Location: Hair for Hope – Make a Bald Statement, Singapore
Date: July 2017
He said: We are always very encouraged when girls shave their heads.
He asked: You just walked in. Just like that? What made you do it?
I looked at him, and said: It’d grow back.
He honestly seemed surprised, perhaps at the abrupt and brief response.
I wondered if they ask the same questions to a guy, what the response would be. Imagine asking a guy: You walked in just like that? What made you do it?
Unbeknownst to them, this was a long time coming for me.
Because I have been thinking about it since I was 15. But yes, schools in Singapore don’t allow girls to shave their heads. In case you missed it, this was still so even after ten years since I graduated from secondary school.
Nope, not for lofty ambitions to give up my secular life for the reclusive mountains.
But I’ve always had frustrations with my hair. A thinning crown, sensitive scalp, heat, styling, blow drying – I just, have never had a great time with hair.
And I hated it.
I hated why I needed to fuss over it.
To all those who have touched my hair saying: It’s so nice. It’s so brown. It’s so straight.
Yep, my hair has given me so much grief that many times I secretly just wanted it gone.
And this year, I did it.
I thought: this year, I don’t have any client-facing engagements. I did not need to explain myself over and over again to people I hardly know.
But then, I asked: even if I were in a job, why did my hair matter?
I don’t find that it is quite the same big thing in the US, or in Europe where I have met many strong women who choose cropped, pixie or shaved cuts. I have always admired their looks, because they looked so sharp and so strong.
I also never understood why it was a big thing to shave your head. I simply wanted the convenience, but I felt so strange for not wanting hair that I’ve always kept it.
But perhaps I was still mindful of the fact that hair is part and parcel of how we view others in Asia. We are trained to store and keep a mental image of every person we meet, and hair is part of that. And I wanted to be considerate, that people who hang out with me might be bothered by others who look at me.
So this year, I turn 30. And I did it.
Yes, I love kids. Yes, I think cancer changes lives.
But more than anything, there is a deeper message, and a stronger reminder for me every single day.
That we still live in a world where there are unspoken norms, where there are self-imposed expectations, where if we look, feel, think or do different, we let ourselves be judged because we judge ourselves.
So many have reached out to me since the start of my gap year, to praise courage, to chime in on the guts. But the most fulfilling, are those who have said:
“After I hear about you, I feel more normal now.”
“I am going to do the same thing you did.”
“Sharing your stories with my daughter to inspire her!”
If we don’t start talking about how we look, how we feel, how we think, how we choose, we will never know that maybe someone out there, is actually your tribe. Because just by voicing an expression, you help someone feel, that they’re not so alone. And once you find joy in your choices, your tribe will find you.
Life is not about finding the most efficient way, the most common way, or the easiest way. It is about finding the most joyful way – let joy be your guide.
And perhaps, one day, it won’t be so strange anymore, for a girl to shave her head.
So – the big reveal is: I love this hairdo! Still deliberating whether to keep it.
If you’d like to support the cause, please click Hair For Hope Shavee – Sheryl Soh and make a small contribution. Because this world has space for anyone and everyone.
Live, love, laugh!
P.s. Hair for Hope – Make a Bald Statement is running for the 15th year. It is the flagship fundraising event for the Children’s Cancer Foundation, a Singapore-registered non-profit that aids families and children affected by cancer every year.