By Sarah Fujimoto
With my mom overcoming cancer right now she has lost most of her hair. I remember back in April after I found out, I was talking to a friend at school while on a personal rant. I was sharing some of my thoughts with her and the most recent idea to possibly shave my head. Thoughts come and go, and distinguishing the worth of those and which to act upon, I considered the source of such a thought and if it held validity. It did in some respects and brought me to a good conversation about beauty and hair. My friend said it well when she said, “Shaving your head would be more for you than for your mom.”
True. And after spending some months anxiously awaiting the growth of my hair after a recent choppage this past fall, I wasn’t too fond of the idea after awhile. Sometimes we do things we don’t want to do because we know its good for us or others, to prove a point, or something else. Sometimes things need to be reconciled within us and can have a participatory action attached with it, first or after the thought. Or not at all. In this case, it wasn’t at all. And that’s ok.
This past fall I cut twelve inches off of my hair. A person that hasn’t done a major change to her hair since I was in middle school and was forced into a home perm, it had been awhile. Memories of the last time I had short hair, which dated back to 1986, when I was seven. You do the math.
I ended up donating my hair, but it wasn’t my motivation, just an outcome. I had a gut inkling to do this as a symbolic statement of outward and inward change. New seasons coming into my life, entering into them, these things attached to my value as a person, and that my value was not in my hair. I wouldn’t say that I placed a ton of value on my hair, but these things all intertwined into the many facets of creation, uniqueness, social norm oneness and that pressure, and beauty and identity.
For me, the messages from the society around me I perceived were this. Longer hair was more feminine and beautiful, and blonde was better. I grew up around mostly white people with blonde or fake blonde hair with blue eyes, so that was the norm around me. I’m not sure I met another Asian person in Midwest land outside of my family but once or twice until I went away to college.
Having many conversations this year about ethnic identity and social norms in my graduate classes at school raised some interesting thoughts and questions. People sharing the praise they would receive of how great they looked when they would straighten their hair or conform to a certain pattern around them. These delicate issues interweaving with ethnic identity and the hurts of not being a part of a dominant group in society. Some valid, yet some intermixed with a perspective filtered with some pain.
A recent walk through this spring of an Asian marketplace with a student I was doing a project on reminded me of uniqueness and freedom. Her wanting eyelid tape to make a crease that conforms to Western normalities. We entered the beauty store where she examined it like any purchase, a normal item to have at a beauty store, like shampoo. In her contemplation and silence I was surrounded by store consultants inviting me to bleach my freckles and take part in their back room surgery, another general norm of flawless pale skin equating beauty. No thanks. Funny how there seems to be a general society speaking to be tan if you are white. That tan is beautiful. Tan, blonde, and no smiles. Just pouts. And for others who are darker it seems that the general norm is to be whiter, lighter. I understand I am speaking in generalities here, and my own reflections that filter perspectives in light of my cultural background, experiences, and where I grew up. My observations and inquiries. So take it with a grain of salt. And forgiveness if I’ve been offensive.
We each were created unique, in our features, in our talents and dreams and vocations. The pressures to be the same yet different, look the same, have the same fashion to be accepted but an extra piece that’s just a bit different to be praised and upheld . Beauty as an outward expression of inner adornment and contentment first, instead of a manipulative means to gain attention or acceptance. I don’t advocate wearing potato sacks because the opposite direction of the pendulum could be implemented, been there done that. Hiding isn’t pleasant. Or freeing. I say these things because these are the struggles I personally went through with beauty and how I used my body and carried myself in the past.
We each were created in a way, and that should be celebrated. Not competed against, fearing our present and future is diminished by some others’ success, taking up our space in the world to do the same thing. We are loved. We are whole. And we have value. It has taken me some time to discover these things, and believe them. And it’s a continual path and process of a relationship with our Father in heaven. A relationship that speaks to who you are and draws out your passions and talents and the things you love. A relationship of response. The more I know and experience how loved and accepted I am, the more free I become. Hair and all.
Sarah enjoys creating new things and old alike while traveling to new places. She enjoys art and restoration, a good cup of tea, and puppies. You can access her assortment of artistic entourages she creates here.