– Saniha Hegde, II B.Com A
It was the month of October in the 16th year of my life when I decided to go bald. I was in the 11th grade at the time, and the idea had been festering in my mind for a few months. It started off as a wish to donate my hair to a wig making program organised by a Cancer Awareness NGO. As it turned out, my shoulder length hair wasn’t of adequate length for this. However, by then, the desire to go bald had firmly planted itself in my mind, and had started to grow. I decided to go ahead with it, despite not having any particular reason for it. My parents agreed, and it was settled. I went to my salon, and shaved all my hair off.
I cannot take complete credit for my apparent nonchalance and calm demeanour about it. A large part of how I wasn’t very affected by my physical change was the incredible support and acceptance I received from almost everyone around me. My father was initially concerned about my mental health, but after about five minutes he wrote it off as one of the many ‘’today’s kids’’ things he couldn’t understand but had to accept. My mother was (and still is) hoping my new hair would grow thicker and better. It hasn’t. My friends were shocked at first, as I hadn’t even hinted at my plans, but after the initial sense of curiosity and wonder wore off, my bald head was only subject to the daily pat down by my friends (apparently it feels extremely nice), or the occasional “tie your hair” and ‘’do you have a rubber-band on you’’ jokes, both of which were mere displays of endearment and affection. The important thing was that they never made me feel like any less of a person, or even any less of a Saniha. Even teachers and students who didn’t know me came up to me and expressed their support and encouragement (after ensuring it wasn’t for any medical or religious purposes). I was so comfortable that I never wore a scarf or any kind of headgear to cover my head.
“Despite beauty supposedly being in the eyes of the beholder, it is idea of beauty in the mind of the beheld that’s more important.”
It’s only outside my house and school did I feel any different from anyone else. Different, but not inferior. Granted, I had been mistaken for a boy on more than one occasion, but that went from hurtful to funny quite fast. In the beginning, when people around me would point at me or stare, I felt conspicuous and uneasy. But suddenly, almost overnight, their looks and murmured comments stopped bothering me. They simply ceased to matter enough to affect my happiness or composure. Once that happens, once you realize that other’s opinion on something is transient and ostensible, especially those of strangers, you automatically become more confident, more free. You become sure of yourself, and learn to walk with your head held high. Irrespective of whether that head is bald, or cornrowed, or tattooed or painted. The only people you should want to please, is your loved ones, and yourself.
Now, I have to clearly mention that I am not someone who doesn’t care about appearances. I do very much care about how I look. I enjoy dressing up, wearing pretty clothes and makeup, receiving compliments for the same. I do not feel that caring for these things in any way diminishes the mental capabilities of a person. I do not think it reflects poorly upon a person’s character or personality. It is not, in my opinion, petty or lame in any way. This being said, I also refuse to let someone else’s definition of beauty stop me from looking the way I want to. Despite beauty supposedly being in the eyes of the beholder, it is idea of beauty in the mind of the beheld that’s more important. Thus, when I stepped out with my new hairless look I did not feel unattractive or doubtful of myself. I was still the same person. I still enjoyed the same things. I would continue to do so, just with a little extra effort. Personally, I felt as confident as I did before, maybe even more.
Something I got a lot of during those days, was the feeling of how I was very ‘’brave’’ or ‘’courageous’’. Now, let me make it very clear that I am not much of either of those things. Bravery and courage are virtues possessed by people who show strength in situations of pain and difficulty. I merely did something not many people do. It doesn’t take courage to shave your head. Changing your appearance shouldn’t be such a tremendous feat. Our society has made being different, being unique such a rare and outlandish thing, that one needs to be mentally and emotionally strong to face everyone’s judgement, which shouldn’t be the case. Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion, but everyone also has a right to the freedom of expression, be it in their words or their appearance, and nobody’s opinion should deter them from it.
It’s been two years and nine months, and I’ve never regretted my decision. I wouldn’t do it again, but I’m glad I did it at least once. It gave me this immense sense of surety and confidence that I hope will stay with me forever. I grew up being a big, loud, awkward kid; was briefly crippled with an eating disorder for a couple of years when I was 15, and basically had a host of body image related issues all my life. It’s taken me a lot of time and mental struggle to be happy with myself and my appearance. Not just happy, but in love with myself, and feel that narcissism is a better vice than self-hate. As Bobby Brown rightly said, ‘’How I feel about myself is more important than how I look.’’