As Free As My Hair

This is my prayer, I swear.

Collage by Emma D.

What is it about hair that holds so much power? It’s responsible for a huge part of the way we view ourselves, and our feelings about ourselves, at any given time. It’s a physical manifestation of our internal reinventions; an outward sign that things, they are a-changin’. Or maybe it’s just that in a world of chaos where you don’t feel like you have a grip on anything, your hair is something that you think you have total control over.

It’s like that time Ashlee Simpson dyed her hair black right before her (awesome) first record came out and she was totally badass for like a hot second. It was ALL IN THE HAIR.

Of course, when your hair is at odds with your personality, it becomes a real problem. I wasn’t always on good terms with my own hair. Early on, it refused to bow down to my authority and reshape itself to conform to my life circumstances. When I started a new school in seventh grade and suddenly found myself face-to-face with real-life teenage girls who had new boyfriends every couple of weeks–and each one more handsome than the last–I concluded that it was their luscious, usually blonde locks that held the key their power over boys. It was at this exact moment that my hair, which had been pretty straight all my life, decided to go curly and unruly (I blame puh-behr-tee). My hair was trying to ruin my life and was literally keeping me from expressing my womanly potential!

OK, sure, I could’ve sought assistance in the expert hands of a hairstylist that would just blow it out or, you know, learn to do it myself, but of course I thought spending time at the hair salon and/or in front of the mirror was the kind of thing that GIRLS were supposed to do, so as a FEMINIST all I could do was stay stuck with my hair that hated me.

And also, side note! I wasn’t a WOMAN. I was 11 years old and I probably looked like I was seven. My curly hair was the least of my problems.

At some point between eighth and ninth grade I tried to take command of my life and I chopped all my hair off right after Gwen Stefani got that really cute pixie cut. On me though, it wasn’t pixie as much as it was microphone-y. That haircut, combined with my late-blooming (ew) body, made me look like a BOY. I knew that things were just not going to work out for me like they did for girls in the movies. Instead, the awkwardest of awkward stages awaited me.

Looking back, it is entirely possible that I was unhappy in high school because of my hair. OK, that’s clearly a preposterous statement, but IT MAY AS WELL HAVE BEEN TRUE. Because once my hair started submitting to my whims, everything else in my life started falling into place. When I turned 16 my mom finally let me dye my hair and I immediately went with the most drastic change I could think of: a whole head of intensely blue hair.

I was becoming the person I always wanted to be. I dove deeper and deeper into all my interests and curiosities and stopped caring about what people said about me at school (like the theory that I had to be a lesbian because I was always talking about feminism and gay rights or whatever). When the “dean of discipline” took me to the principal’s office in a futile attempt to force me to dye my hair a normal color and she asked me, “Why did you do this, Laia?” I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “It just feels right.” Because it did. The principal laughed and shook her head and just let me finish the year wearing a black shoulder-length wig with blunt bangs—another fantasy hairdo in itself—over my still-blue hair. I felt invincible.

This was also the time when I finished high school and moved away to go to college therefore finally getting to live life the way I wanted, but again, the HAIR! The hair was right there with me.

In the subsequent years, my hair went through even more transformations. After a couple of years rocking the blue (and the neon orange and the red), I dyed it back to brown the summer between sophomore and junior year when I needed to finally get a job and seem a bit more adult than my eternal baby-face suggests. After an intense breakup that followed a cross-state move, I went jet-black. After another breakup I went blonde and then when I unexpectedly lost my job, I chopped it all off into a pixie cut again (with way better results than my first attempt back in middle school). Every time something in my life changed, my hair helped me live through it.

But one look I never really went for during all those years was “the natural look.” When I quit my full-time job to attempt a freelance career, I dyed my short hair brown and decided to grow it out and let it do what it wanted. Even as a grownup, I still thought of long, luscious locks as the ultimate sign of being “womanly,” something that I had never really felt.

And so my hair grew, and it curled, and it did whatever it wanted to do. For the first time in all my life, I embraced the curls and the weirdness and just went with it. I could hide behind it and I could braid it but I also could just wash it and go and not stress out about it. And I know it sounds about a million kinds of cheesy, but I think looking in the mirror and seeing the person that I am when I’m not trying to be someone else was really liberating in the same way that looking at myself with blue hair was all those years ago. Something inside me clicked. I started taking stock of my life—where I was, where I was going, and where I wanted to be. I gathered the courage to end my relationship with my (really amazing!) live-in boyfriend and found an apartment on Craigslist and moved and basically just started my life from scratch.

The longer my hair gets, the more courage I have to do the things I’m maybe a little scared of because they are new or different or important. Like Samson in the Bible, I feel like my strength lives in my hair—except when the time comes, I will be my own Delilah and will delight in chopping it all off at the beginning of another phase in my life (I still have fantasies of one day shaving my head just like Deb did in Empire Records). Whether that comes next year or in 20 years, I know I’ll have it all—emotions, hair—under control.

Me and my hair today!


  • PrinkaSaras March 19th, 2012 11:10 PM

    omg! “Why did you do this, Laia?” I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “It just feels right.” this is exactly what happened to me when i dyed my hair into intense red.

  • queserasera March 19th, 2012 11:11 PM

    i can relate to this so much! i used to have a different hairstyle every year in jr high and early high school. now i’ve settled on a pixie cut, but i’m getting restless again….and that first pic with cool blue hair reminds me of angela chase (except with blue hair instead of red) also also, i used to admire deb just coming in to work then shaving her hair at empire records too *0* wowww

  • Kathryn March 19th, 2012 11:19 PM

    Your hair looks so cute in every picture!

    I recently cut 10 inches off of my hair and it already feels like it would be weird to have long hair! I’m already so used to it, though I was temporarily terrified (for like 5 minutes) that it was gone.

  • marimba_girl March 19th, 2012 11:36 PM

    My hair is currently a red pixie cut and I am considering getting the side of it shaved into some sort of pattern but I don’t know what. Any suggestions?

  • kittenmix March 19th, 2012 11:44 PM

    Your hair looks so good in every pic! I don’t think I’ve even looked at my hair in the last three years, so I can’t really relate.

  • starcollector March 19th, 2012 11:51 PM

    Ughhhh I wish I didn’t work somewhere where they have strict rules on hair length, style, and color. I think that might be one of the worst parts of the job… a crazy head of hair has been “feeling right” for far too long.

  • ReneeRevolution March 20th, 2012 12:08 AM

    This is such an appropriate article; I just cut off all my hair the other day! I love it so much, I feel so liberated! Hair really does have a funny affect on us.

  • cleobea March 20th, 2012 12:23 AM

    What a great article! Couldn’t agree more. My hair was never too much of a pain, but I’d always through it in a bun (really really bad ‘half’ buns I thought were cool in 6th grade) or a pony tail. And if i wanted to keep it down the whole day, I’d have to hide my hair-ties. But then one day in 8th grade, i woke up and it just … worked. Whatever it was I had done. It was all wavy and nice and everything. All day i was getting compliments. SInce then my hair and I have been best friends.


  • Susann March 20th, 2012 12:42 AM

    Wow, you went through really cool hair colours :)

  • bunny2015 March 20th, 2012 12:53 AM

    I don’t know if a lot of rookie members can relate, but since I’m black lets just say we know A LOT about hair. My choice to rock an afro in an all white school was my way of saying “it just feels right”

    • Tyknos93 March 20th, 2012 12:32 PM

      I was JUST about to leave this comment. About 1/4 of every conversation with my family is “When are you going to do something with that HAIR!?” There is ALOT of it almost 18 inches. I’m so tired of putting heat on it.
      In my experience, especially in the south, it seems to be people who look like me don’t like it though. People of other races are generally positive.
      When I’m feeling low about my natural hair I read this site for beautiful women wearing their gorgeous afros!

    • TheAwesomePossum March 21st, 2012 6:29 PM

      Ohmygoodness yes! When I started wearing my hair natural everyone was as “Why did you do this?” as in the story and even though I was insecure at the time I stuck with it. And now I have a luscious fro that I get compliments on all the time :-). Although there is this one girl who keeps pestering me to flat iron my hair for “her entertainment” but I’m just like no, that’s not going to happen…. I’m not your toy lol.

  • MaggieMae March 20th, 2012 1:25 AM

    I can’t tell you how much I relate to this article! I went through a stage where I cut all my hair off. Like you said it just felt “right”. From my short hair, I grew confident. (Even though I’m sure I was a super dork) I felt pretty darn bad ass. I salute my fellow crazy haired sisters!

  • Stephanie March 20th, 2012 2:46 AM

    I love all your pics! I also went blonde after an intense break up and jet black when I moved to a new state. CRAZY. Now I change the color of my bangs like every six months just for fun. I think the long hair feeling powerful thing is interesting. I haven’t grown mine out in years, but am considering it just because it will be different. Unfortunately it takes soooooo long and I am so impatient.

  • mayaautumn March 20th, 2012 2:58 AM

    at my school it’s like ‘illegal’ to dye our hair which is SO annoying!! This artical is so interesting and quite handy too – im getting my hair cut next week so it’s given me some ideas:)

  • Dylan March 20th, 2012 3:26 AM

    Love this one!

  • tallulahpond March 20th, 2012 3:52 AM

    I am WAY too scared to dye mine a crazy colour, but I always wanted to go red. It’s so much of a hassle though, and my school won’t let me…frustration! I’m starting to feel that a trip to Manic Panic might be the best thing but UK schools are crazy strict about dying your hair a natural colour- so they’d probably go into cardiac arrest if I came in with green hair!

  • FossilisedUnicorn March 20th, 2012 4:23 AM

    I don’t like my hair. I don’t like it at all. It’s so thin, it just hangs lifelessly around my face. It’s super super streight so any kind of volume is non-existent. I have a very deep hairline, missing that patch of hair that literally EVERYONE IN THE WORLD has on their temples, except for me and it makes me look afwul, and the only way I can make it look better is by – hey! Hanging my hair lifelessly around my face!
    I just hate to not have that ability to let myself speak through my hair, because a lot of times I feel really apathic or lifeless and I don’t think it really helps my hair reflects just that and I cannot change it.

    • Anaheed March 20th, 2012 11:01 AM

      I wish I had straight hair! I am jealous of you pin-straight-hair havers.

    • MissKnowItAll March 20th, 2012 5:58 PM

      Lets make a deal. You can have my ridiculously curly/frizzy girl ‘fro and I’ll take your awesome pin straight hair. Okay?

      • FossilisedUnicorn March 22nd, 2012 4:42 PM

        Haha. I wish hair was like clothes and we could just change it completely whenever we liked. Sucks to be stuck with something for your whole damn life. Maybe that’s why I love fashion so much, because it doesn’t matter when I get sick with something, I’ll just wear something new.
        Maybe scientists can create some crazy pills in the future that will change our hair structure to whatever we liked? Let’s just hope for that.

  • Marguerite March 20th, 2012 5:50 AM

    hehehe i love that song!!!

    i have more courage with my pixie cut, i think with long hair it is so easy to hide behind it, but i do wish i could whip my hair again :(

  • chloelou March 20th, 2012 6:21 AM

    This is article is perfect, and so very true. Moving away from home and starting to do whatever I want with my hair has made me feel so much more… me.

  • witchnymph March 20th, 2012 7:12 AM

    I got my hair cut very very short yesterday after ages of letting it do what it wanted. Both have been freeing experiences. Not having to style and worry about hair but also..cutting it all off and being who I want to be.
    Hair does hold so much of my strength.

  • Tasya March 20th, 2012 10:03 AM

    you’re so lucky you get to dye your hair! i’m 16 and i basically have virgin hair. my mum is always saying how i’m still young and i shouldn’t ‘spoil’ my hair

    • Laia March 20th, 2012 11:53 AM

      not lucky, just old! My mom made me wait til i was 16 to do it too.

  • isabellehungryghost March 20th, 2012 11:10 AM

    hair never was a big thing for me, i just let it grow, and dont have any “cut” its straight, permanent electrically charged, and long. my mother is crazy bout hair, and i think thats the reason of why im not interested in it. i was fighting for ager to get bangs, but my mother didnt allowed it. so now, i dont care.

  • KinuKinu March 20th, 2012 11:15 AM

    i shaved my hair(it’s more like pixie cut now)
    but when i did it it felt good.I’m not sure why i did it LIE MARLENA MADE ME DO IT.Just kidding but when i saw on her i NEEDED to do it.It was too awesome. My mom was frantic when she came home and my hair was missing.I used the wrong guard annd didn’t know til the last minute.
    This was an amazing article and i L♥ved it!!

  • Toria Crux March 20th, 2012 11:33 AM

    I love short hair. Mine is short in the back (needs a trim) with bangs all the way to my chin. Re-dyeing it red again soon. Practically everyone at my school has told me to grow it out. Being me, that just makes me love it MORE. Plus I hate having hair on my neck.

  • saltwater March 20th, 2012 11:42 AM

    yes! i’ve been experimenting with my hair since i was twelve (and disastrously tried to dye my dark dark dark hair a pale aqua) and can relate to this so much. just yesterday i decided to go dark cherry, with a bettie page fringe.

  • dandylioness March 20th, 2012 12:10 PM

    God this reminds me of when I died my hair neon purple 3 months age.
    I was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair whilst the bleach was burning my scalp and panikingly asked my friend- “remind why it wanted to do this!” and she said “don’t you remember? You gave us a great reason, ” ‘you just wanted to’ “.
    I utterly loved it and have since moved onto flamingo pink.. i think blue is next!

  • farawayfaerie March 20th, 2012 1:06 PM

    this article is so wonderful. my mom won’t let me dye my hair an ‘unnatural’ (should that word even exist any more?) colour, and neither will my school :(

    I have really really long, curly hair, and I’m always so tepted to cut it really short. A really close friend of mine was really sick for a really long time, and I thought that if she actually died, i would shave all my hair off (she had leukemia) but then when she did, all i wanted to do was hide in my hair, the last thing I wanted was the attention people give you when you get a hair cut – let alone go bald. My hair is my protective shield, and i would be terrified to cut it all off, but maybe that’s why I should.

  • moonflower March 20th, 2012 1:16 PM

    Nothing feels as exciting as buying hair dye in the spur of the moment on the last today of school before the summer holidays begin like I did last year when I dip-dyed it pink and blue.

    Never try to dreadlock your hair in the spur of the moment though, been there, done that…

  • Maialuna March 20th, 2012 1:28 PM

    I used to have the longest, curliest hair, but then I cut it off because I got tired of it. Not super short, but about to my earlobes. And now I miss my long hair soooooo much.

    I wish I could have straight hair so that I could try for an androgynous look, but I don’t want short curly hair on myself. I wanted a mohawk. Thank goodness I didn’t do that though, I would hate it now. I kind of want to bleach my hair and put black streaks in it (ABBY HOLLAND HAIR!), but I’m awfully sensitive and I don’t have the time to keep my roots not-ugly-brown.

    So pretty much I rue the day that I cut my hair.

  • Ellie March 20th, 2012 1:58 PM

    The other day I asked my mom if I could dye the tips of my straight, brown hair emerald green, and she laughed and said, “Please don’t turn yourself into a freak.”
    I’m looking into a purple-y burgundy color now…

  • canklesandclothes March 20th, 2012 3:53 PM

    As someone who cut off my ahri as soon as i got the chance and has since expiramented with colour I applaud you for lettiing your hair grow long – the thought of it terrifies my far mor than shearing it off every few months, as i currently do, could ever.

  • neenah March 20th, 2012 4:17 PM

    Shaving your head is not as fun as it seems (at least for me). I decided that I needed to have a mowhawk before turning 25 (this after pink hair, green hair, and Gwen Stefani blonde dreadlocks with ever-changing colored ends). So I had a friend fix me up with a sweet little mowhawk which I promptly got sick of after about 2 weeks. Instead of being smart and just growing out, I shaved it off and spent the rest of year with a variety of hats, turbans, and bandanas on to cover up my near baldness. The fact that I had no hair made me feel ugly and unfeminine so I wore tons of eye make up to compensate. A turban combined with kohl is just a bad idea unless your the mom on Bewitched.

  • violetlilies March 20th, 2012 4:32 PM

    i guess im really lucky cause i actually quite like my hair as it naturally is (chocolate brown with lose ringlets) but cause it bleaches itself in the sun, whenever i go on holiday i come back looking like ive had highlights (even my form tutor told me off for dyeing my hair when i hadnt)
    and me too for the whole “you stand up for gays, so you’ve gotta be lesbian right?” thing. it doesnt bother me anymore cause i dont care what people think, but being a feminist/human/gay rights actavist (well one likes to think) sure confuses some people… D’:

  • moonchild March 20th, 2012 4:48 PM

    This is going to sound extremely weird, but you kind of look like Harold from “Harold and Maude”…

    In a totally awesome super cool way. :)

    Also, my hair is pretty curly and I love it! When I get out of the shower, it becomes so curly and messy and awesome, but then I have to sleep on it because I can’t wash my hair in the morning (no time) and it gets flat :(

    I think I’m going to cut it to the base of my neck again. I liked it that length because it was a total mop!


  • MissKnowItAll March 20th, 2012 6:01 PM

    You lucky duck! In my freshman year of high school I really wanted a vibrant shade of purple. But my mom went on and on about how I shouldn’t ruin my hair with bleach, so I ended up just depositing the color and getting this wierd tint.

  • sttefaaa March 20th, 2012 6:24 PM

    I love your hair!!!

  • mwong1025 March 20th, 2012 7:14 PM

    I can’t believe your principal forced you to finish the year in a wig. But I like it. Do you have to wear it all the time during school, like even through gym?

    • Laia March 20th, 2012 11:23 PM

      hey! it was ok, my principal didn’t FORCE me to wear the wig really, that was just the tricky way i figured out to get away with dyeing my hair blue.

      i wore it every day, all day. i really loved it. fortunately for me, i never took gym in high school :)

  • rslev March 20th, 2012 9:00 PM

    So my hair was just like yours! It was only a but wavy, then in 7th grade it got super-curly (like ringlets!). I used to fret over it, and try to straighten it often, but I just got tired of it. Now, I just let it be crazy, because now I know that it matches me perfectly!

  • Kaetlebugg March 20th, 2012 9:34 PM

    Love this!!!! I’m just insecure that my short poofy sometimes cute sometimes ugly hair wards off boys :( ah well thats what college is for! progressive boys who can appreciate all sorts of hair! (that’s sort of a joke: I do not want an “MRS degree” but I do want a boyfriend!)

  • Mary March 20th, 2012 11:12 PM

    I have also had the same issue with obsessing and feeling awkward and finally embracing the weird wonderful hair that is mine. I shaved it though to get to that point and it was the coolest feeling ever. It is really empowering and very lazy-friendly. <3YAY good post!

  • andy March 21st, 2012 12:28 AM

    i’m doing different stuff with my hair and i’m a guy. the more i change it the more free i feel over my abilities to do what i want.

  • Rhianna March 21st, 2012 7:11 AM

    I have been, literally; every single hair colour and style. I started with a dark brown with a long fringe and used to back comb it to the high heavens when I was 11/12. It was a sign of my rebellion to the establishment and a transition between finally being the new (and slightly stange) person I embraced from a younger age. From there I went purple, pink, blue, green, orange, black, yellow, blonde, platinum, grey, brown again, black again, brown again, blonde again brown again, bright red, ginger, brown again, ginger, blonde again and then concluded my “hair experimentation journey” with a brown bob which I dyed with henna as if to cement my self security and finally accepting the fact that you don’t need to change your self; or albeit your hair, to be and embrace the person you want to be. Cutting your hair short is probably the most freeing act to be honest even though the akward growing out stage is more of a hindrence than a happy experince but all the same. I enjoyed experimenting and I can really relate to this article!
    A dark brown bob, in the best condition of my life and I can’t wait to grow it long so I can use my hair length as a retrospective to see where I was in my life at what point.

  • Eva March 21st, 2012 7:30 AM

    Very inspiring, I feel the same way about the power of hair . I have dark,curly hair and this time I’ve decided just to let it grow .My friends keep asking why I won’t straighten it . I won’t . I love it because it’s different and I can do so much with it & yes , I am my hair .

  • Eiros March 21st, 2012 10:10 AM

    Awe! This sounds so much like me. Whenever my surroundings would change, I would basically “force” myself to change too by coloring or cutting my hair… so you can imagine the differences in colors and styles I went through between 8th grade through the end of college! It’s back to it’s normal color now after about 12 years and I have a pretty basic style :-)

  • Pashupati March 21st, 2012 3:20 PM

    Since the beginning of the year, I’ve thought of cutting my hair short, but it wasn’t for me: it was somehow social pressure, wanting to be read as what I feel like I am (by looking like how society defines it) and be taken seriously when I say what/who I am.
    So, I’ve thought, it grows back, maybe if you didn’t feel pressure you’d still do it for a change, maybe it’ll be fun, etc.
    The thing is I would feel vulnerable without my hair and even when I was a toddler and “thought I was a boy” I wanted to keep my hair long. Lot of stuffs happened in the middle and I’m now more confused than ever, which translate in me hesitating to cut my hair. I still feel like my hair is me and like having my hair long, etc. It does make me feel stronger and safer.
    I’ve no assurance people would read me like I wish they’d do if my hair are cut, but I still want to do that, but I still don’t want because if I didn’t want to be read as that or if I was already read as that then I would keep my hair long; so cutting these would be obeying to society’s norms (the bad kind of norms) or something and not freeing at all like it is for others. So, well, you made me think.

  • Ben March 21st, 2012 6:46 PM

    I really love doing stuff with my hair! It was really long and natural and kinda terrible looking for a while. Then my freinds mom (a hair stylist) cut it and bleached the tips. Later i dyed the tips blue and pink, it looked like berrys or something. Then it got long again and i dyed it red then i cut it shorter and dyed it all purple. Now it’s blond but I want green. Also I love Lady gaga and that song!

  • isabel marie March 26th, 2012 8:41 PM

    ya but.. now can you tell us how to cut fab bangs like yours

  • luneyes April 15th, 2012 6:55 AM

    I had straight brown hair up until about 14, when my parents FINALLY let me dye my hair after years of begging. Obviously because of school etc I wasn’t allowed to dye it anything drastic, but I’ve slowly built up to dying my hair dark red and I love it so much. I have a few friends who stick by that natural is best and hair dying is wrong, but I love it.
    Even though my hair is dark I have always longed so badly for really really white blue hair, gaaah.
    I also used to straighten my hair SO MUCH. like pin straight. idk why. hm.