Before the Mohawk
Before the MohawkA week ago, I would have told you nothing gets me more crazy looks than being a woman with a shaved head. I was wrong. Nothing gets me more crazy looks than being a woman with a mohawk.
I found out on Sunday, when I ventured out of my house with a head shaved save for one strip of (freshly dyed) blond hair down the middle. And until March 11, I will continue to draw the looks, and the laughs. Because I'm keeping the mohawk for three weeks.
Of course you're asking why. What professional woman and mother of a 5-year-old girl in her right mind walks around with a mohawk, right? First off, assuming I'm in my right mind was your first mistake. I have a 5-year-old. Sanity was gone a long time ago, folks! That's how you get this:
But what said 5-year-old has given me is the ability to step outside of myself and realize what's on the outside says nothing about the inside. I want to be a role model to my daughter. I want to teach her to love every inch of herself. It's forced me to stop tearing myself apart. It's let me realize I am not defined by my hair. I don't care what society thinks of it.
The first step came when she was 1. I shaved it off for the second time in my life (the first was a fit of high school rebellion). In 2006 I was doing it for a cause -- I challenged my friend and hairdresser that I could raise $10,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation to fight childhood cancer. If I did, not only would I go bald, but she would too. If you think you're connected to your hair, ladies, just imagine the relationship between a cosmetologist and her locks. It worked. We got the money, and together Beth and I went bald.
I recognized the power of the cause, and in turn, the power of my body. By letting go of what society said I should do, I was doing something for society. In the past five years, I've shaved three more times for St. Baldrick's, always raising at least $1,000 or more for the cause.
Then came the call to sign up in 2011. By now I had the routine down. I keep my hair short but not shaved throughout the year out of convenience, but I stop cutting it in late December and let it curl over my ears and down my neck. If you've ever tried to grow out short hair, you know how uncomfortable it is. This is my sacrifice for the kids. And in turn, I ask my friends to put money down "on my head" for St. Baldrick's.
Only this year, the donations have been slow. I don't know if it's the economy or if people are just tired of hearing me blabber on about baldness. Five years of asking for money, promising it will make a difference, is a long time. And while I know the foundation uses the money wisely, that the researchers they fund have made real strides, the fact is childhood cancer still exists.
And I'm not ready to give up on it. So I had to up the ante. If me going bald isn't enough, what would get people talking? What would make it obvious that I'm committed to changing the world, whatever it takes?
The answer came, oddly enough, on my vacation day from The Stir last week. Standing in line with my friend, a nursing student, on the local college campus, she took note of a guy with a mohawk and joked that she wishes she were a guy so she could do something crazy like that. It was no lightning bolt moment. It took a few days to click. But there it was.
I teach my daughter she can do anything boys can do, and yet society says "no mohawks for girls." I sat down in my bathroom on Saturday night with my daughter watching and let her teenage babysitters dye my light brown hair blond, then attempt to dye it green (long story, but it didn't stick). Then I let them shave the two sides of my head, leaving the mohawk in between.
My daughter's first assessment? "You look like a boy." Followed by, "You look weird."
I didn't disagree. That's her decision to make. And after talking to her about the "sick kids," she started running her hands over it, and proudly telling her Oma that "Mommy has a mohawk." She was as excited as I was when I walked out of the local market with a crisp $20 bill in my hand, the first on-the-spot donation from someone who saw the 'hawk, asked about it, and got my story. It's doing its job. It's moving people.
I am sporting a mohawk for three weeks because society tells me not to. Because it makes people stare. I'm sporting a mohawk because the most powerful way I can help society is by ignoring it.
Images by Jeanne Sager