I’ve always admired people who can be ‘themselves’ in all scenarios.
Unapologetically pick the clothes they want, the hair they want, own themselves and walk down the street with their head held high – really knowing who they are deep down.
However, for as long as I can remember, I have been apologetically hiding different parts of me, in hope that I would blend into everyone around me, especially other girls.
I’m not going to sit here and spin you webs about being bullied when I was in high school, or feeling the need to blend in because I have some huge secret, because this isn’t the case. Anyone who really knows me will be reading this in shock, because as my mum likes to say – I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. Tattoo I like? Got it. Seen something I don’t agree with? Stood on the rooftops and screamed for justice. Someone made fun of me? I just shrugged it off and laughed.
A different Joni for different people, but never one for myself
But the truth is… these are all qualities and things that I can easily hide depending on how I feel that day. Sometimes I wake up and want to stand in the middle of the city, with all my tattoos baring, screaming and shouting. Sometimes I find myself hiding behind a huge hoodie and being completely incognito for the day – anxiety eating away the part of me that doesn’t care what others think.
It has taken me 25 years to realise that a huge part of how I portray myself is dependant on the people I have around me. This isn’t me dulling down or changing any part of my personality, but instead is all about my appearance. This is a battle I have had with myself for as long as I can remember.
Wearing my hair in a messy bun with a full face of makeup for work. Wearing my hair down and curly, paired with a couple of long false lashes when I see my friends on a Saturday night. Putting on a pair of joggers and scraping my hair back when I’m chilling on a Sunday with my partner. Every single one of the above scenarios, I have a different hat on. A different Joni for different people, but never one for myself. Recently, this has become ridiculously exhausting and confusing for me.
Why don’t I feel comfortable in any of these hats?
I’ve spent a lot of time fighting against gender roles, but found myself not challenging this within myself
The truth is, I’ve never been a huge fan of my hair. I’m not one of those girls who can flawlessly get up on a Monday morning, brush my hair and off I go. It has always taken a lot of time and effort to get myself ready because of the birds nest that likes to gather on my head. It took me about an hour or two every morning, which is a mammoth task if you’re doing it for others and not yourself. I’ve done everything I could possibly do to it to help me feel like I am fitting in. Curled it, straightened it, backcombed it, followed every YouTube video, even dyed it that Rihanna red that was huge in 2010 (never going to live down those memories on my Facebook).
The one thing I always wanted to do, but never did (until now) was just shave it all off.
I felt like without my hair, I wouldn’t look like a ‘girl’ – because we have all been taught that hair equals femininity. Name one Barbie or Bratz doll that had short hair? Or one Disney Princess with a shaved head? I’ll wait.
You can’t, right? We have all been conditioned from a young age to believe boys are masculine and have short hair, girls are feminine and have long hair. This isn’t something that I personally agree with or believe in, and spend a lot of my own time fighting against gender roles – but found myself not challenging this within myself.
So that is exactly what I did.
I woke up on a Sunday and finally had enough of the hats. I threw them all in the bin (figuratively, of course!) and participated in what was probably one of the most soul cleansing experiences of my life.
I took the clippers to my head and shaved it all off. When the deed was done, I got in the bath and sobbed. I had never felt so proud of myself, but so scared at the same time. Scared of what everyone else would think. Scared of merging all the Joni’s into one. It sounds so dramatic, and maybe it is, but my hair was the thing I hid behind, and there was no hiding anyone. A big ‘F U’ to the world of femininity and a bigger ‘F U’ to myself for believing hair could make me a better person.
I feel like I have woken up from the longest sleep, thrown myself into the world and said, ‘this is me, take it or leave it!’
So, I know you’re all wondering how (or if) shaving my hair off actually changed my life in any way.
The short answer is no.
I am still the same person. However, it’s not been as black and white as that. People have treated me differently – strangers in particular. I have had a lot of people stop me in the pub or on the tram and compliment me, something I’m not used to. However, I do notice people staring at me a lot more. This has been something that I’ve found hard to get used to, especially because I do suffer from anxiety. I like to think people stare at me for one of two reasons…
- Wow, she really looks good with a shaved head
- She is literally nuts.
I can deal with these two conclusions from other people.
Above: Joni with her new hair
Another thing I have noticed is that people do just assume I’m a lesbian. Which I am. However, shaving off all my head didn’t make me anymore gay than before (unlike the fact that I actually married a woman WHEN I still had a full head of hair).
The biggest difference has been the way I feel. It’s so strange to think that a haircut can make you feel so good about yourself. I’m not going to sit here and tell you this experience has erased all my problems, but it has definitely improved my own relationship with myself.
I feel like I have woken up from the longest sleep, thrown myself into the world and said, ‘this is me, take it or leave it!’. The same hat for every occasion.
To conclude this long-winded blog, I just want to summarise some points:
- Hair doesn’t equal femininity or masculinity – you don’t have to hide behind it. Grow it out, cut it off, do what YOU want to do, not what the world expects of you.
- Throw away your ‘hats’! You don’t need to be, or look like, a different person in different situations – you are amazing the way you are. Not one person who truly loves you will disown you for being yourself.
- Do you, be you, FOR YOU. Stop living for others. There’s no feeling more terrifying and beautiful than standing up and screaming - I am wearing this because I LIKE IT. I look this way because I WANT TO. Society teaches us to fall into boxes, but the truth is, the boxes are too small for us all. Break out!
- Lastly, remember hair grows back! I feel like it was an obvious one… but thought I should state it just in case I inspire someone to shave their head and they hate it. Your hair doesn’t determine who you are. Just find somewhere you feel comfortable.
You are the only person you have to live with for the rest of your life, so be that person… unapologetically.
This is a Guest Blog, written by our very own Joni Fox (Children's Worker in our Domestic Abuse Department).