairband, and then I would engage in a long monologue involving clichéd soap opera plots or I would simply sing to my reflection. It was my role playing stage, and nothing could stop me from pushing that sofa close to the mirror and perching myself on it (like a mermaid) so that I could start my long-haired monologue.

I love long hair. Long hair is the kind of stuff dreams are made of. To the short-haired, plain-looking child that I was, long hair was the crowning glory that all girls should aspire to achieve. Growing up, I’ve never actually had the chance to grow my hair long enough to go past my shoulder blades. They were always short, mostly because my grandmother frequently got my hair cut and I was yet to learn how to voice what I really wanted. The longest I got was shoulder length in third grade and then my mother brought me for a “trim” and whoever that stylist was hacked inches and inches of my hair off. (Hair I’ve grown for a year! How could you?! Do you not know the meaning of the word “trim”? IT IS DIFFERENT FROM “CUT.”) To make a painful story short, I cried for the loss of all that hair and nothing could console me.

As a child, haircuts were a form of bereavement.

You could say that the achievement of long hair has been a frustration throughout childhood and so I vowed to attain it during my adolescent years. For a while, things were fine. I had medium-length hair, although I still internally cringed from the scissors. Throughout high school, I had it cut regularly enough but not too drastically. I went through the hair cycle of straight, layered, and v-shaped hairstyles until I got tired of it and decided to try something new. That was 2009 and I was in fourth year high school, with short “punk” hair as my friends used to call it.

And even though it was a quirky haircut and I actually liked it, I wore it with a measure of regret.

I guess I couldn’t be comfortable with short hair. Not really.

After that, I was determined to grow my hair really, really long. I started college the same time I started growing my hair, with all the blazing determination of an eager (and yet naïve) child-woman. Since 2010, haircuts had become something rare. I wore my hair long because it made me look more mature. Perhaps I had grown tired of looking like a child all the time. Perhaps I was prematurely seeking my own coming-of-age.

I wanted people to look at me and confront the old soul within.

But here’s what I realized, four years later: it was just a phase. No matter how much I loved my long hair, I knew its time was up. I needed to let go of it, to learn to live without its aid. All that hair acted as my shield from these deep-seated insecurities I have had since childhood. I grew up thinking how I was not pretty enough, but having long hair made me feel beautiful. It gave me confidence, something I once lacked to a fault. It gave me strength; it made me feel feminine enough.

And even though I was afraid, I gathered all courage I could muster and marched into that salon.

It was time to be free from that crutch and walk on my own.

After the haircut, I felt so light. It felt like I have shed layers of my old self to become anew.

Short hair, don't care.
Short hair, don’t care.

At present my hair is the shortest it has ever been since I was a child. I look younger but I am learning that it is not such a bad thing. I am learning that the beauty within matters more than any kind of external aesthetic standard ever will. Maturity does not depend on external features; it springs from what is inside―the heart, the mind, the soul.

I feel free. Emancipated.

There is something so beautiful about hair: it does not hurt to cut it, and it grows back. It is a marvelous thing, a biological phenomenon so basic, and it awes me.

In the words of my spirit animal slash girl crush slash inspiration, Shailene Woodley:

out of nowhere, i did a complete 360. i went from sacralizing the length of my hair, to appreciating the spontaneity of chopping it off. and also recognizing the beauty of freedom. i think there is something so exceptionally admirable about one’s commitment to allowing their face to shine without hair blocking it. it’s all about balance i suppose. about knowing what’s right for you on your own personal journey. there was a time when growing my hair out symbolized something for me, but the power of sharing that choice, sharing the ability to have long hair with someone feels far more powerful right now. i know what it feels like to have wind blow through my wavy locks, and i am over-the-top grateful i get to share that gift with another.

Goodbye, long hair!
Goodbye, long hair!

I will be donating all that hair (it’s more than 12 inches already, but I couldn’t measure exactly because it’s curly) to Cuts Against Cancer. I hope that the hair I have loved so much will be able to give someone joy, just like it did to me.

If you are interested in donating your hair, visit this website. The organization, Donate Your Hair Today, has a minimum requirement of 12 inches and you can give your donation to any Papemelroti branch in the country.

If you are thinking of finally getting your haircut but you still have qualms, think over your decision thoroughly and do not go into that salon until you have fully accepted it.

Remember: hair grows back.

Go ahead. Share your hair. Be free. 🙂

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