Essay of the Week: The Bald and Bold Moment

By Adia Fielder

This is how it began: being black in that predominantly white space, my race always felt loud to me, especially sophomore year. Black bodies were falling victim to bullets at what seemed like an hourly pace and I struggled not only with coming to terms with that, but watching others not have to do so. For all the non-black people in the room this was a blip in their radar, morose of course, but not life or death for them like it was for me. It was a kind of helplessness, akin to that which I felt freshman year when I fought the internal battle over my sexuality; the same hurt and confusion swirled within me then as I dealt with those that I knew, by definition, couldn’t understand. The only conceivable way I could see to resolve these internal struggles was with outward resistance.

Around March, I was ready for change. So I did what I needed to; I cut all of my hair off. I still stand by the assertion that it was the best decision I’ve ever made. While I am very animated by nature, the day I cut my hair felt quiet, almost serene. Looking back, it was inevitable. At such a young age I had internalized the ideal that straighter and thinner and whiter was good, that to be bold and curly was to be too much and too loud and too black all at once. And now I was ready to rectify the chemical and heat damage I had done to my hair by starting over. It was spring; when everything new grows and the winter has no choice but to bow out of its way. This was my way of pressing forward. A girl from my dorm walked in as I was finishing up. “Woah,” she said, my hair apparently more pressing than her urge to use the bathroom. “Are you cutting it all off?” I nodded, kind of embarrassed to be sharing this almost intimate moment. But then she grinned. “Cool!” she said with two thumbs up. “I bet it’ll turn out great.”

My new lack of hair offered me a kind of freedom. With everything going on politically, I felt this rising condemnation of the black body, and I wanted to combat that. My new (lack of) hair was as much resistance as the vigils and protests I attended. In addition, I now had a cloak of gender ambiguity that I hadn’t had with long hair, but enjoyed nonetheless. I didn’t look “straight” or like the conventional idea of a girl. It grounded me in a way I had not known I needed, and was the missing jigsaw piece in what I considered to be a convoluted mess of my persona. I had complete control over my appearance for that moment. I was me; queer, black, weird, and now bald. Maybe that could be enough.

I was and remain a whirlwind of all these identities, and, when I was younger, the one thing I lacked in my life was a space where I saw the intersectionality in myself reflected outwardly. However, in the last few years visibility and celebration of black hair gained enormous traction. Today, it is not uncommon to see shaved heads, long flowing dreadlocks, afros that reach toward the sun in all sorts of colors. This is now the standard of beauty against which I measure all else. I have created for myself an alternate dimension – refusal to adhere to the conventional Western ideas of what was acceptable. It is this notion that helps me press me onwards; the knowledge that I can be myself, and boldly as well.

Adia Fielder, accepted to Brown, Wesleyan and several other schools ultimately chose Northwestern, where she is now a freshman. She is a 2017 graduate of Groton.

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