Eventually, I got old enough to make my own decisions, as most of us do. When I was finally free, I could do whatever I wanted with my hair. I could chop it off, dye it purple, get a heavy metal perm or go full Amidala. My hair was entirely up to me.
So I kept it the way it was. I tried different styles over the years, but nothing radical. There was an unfortunate period with bangs, which is something most of us put ourselves through for whatever masochistic reason, but the length was always shoulder to waist, or somewhere in between. I never went blonde or red. Or purple.
Seven months ago, they shaved it all off. In an instant, I went from the familiar to something completely unlike anything I had ever known. I was balder than Britney. I really didn't think about it for the first couple of weeks. I had better things to worry about. Having your head shaved without your permission might be a first world problem, but it is a drastic change. Eventually, I noticed how alien I looked to myself. Your hairstyle really can alter your appearance. Look at Zooey Deschanel without bangs or Superman without the little curl. When you've seen yourself with hair below your shoulders your entire life, all that skin is a shock.
The good news is that hair grows back. Male pattern baldness isn't an issue here. The bad news is that it takes a long time. Day to day, you don't notice any change whatsoever. After 3 months, my scalp was completely covered, but too short to do anything. I looked like I just got out of basic training. And my hair color was lighter than usual, almost ash blonde. If I wanted to dye it its natural color, I'd have to go with golden walnut or chestnut blonde. I've always thought I had brown hair. L'Oreal disagrees. The scar was still obvious, but I had already made my peace with that. If you're going to have a large scar, the scalp is not the worst place to put it. Sooner or later, enough hair covers everything.
At five months, I could comb it around in one direction or another and part it slightly, but it was still far too short. I'm not a big fan of gender stereotypes. Women and men can have whatever hair length they want. It takes a lot more than hair to make someone feminine or masculine. But I looked like a boy. And you know what Bart Simpson said about blond boys.
At seven months, I finally look like a girl again, but with Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina returning from Paris hair. It looked a lot better on her. She could make anything look fashionable. I can't. On the bright side, it's finally getting darker. It's practically the color I recognize.
In China, no one really cares about your hair length. Girls in junior high routinely cut their hair short. I don't know why. Everyone I have ever asked gave me a different answer, citing tradition, safety issues, conformity and good old fashioned control over women. Some adults keep their hair short because they think it makes them look young. It doesn't. Put a 50-year-old in a school uniform and she won't look 15. But when you're conditioned that short hair equals school age, it's easy to see the logic.
In the United States, a lot of people would assume I'm a lesbian. Hair length has just as little to do with sexuality as it does with age, but we Americans love our baseless stereotypes. If an American woman has a buzzed head, she's either a lesbian or recovering from chemotherapy. There can't possibly be any other reason. In China, no one ever assumes anyone is gay. It's just the opposite. I've met quite a few people who have insisted that there are no gay people in China.
I don't know if the statistic that 10% of the population is gay is accurate or considered offensive these days, but 10% of China is 150,000,000. That would mean there are more gay people in China than the entire population of Russia. That has absolutely nothing to do with my hair, but if it's even close to true, it would be insane to assume no one around here is gay.
The best part about having very short hair is that I can wash it in a minute and it dries on its own before I know it. It's pretty amazing the first few times. Anyone with waist length hair knows that it takes a long time to wash and will not air dry anytime that day. I have not put a towel on my scalp since September. It's all very liberating, in its own meaningless way.
Similarly, I can get out of bed and my hair is ready to go. It's long enough that I can comb again, but short enough that I don't really need to. For months, there was nothing to comb. When it's that short, it looks the same no matter what you do. When it's long, you look like a crazy person if you leave it as is.
Then there is summer. It does not technically begin until June, but Hong Kong goes straight from winter to summer. I've always thought it was lucky that I was bald in winter because wearing hats in summer would have been torture. But now that it's hot again, I'm thinking it would have been better to have shorter hair in summer. Putting your hair up in oppressive humidity is nothing compared to having genuinely short hair. Whether you have a ball of hair on top of your head or down your back, it gets hot around here. Walking around with extremely short hair is like having your own personal fan everywhere you go. By the time my hair can cover the back of my neck again, the temperature will be as high as it gets.
It took a while, but I've come to accept my short hair. I really didn't have any choice. But when it finally grows back to its normal length, I doubt I'll ever cut it short again.