Shaving all my hair off the day before I left home to walk the El Camino, a pilgrimage in Spain also known as the Way of St. James, went way beyond crossing off an item on my bucket list.
I was playing with the idea for a few years, but I never thought I’d ever be brave enough to actually do it. When I decided to walk the El Camino, I thought that would be the best time to experiment with being bald.
As my flight to Madrid came closer and closer, I felt an urge to do it. But at the same time I thought, “Nah, maybe it’s not for me.” The day before my flight, I asked my sister’s boyfriend if I could borrow his shaver and buzzed it off because I was in the vibe and knew that if I let it slip away I might never get it done.
I had been going through a rough patch in the prior few years and decided that it was time.
I was always curious how it feels and how my head really looks. I also wanted to do this as part of a cleanse. I kept reading articles about how our hair stores memories; it was perfect to align this cleanse with my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
I believed this would help me to focus on the hike and make my life easier as I will not have to care about drying my hair or carrying extra items such as shampoo and hair comb. Secretly, I wished it would be good for my ego and my confidence too. I used my ginger, waist-length hair way too much to hide behind like a metaphorical shield, or to appear in certain ways to portray or hide the real me like a shell. We tend to cling to our looks way too much. Now I wanted only the rawest version of me.
Frankly, I did the whole process in different parts, as I was really scared of what I will feel and see in the mirror.
As I placed the clippers to my scalp above my left ear I started to shake—but I was also excited. I shaved off the first piece of hair and I felt a small sense of relief. So I shaved off the whole left side of my head. And I loved it! I almost left it like that but I decided to go further. I felt powerful and brave.
My sister helped me to part my hair and I shaved off all the hair on the right side of my skull as well. We made a braid and I felt empowered, looking like a badass Viking shield maiden. But something whispered in me to keep going. I chopped off all the remaining hair with the help of my sister to fix the parts I could not reach.
I was surprised that I did not shed a tear. I imagined I would cry and regret it or even feel ugly once fully done. Instead, I felt strong, powerful, fresh, and actually beautiful. My head was light, and I felt like finally the true beauty of myself came to the surface. There was nothing else but me.
I was amazed at my own reflection and immediately took a selfie, which I rarely do normally.
There were times on the Camino when I was glad I chopped my hair off because it was so hot. I felt so empowered, like G.I. Jane, like I’m capable of anything—no freaking mountain can stop me on this way.
It was also grounding to feel the fresh breeze running through my scalp as I reached the mountain top. (The only thing I didn’t like was how my skull and my ears got sunburned.)
I fell in love with the real face of the woman who was hiding behind all that hair. I felt like a brand-new person. Like I could be whoever I am, living unapologetically, full of purpose and possibilities.
And how was it for others? I met so many people on the Camino who commented on my buzz cut, confessing how much they like it. They said I look like a cool monk woman or that it’s good to see my strong, fierce personality shining through. There were men who were totally into it, women who got empowered by it, and some people wanted to pet my head, which resulted in funny memories.
Some others from the elder generation acted weird around assuming I was lesbian, some even sent me away or kept their distance in fear that I might want something from them. For me it was funny, but the younger generations found it insulting even though it didn’t happen to them.
Cliché, but I agree that every woman should shave their head at least once in their life because it’s so liberating. After all, it’s just hair and it will grow back pretty quickly. It also does good for your hair if you damage it with certain treatment, like bleaching it or overusing heat, and so on.
My only question is, “Why didn’t I do it sooner?”