What goes into a haircut?
For some people, it’s just an aesthetic change they want. I’ve had the exact same haircut for the past 8 years and anything for that long would compel most people to change. My latest haircut means more than just a different look though.
Ever since I can remember people have commented on my hair and not just in a casual way. People seemed fascinated with it, as if it was ‘special’ or exotic. Some would almost stare, and many women would even want to touch it. I had my hair long for most of my life and it’s felt like it was a ‘signature look’. Hair is one of the first things seen from an observer’s vantage point, so it makes sense why there’s so much attention given to it. It’s an obsession for a lot of people. Chris Rock made a whole documentary about it.
Hair had become a disproportionately big part of my life, especially considering I chose such an image driven career. I’m sure if I decided to become a scientist I wouldn’t be writing this. When I had it long (as I was hosting on MTV), some people even told me it was my trademark. The irony was that I did absolutely nothing to it. I let it grow like an untamed rainforest. Most civilized human beings do things like cut their hair and comb it. I did neither but at least I washed it!
As I got older and started noticing my older brother Nate balding in his mid 20’s, I started wondering whether my fate would be similar. Our father is bald, but I heard hereditary baldness has more to do with the mother’s side. My uncle and grandfather on my mom’s side gave me hope but I was noticing a widow’s peak. It seemed like a sign that my brother wasn’t the only one balding. I started monitoring my hairline closely.
At 26 years old, when I decided to leave MTV I also shaved my hair, as if it signified a new chapter. The truth is that deep down I still wanted my hair. I secretly hoped that it would grow back thicker than ever. Especially since there were some people who had to do a double take to recognize me without my hair, even though part of that had to do with my growing self-consciousness about what my head looked like, and the apprehensive way I started to operate as a result. Considering I was no longer on MTV, I was also searching for proof of what had changed as a result of that move. Have you noticed how we look for evidence to feed our beliefs and how that tends to lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy? Considering all the attention I received as a VJ on MTV and that extravagant hair, I developed the belief that maybe those were the main reasons why I mattered. It is a slippery slope when we look outside ourselves for validation. Even as I grew my hair back out and got other TV opportunities, that limited belief still lingered.
The fact that I had moved from New York City to Los Angeles when I left MTV was another ingredient in my shallow soup of contemplation. Never before had I noticed so many people so concerned with outward impressiveness as when I moved to LA. The night life in New York that felt so wild and uninhibited was replaced with parties in Hollywood that felt more like a fashion show where hardly anyone really danced and let loose. I think it’s true that we become a product of our environment and the Hollywood environment was certainly adding to my issue. I looked into products that claimed to combat baldness and purchased a cold laser that was FDA approved to stimulate hair growth. I used it for a few months until I felt ridiculous dragging it along my scalp for 20 minutes every day. The irony is that I distinctly remember seeing footage of my early days on MTV and noticing I had the same hairline. The difference was that now I was looking for an issue and it filled me with anxiety.
There’s something about getting older in our society that makes us look for signs of decay. The rat race most of us are caught up in compels us to look for issues where there might not be any. My fixation on my hairline over the last 10 years has been symptomatic of something deeper. I’ve looked at most things over-critically throughout my life and nothing has ever been good enough for complete acceptance, up until now. The realizations I’ve had lately have unlocked a different perspective. I realize now that the way we look can actually be a distraction from what really matters. It’s taken up too much of my bandwidth for way too long and it makes this particular shave mean more than that other time.
As I cut my own hair in my bathroom mirror this time, I felt more liberated by the minute. The last time I shaved my head it was in defiant resistance to what I had wrapped my identity around. This time, I was inspired to shave my head for complete freedom. We are all way more than our current physical appearance. That being said, I’m glad I have a fairly well shaped head and (an update) my hair has grown back since I wrote this blog 🙂