The Female Perspective: I’m More Than My Hair

Welcome! This is a weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc.

Before I really get into this blog I want to start by saying that I realize there are way more important things in the world to be talking about other than my hair or women’s hair or haircuts. I get it, the world is messed up right now and there are many, MANY people hurting and I feel for them. At the same time, there isn’t much I can say here that isn’t already being said better by other, smarter, folks than me.

Let me just say this, closing our hearts and boarders to people isn’t the way to make this country safe. Evil always finds away, sad but true. Becoming part of the evil though, that’s a choice we make when we turn our backs on the hungry, the poor, the scared and “huddled masses”, we are all smart people capable of smart choices. Let’s try doing that for a change.

Just a thought.

I, like so many women, have attempted most hairstyles (not the mohawk, I would look silly) and dyed my hair a rainbow of colors. I have always liked to experiment and see how I look different ways. Eventually, that stopped when I was at my heaviest weight. I grew my hair out nice and long and kept it that way because I was convinced that my head was far too small for my body and the long hair masked that issue.

My "before" photo.
My “before” photo.

Recently I have lost over 100 pounds and I can see my cheekbones for the first time in a very long time. Also recently, I have gotten into wearing fun wigs, one of which being a purple wig in a short bob. I really enjoyed the look and decided that  maybe it was time to cut off my long locks in favor of a shorter do.

I went back and forth on this for a week or so, because for me (and a lot of women) hair is a big deal. It’s part of our femininity, our sexuality and I had been around so many men that said long hair was sexy, short hair was not, that I had pretty much decided that if I cut off my hair I would be unattractive to my love. Which could not be farther from the truth, he was ALL for me changing my look. He urged me to get really daring with it (I love that man) and to really transform my hair in the same way I have been working so hard to transform my body this last year.

Then a good friend of mine posted a story about a woman who cut off all her hair, it’s a story of sickness and recovery, of unbelievable bravery and I realized, holy crap, it IS just hair. It grows back. It’s not who I am or even what I am. It’s just some fuzzy stuff on the top of my body that I style (sort of) or dye different colors or get annoyed with when it gets caught in zippers or under purse straps. It’s. Just. Hair.

Clare Bowen. Photo credit - Joseph Llanes Photography
Clare Bowen. Photo credit – Joseph Llanes Photography

Here’s the story:

Clare Bowen

Wanna know why I cut it all off?

When I was four years old, I asked my mother; “Are there heaters in Heaven?”

I had just been diagnosed with end stage nephroblastoma, after several visits to a GP who denied anything was wrong and dubbed my parents “paranoid.” I’d overheard the doctors telling my family that the only hope of saving me, was an experimental treatment that might kill me anyway. But without it I had maybe two weeks left. The hospital was cold. I’d never felt air conditioning before.

Life in the White Palace (Granddad’s nickname for hospital) meant I got to grow up surrounded by children just like me. We were mostly bald, all tubed, taped, bandaged up and stitched back together. We were all missing parts, some obvious like eyes or legs, others more hidden, like lungs and kidneys. Those who still could, tip-toed around like little fairies because chemotherapy had destroyed the muscles in our legs and it hurt to put our heels on the floor. But we were all together, so no one’s appearance came into question. No one got laughed at or teased. We were all we knew.

And then I got really lucky. I survived, my hair grew back and I got strong again. I look relatively normal on the outside, but on the inside, I am still the same stitched back together little creature, in a world where people are judged so harshly for the way they look. It has always been completely incomprehensible to me. How can people think there’s time for that?

I was really inspired when I heard a story about a little girl who said she couldn’t be a princess because she didn’t have long hair, and I wanted her, and others like her to know that’s not what makes a princess, or a warrior, or a superhero. It’s not what makes you beautiful either. It’s your insides that count… even if you happen to be missing half of them.

Every scar tells a story, every baldhead, every dark circle, every prosthetic limb, and every reflection in a mirror that you might not recognize anymore. Look deeper than skin, hair, nails, and lips. You are who you are in your bones. That is where you have the potential to shine the brightest from. It is where your true beautiful self lives.

Thank you ABC network and particularly our creator, Callie Khouri for letting me change Scarlett’s hair, and my team, family and friends for helping me make the decision. If it makes even one person think twice about judging another, then in some small way, the world is better.
Self-esteem takes a lot longer to grow back than hair.


Amazing right? It says everything I am trying to say with a beauty that leaves me breathless and a little teary. It made me see that my worry over the length of my hair is about much more than physical appearance. It goes so much deeper than that, to a place where I lived for much of my life. To a place where I was afraid and lonely, thinking that no one could ever love me. To a place where I felt completely inferior.

I don’t live in that place anymore. Therapy. Friends and a man named Frankie have changed my life forever. I’ve learned to be confident and happy and to know that I am loved no matter what I wear, what I look like or what I do. It’s a beautiful place to live and it’s a place I live in with short hair now and guess what? I feel really pretty and free of long hair misery that the hair represented. That hair represented the fat Jessica. The unhappy Jessica. The unhealthy Jessica. While it is just hair it’s also so much more than that which it shouldn’t be and the good news? Most of it is all gone now and I couldn’t be happier.

So what’s my point with all of this? My point is that life is too short to obsess over a haircut. It’s too short to worry about what other people might think about how you look. Life should be lived in full color, with the sound turned way up, with laughter, with love (lots of love), with good food, good friends and good times. Don’t live in the place of fear. Live in a place of joy and your life will be a life well lived.

My "After" Photo.
My “After” Photo.

What are you afraid of? What fear do you wish you could conquer? Maybe 2016 is the time to do that! Tell me in the comments.


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