Boredom recently prompted a semi-dramatic announcement to my hairstylist that I needed a new look. I attempted to describe my vision for a long bob, scouring my phone for photos when words failed me. His grand reveal diverged from my expectations and instead barely passed the nape of my neck–a good seven inches off my previously long hair.
My initial shock quickly transformed into a paradoxical sense of novelty and nostalgia. Novel because my stylist has since inspired an obsession with short hair; nostalgic because I haven’t had it this length since I was five or six years old. And in many ways, adopting this look again feels like a refreshing return to my younger self.
This return also feels timely as I turn 24 years old today (♈️). In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I’ve been reading a lot about the body, body autonomy, and female sexuality. These topics reflect a blooming desire to re-examine my relationship with my body with more intention and care.
Besides my own re-examination, I’ve increasingly observed how mainstream media is often saturated with headlines around violence towards bodies that deviate from the white male standard. In March alone, these stories included Sarah Everard’s death, Meghan Markle’s race, and attacks against Asian American bodies. They highlight the heavy yet real truth that white supremacy not only lives on in our minds, but also in how we understand our own existence and treat other bodies.
“Body terrorism is a hideous tower whose primary support beam is the belief that there is a hierarchy of bodies. We uphold the system by internalizing this hierarchy and using it to situate our own value and worth in the world.”Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
Shifts in my inner and outer worlds have at times made me want to hide or escape my body. But when those feelings arise, my new hair takes me back to when I wanted nothing more than to be active in it.
I was a tomboyish kid. Quality time for Dad and I looked like cheering on WWE superstars from the sofa and picking out new LEGO kits to engineer. Other times, you could find me in the back garden with my younger brother, reimagining our blue and rusted orange climbing frame as if it were a military training course. I hold these happy memories close. They gently remind me that my body is mine, a sacred vessel that enables me to learn about my surroundings.
They also remind me that being in the moment wasn’t always something we had to practice, but rather our intrinsic way of existing. We aren’t born as wrapped up in our appearances as our adult selves become. Instead, it’s a state we grow into as we increasingly absorb expectations from our family and culture; one that gradually leads us to become apologetic about our bodies and to internalize the belief that their primary function is to please others.
“Making peace with your body is your mighty act of revolution. It is your contribution to a changed planet where we might all live unapologetically in the bodies we have.”Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love
These days, I’m exploring how to tap into the more carefree mindset that guided how my younger self moved. The one that found joy in weaving through overgrown grass until candied skies prompted her to sprint back indoors. I know this version is still very much alive, because a seemingly minor change sparked a certain sense of excitement I haven’t felt in a while.
One key lesson this season is teaching me is to focus less on what to do and more on how I want to feel. And given recent national events, I’ve also been thinking about how reclaiming the magic of our bodies will aid us in seeing it more clearly in others and inflicting less harm, too.
Reconnecting with my inner child will, of course, entail more complex work than haircuts. The same goes for moving towards a world without body hierarchy. But for now, prioritizing what reverberates bliss in my being still feels like a fruitful and life-giving first step.