Someone once told me I wouldn’t be so pretty without hair. I have a round face and a rather large head. It carries my big brain, is what I tell people.
I had an unusual relationship with it when I was growing up. Coming from a strict background, I had no autonomy with regards to my hair. It was to be covered as part of my religion and I wasn’t allowed to have it cut, often being told that God had forbidden young girls from styling their hair in a manner so as to entice men. I can remember having it braided so tightly, my head hurt.
So when I ran away, aged 15, the first thing to go were my Rapunzelesque locks.
“I wanna look like Rachel” I grinned to the stylist at Toni and Guys. My aunt had arranged for it to be done, she understood the reasons why. My name and my hair were no longer required. Driven by the need to emancipate myself, my hair became progressively shorter in the years that followed until I was left with a boyish crop. And I hated it. I had nothing to hide behind or flick back. It was so thick, it became impossible to style. So I grew it and vowed never to cut my nose off to spite my face, ever again.
I grew it and trimmed it and clung on to it like a comfort blanket. Until aged 25, I went to review a salon as a favour for a friend. I couldn’t normally afford to have such a do, the stylist was renowned for his work with a Bollywood clientele and much of his work graced the pages of the top glossies. I trusted him to know hair and faces and style. So I gave him carte blanche. He didn’t hesitate. With one swift action, he’d rounded my hair up at the nape of my neck and chopped it off. I felt the blood pool into my feet. He swivelled my chair around and pulled forward some hair. “Don’t give me a fringe!” I shrieked. I have a cow’s lick that makes fringes stick up. Snip! The hair was gone. He scissored away some more until I was peeking out from beneath my designer fringe. I hated it! And I hated him!
I felt like a part of my womanhood had been hacked away. The friend I was with looked at me sympathetically. “Dude, you look about 15.”
It was another 6 months before I felt like myself again. Once again, I solemnly vowed I would never be parted from another of my beloved strands for as long as I lived.
Except today I got to thinking, if my hair means so much to me, it’s got to be worth something. I’m not able to work, I have no income but I do feel an increasing urge to give. Or do something at least. If I could make, say £5000 for women’s services, sure, I’d give up my hair.
If I could do my bit to help save Refuge, I wouldn’t think twice. If I could share some of that with, say Southall Black Sisters, it’s a done deal.
It feels a little bit crazy. And the selfish part of me that loves me and my hair is telling me I’m mad. But when the CEO of Refuge is saying “In my entire career, I have never been more concerned about our survival”, I know my hair will grow back.
Refuge must survive; there are women whose lives depend on it.