I used to be the Girl With The Pretty Long Hair. I got compliments all the time. Strangers stroked my hair and commented on how beautiful it was. They gushed that if they had hair like mine, they would never, ever dare to cut it.
When I casually let it slip that I might hack off the dead ends at some point, they gasped. When I mentioned I sometimes consider buzzing it down to my scalp, they clutched their chests and and exclaimed, “Why, if I had beautiful hair like that, I couldn’t bring myself to part with it!” Inside, I would retort, “Never? Not even if it emotionally killed you when you saw or touched it?”
They didn’t know my story. I didn’t know theirs. People give unsolicited advice about everything under the sun, and my hair was no exception. Still, it struck a nerve. My long locks have been with me through hell, and they managed to avoid getting singed to the root.
Recently, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I had my tailbone-grazing mane lopped to shoulder length, and it was the best choice I could have possibly made. I only wish I did it sooner.
I grew out my hair out for seven years. During that time, I have entered and exited and reentered abusive situations. I was trafficked. My worth has been entirely wrapped up in my body and what it could do for people who didn’t give a damn about my humanity.
My hair has been ripped out by the fistful. My hair has been the lasso assailants used to pull me into an alley. My hair has been my Achilles’ heel. After the last assault, I wore my hair in a tight bun whenever I exited my apartment. I feared wearing it down or in a long ponytail put me at greater risk.
It was a couple of weeks ago, basking in total freedom for the first time in my life, that I decided on a whim to chop off my hair. All the pain I had endured had rendered my Rapunzel-esque locks dull and dead.
When I looked at my hair, I saw everything from which I wanted to separate myself. It was a simple fix: I can’t extract the memories, the scars, or the PTSD symptoms, but I can get my hair cut.