I have always had short hair. The one time I grew it out (to my shoulders—the horrors!) I hated it. I immediately cut it even shorter than before. If someone was describing me, it would likely be the go-to identifier. As in, “Oh, you know her, she has the short hair?” But while I loved my short brown hair, I had a secret. A deep, no-so-dark, not-so-twisty secret. 

I wanted to shave the sides and dye my hair bright red. 

The idea started way back in high school. My junior year I got a pixie cut and my dad immediately expressed terror that I was going to shave it like Natalie Portman. At that time, she was taking over the world in all of her V For Vendetta shaved-head-glory and I idolized her. Immediately, an idea was planted. I couldn’t shake the desire to at least partially shave my head. 

This idea followed me like a shadow for over 10 years. All those years and milestones I kept making up excuses as to why I couldn’t get the haircut I really wanted. My college was too conservative, my wedding pictures would be weird, I worked with older adults, etc., etc., etc.

But eventually, my excuses ran out. 

After having our twins, we moved from Georgia to Madison, Wisconsin. I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. We knew nobody in or even near Wisconsin and the change was simultaneously terrifying and liberating. We had no one to call but also no one to compare ourselves to. The time had come. 

I made the appointment for the week after I took my social work licensure exam. It felt easier to do something silly after doing something “responsible.” I went in and sat in the chair for two hours as my stylist washed and dyed and cut and shaved. She turned me around in the chair for the moment of truth.

And I loved it. 

I felt freer than I had ever felt before in my life. I felt cooler and more attractive and also more myself. I left the salon standing taller and feeling braver about my new adventure as a mother of twins.

There is a photo from a few months later that I love. It is of me and our twin girls when they are about 16 months old. We are at a butterfly exhibit in my hometown’s botanical gardens. They are sweaty and tiny and I am bending down in my shorts and tank top pointing at something. There are flowers and butterflies and twin toddlers to catch your eye but all I notice every time is my haircut. It is exactly what I wanted for years.

It’s short and shaved and so bright red the color almost stained the old shower in our rental home. It shows a young woman who spent years thinking she never wanted to be a mother and then finding her place as a stay-at-home mom to twins. It shows a woman working toward what she actually wanted rather than what she felt others wanted for her. It shows a woman showing her daughters that outside appearances don’t really matter. A mother who is teaching her girls that you should do what you want. Don’t wait 10 years. Do it now.

Kristen Tenini

Kristen is a mom of twin girls and a new baby boy who lives near Charlotte, NC. She is a licensed social worker, an occasional writer, and an exercise enthusiast.