Self-Actualization and Short Hair

I looked in the huge mirror at the salon with glee. Most of my hair was gone. Well, not exactly gone, it just lay on the floor in bunches, waiting to be scooped up and thrown in the bin. Looking down at it, I did not feel an ounce of regret. My hair was short. Very, very short. I felt light. Refurbished. Almost reborn.

Of course, the feeling exultation was snatched from me the moment I entered my house. My 11-year-old daughter glared at me; I could see the disdain written all over her face and she was very vocal about her feelings regarding my ridiculous haircut. The fact that mom now had the shortest hair amongst the female population of our household didn’t sit too comfortably with her.

Even worse was the reception my new haircut received from my friends. Walking into my friend’s house at a gathering, the second I removed my hijab, I heard screams of shock! As my friends slowly recovered from the initial shock, some managed to compliment me in low tones and told me it suited me.

And my beloved family’s reaction when I visited Pakistan within the next few weeks – I’d rather not say. My nephews got quite a kick out of calling me “Chachoo” instead of “Phuppo.” To add insult to the injury, I had dyed it bright red just before my trip; my short red hair created quite a horrifying picture for my family.

But being the irremediable rebel that I am, I absolutely, completely, wholeheartedly loved all that disdain. Not because I meant to make a statement as an emancipated feminist. Nor because I felt liberated and free. Only because I had managed to get rid of the extremely damaged hair that was the result of years of mistreatment, plus washing it with Middle Eastern water. Even more than this, however, was one feeling. My hair was personal. Very, very personal. It was my own business whether I wanted to keep it long or short. I owned it, didn’t I?

My hairdresser’s question, however, kept echoing in my head, contradicting this feeling:

“Your husband allows you to cut your hair so short?”

I mean, really? Should a woman need “permission” from her husband to get a haircut? I don’t mean to imply any disrespect, nor do I intend to encourage marital discords by enticing obedient wives to cut their hair against their husbands’ wishes. But seriously, if women in our society are not even at liberty to make a decision about the length of their hair, then what feminism or equality are we talking about?

While a woman’s hair is her personal business, however, I’m also astounded at the amount of time and money women – esp Pakistani women – spend on beautifying their hair. Getting treatment is one thing, but to spend hours blow-drying and straightening it, and staring at yourself in the mirror, trying to get that perfect look, that perfect puff – I don’t consider it worth the trouble. As makeup, itself appears much of a hassle to me, and considering the fact that a chronic procrastinator like me is always running late – I’d much rather not spend the little spare time that I have, trying to fix my hair.

Considering that after that haircut I could literally move around without brushing it for days upon end, I think it was a great time saver. Now coming to my actual point, there are only 24 hours in a day. As a working woman, and one who is still aspiring towards self-actualization, I can’t really be bothered about things as trivial as my hair. I would much rather spend that time and money on my intellectual grooming than something as extremely superficial as my hair.

No matter what anyone may say, self-actualization and vanity cannot go hand in hand. You must forego the one to pursue the other.  So if my hair ever gets in the way of my journey towards self-actualization, then … snippety snap! I will feel free to lop it off again and feel light as a feather after getting rid of it!

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