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I Am Not My Hair (and other fascinating realizations)

what lies have you told yourself lately?

I cut off all my hair recently. 12 inches to be exact.

I know this may not seem like a big deal to you and it isn't a big deal in the scheme of things but when you're a person who has believed for most of your life that so much of your identity was wrapped in a head of long, thick black hair... well, it's kinda big.

The last time I had hair this short was almost 15 years ago when I took a pair of scissors and lopped off my long ponytail after a very emotional conversation took place between my then-husband and myself. 

Looking back I'm pretty sure the dramatic act was some form of strange rebellion or self punishment.

A word of advice -- DON'T DO THAT. Unless you're a professional hairdresser do not take a pair of lousy kitchen scissors to your head in a fit of rage. Ain't pretty.

Anyway, this time around has been completely different. For starters, I went to a salon. And, I made this choice with a lot of thought after deciding I wanted to donate my hair to the Locks of Love charity for kids with cancer.

My daughter had never seen me with short hair and so the night before I went to get it cut she was really hoping I would change my mind.

"I love your long hair, mama. It's you. It's YOU."

I looked at her and smiled.

"I'm not my hair, baby."

Or am I? The thought hit me.

My entire life I have had long, long hair. I've hid behind it when insecure, played with it nervously on dates -- hell, I've stroked it, flipped it, braided it, twisted it and pretty much used it as a come on, shield or fountain of youth at any given time.

But, I am not my hair. Not anymore. It's a wonderful feeling to hit a place in your life when you settle in a bit. Accept a bit. Approve a bit.

I cut it off, sent it to the charity and felt great. I can't hide. I can't twist. I can't even braid the damn thing. And I love it. So, it got me thinking -- what other parts of myself or belief systems am I holding onto that no longer fit?

"She's got so much potential she's just lazy."

Yes, lazy. The word my second grade teacher uttered to my mother and I have carried in my head ever since.

Holy balls, I'm lazy. Lazy, lazy, lazy. They even named a serving dish after me -- The Lazy Susan! Yep, potential smential, the kid is a slacker.

It's amazing the power of words. For all I know that teacher had a crappy lunch that day and decided to throw that word in her parent conference meeting for the heck of it. Maybe she confused me with one of the other four Susan's in our class that year. Maybe she was wrong.

But it didn't matter because it stuck. And not a day goes by that some voice in my head doesn't say, "Tsk, tsk... lazy."

But am I? Really? If I took all the facts of my life and attached it to some other person and was asked whether or not I thought that person was lazy my answer would be a resounding HELL NO.

So, there. Goodbye, lazy. Ya just don't fit. 

My daughter was upset a few days ago and in tears she said, "I'm so stupid. I'm such an idiot. I'm so dumb."

Now, she rarely ever EVER says anything like this so it did take me by surprise. However, she is ten now and her emotional ups and downs have been peeking out more and more in different ways. I knew in my heart she was just rattling off stuff but I stopped her right there. In her tracks. Not another peep, missy.

"Do you really think you're those things, honey? Stupid? Idiot? Dumb?"

There was a long pause then,

"No."

"Good. So, don't say them, okay? Don't ever say things about yourself that aren't true just to be mean to yourself. Because if you do... after awhile you might start believing them."

The lies we tell ourselves about ourselves begin at such a young age. They creep in -- by our own doing or someone else's -- but they creep in. I hope as her mom I can do whatever it takes to stop them.

After all, I don't want my daughter to have to wait until she's a grown up to finally know... she is not her hair.

Susan McMartin May 14, 2012 at 09:59 PM
EnJayBe, thank you so much for your kind comment! thanks for reading!
Arminae Reames May 15, 2012 at 03:18 AM
YA KNOW THAT'S A GOOD ONE CUZ WHEN I THINK OF LAZY I THINK OF SUSAN MCMARTIN....NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF? WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? SUCH AN IMPORTANT STORY SUSAN THANK YOU.
Susan McMartin May 15, 2012 at 03:50 AM
thanks, arminae!
Thom February 18, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Sue - I thought about this video when I read your piece - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NENlXsW4pM&feature=youtu.be The sound of originality and expression - you will get it. Its 14 minutes. Watch when you have the time.
Carol McGovney February 21, 2013 at 06:53 PM
I just saw this..where was I...I am getting ready to lop off my long hair for licks of love.. When I started someone told me I only had to grow 6 inches..when I found out 9 I was already committed. Soon I too will have short hair ... Thanks Susan for your writings..

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