I was listing to the amazing podcast ‘Women of the Hour‘ hosted by Lena Dunham (the lady who writes, directs and produces Girls, a show I love). She is such an inspiration to me, telling it like it is to be a woman in this world, with subjects like friendship, love, body, ageing & sickness… I love it!
In one of the episodes, different women were asked about their hair and what it means to them. Each were asked at the end of their interview ‘are you your hair?’
Now, this may seem like a bit of a strange question, my friend, but the answers resonated so deeply with me. More often than not, the person said “I’m not my hair, but it is a big part of my story – a part of who I am” and I completely agreed with them.
You see, for me, I feel exactly the same way – I’m not my hair, but it is a big part of my story, connected to the relationships I have had, reflective of what I was going through at the time, and so I want to share some stories that involve my hair with you today if that’s ok.
When I was younger, I had such long hair. It came almost down to my hips and if I was playing on a swing and leant back as far as I could, my hair would brush the floor. I used to love doing that.
One of the happiest memories of my childhood is my dad detangling my hair after my weekly (if only it could be weekly now!) hair wash. We would sit in my mum and dad’s bedroom whilst he gently went through my hair and teased out the knots. Another memory is my mum allowing me to have a wash-in-wash-out hair dye which made it slightly more auburn looking. I felt so beautiful with my glimmering dyed hair.
My childhood was beautiful – hours spent reading or playing imaginary games, time with my sister…and it’s sort of reflected in the memories I have of my hair. I felt carefree, loved and secure. And for this I’m really grateful.
I vividly remember the time I got my hair cut short. At about 13, I had it chopped off to just below my shoulders. A few people were reticent about me cutting it all off but I longed for the person I was becoming – the more grown up Amy – to be reflected in how I looked. And so off it went.
Over my teen years, I made some bad (very short fringe, anyone?!), and not so bad hair decisions…but I think my hair represented a shift in who I was and who I was becoming. An adult. A person in my own right.
Changing my hair
Fast-forward a few years or so and my story takes us to the year I spent in France. I was 21 and in the midst of recovering from anorexia.
I met Pierre and fell in love – I think he was the catalyst that pushed me recover from it. Instead of compulsively exercising all day and all night, I started to want to go out with him, to see the world and experience so much more than I had in my hermit-like existence.
dancing all night in a club with him, drunk on love
dinner with his family, who I admired and wanted to impress
more time with the friends I started to meet through him
It was a beautiful awakening, but in other ways, it was a dark period of my life. You see, when Pierre met me, I was probably not more than 6 or 7 stone – seriously underweight. I should have twigged something was off from the way he found this attractive. At first, the relationship was easy, fun, exciting, but as I unfurled and started to put weight back on, he started to ask me to change myself. To lose weight, wear different clothes…and change my hair. And instead of telling him where he could stick his controlling ideas, as I should have at that point, I jumped through all his hoops.
I dyed my hair blond, grew it, got it permed (I know, permed in the 2000s!), berated myself when I couldn’t stop eating, wore clothes he thought fitting of me.
When I look back on it, I feel scared to admit it – for fear that you think me melodramatic – but I think there was aspects of this relationship that bordered on abuse. The control he wanted over me brought about constant demands to change how I looked, who my friends were, what I did…and how I cut my hair.
I felt like my heart broke when our relationship came to an end, but I’m so glad it did. For I became free.
I am what I am
Fast forward again another few years and I’m living in Brighton. I meet Gregg, my husband, at work and we get on like a house on fire. I think he’s the one. I’ve got shoulder-length hair and when I tell him that I want to cut it short, he’s initially a bit unsure:
“But your hair looks so pretty long. Will you still look feminine?”
I’ve learnt my session from my time with Pierre – and so many other times where I’ve given away my power, my self, my dreams to other people (so much so that I’ve tattooed ‘I am mine’ on my body to remind myself to live my life, make my choices for me) – and I cut my hair anyway. It’s short, I feel like a pixie, and I love it. I bloody well love it!
My hair now reflects the person I feel inside. Energetic, whimsical, pretty, an edge of masculine, quirky, my own person.
So yes, my hair is not who I am, but it’s an important part of my journey and I think it reflects who I am.