I did not think it would matter that much. Or at least not feel any different to wake up everyday. Yet, while these mornings don’t include the necessary maintenance of eighteen-inch locks, they host the pains of not wanting to look in a mirror. Of dreading human interaction with the knowledge of what others see. Of walking around wishing for different— no, better. Of feeling a stranger in my body, foreign to the daily weight of ‘ugly’.
In not thinking it would matter that much, I thought myself imperviable to the socialized standards of beauty that surround.
I can deconstruct those standards all day long. Cognitively, I understand the fallacies in what I described above. Better and ugly jump out and demand to be reclaimed, denounced. The activist in me longs to cry out. To dream up new visions of beauty (inner Light shining through). To run up this mountain of gender norms with the speed of righteous fury, boots stomping with such power that it crumbles to dust. From which we come, I’d add.
But in rushing to do so, I would neglect a harrowing part of my emotional experience. One that, for right now, cannot be reconciled with my intellectual one, and that has not yet surrendered to Knowing deep within.
The devastating reality is this: I feel ugly without my long hair.
And while I resist and resent everything that taught me to experience myself and my beauty in such a prescriptive, superficial— let’s name it: oppressive— way, it is what I learned. Even with ever-deepening social consciousness and a new vision, there is daily unlearning to be done.
This unlearning requires loud voices as we shout over the constant stream of messages telling us that our worth is measured by our ability to conform to one picture. As if women are things to be manufactured at MAC counters, Weight Watchers, and tanning beds— unless of course your skin is dark, but for that there’s just another factory line to fix your broken pieces.
My heart feels submerged in lies of hegemony; my lungs ache with hurt feelings, abused by my own internalized oppression. In this long fight, I’ve tired. Throat hoarse and legs burning, I don’t want to yell today. Nor run.
It’s all I can do to keep treading water. To look myself in the eye, tears blurring the begrudged reflection. To whisper: beauty is not something that can be lost, nor taken away.