As a young 15-year-old, I approached my parents and petitioned them to grant me permission to shave my head. There was a growing nagging feeling inside me that I needed to see myself without hair to really understand who I was, what I looked like. This was a step further than my previous petition regarding the nature of my hair. I became interested in the idea of dreadlocks quite young. My parents were less than thrilled and absolutely did not approve of the idea of me getting my hair into such knots that I would have to cut them off when I was ready for a new hair style.
At age 13, my parents left me in the care of my much older siblings and flew off to China for three weeks. Knowing my inclination toward dreads, mother left strict instructions for me to brush my hair every day while she was gone. There isn’t a whole lot of rebellion in me. Sadly, I seemed to have missed that gene. I dare say this is about as close to a rebellious stage as I got. As soon as they waved goodbye, I immediately set about turning my hair into dreads, only I didn’t really know what I was doing. There was not a single day they were gone that I combed my hair. I put my hair in a braid so it curled, and then let it be. I enjoyed watching its progress as it matted together over the next three weeks.
By the time they got back, the entirety of my hair had turned into a single dread. I didn’t get dreadlocks, I got a dreadlock. As I said, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Mother, nearly always good natured and full of grace, took it all in normal stride as she arrived home and saw the dread. I was relieved — it could have gone quite badly and I would suffer from her rare but potent wrath. All in all, the reception went quite well I thought. But the hammer came down a few days later. She blackmailed me into letting her comb it out by telling me she wouldn’t let me go to a friend’s sleepover party if I didn’t get rid of my dear dread. Four hours of tedious combing later, the dread was gone. My long, silky, straight hair was back to its boring normal.
This time, at 15, the outcome of my petition was no different. Mom and Dad did not give permission to shave my head. But this time, I had learned to value a closeness in relationship with my parents. It was a relationship I didn’t want to compromise, so I listened to their instruction and my head remained unshaved. The nagging feeling never went away though, and the time finally came to answer its call. I was in my second year of graduate school. It seemed the perfect time to do it because my hair would have time to grow back before I went into the professional work force.
So off I went to get a scissors and a smooth razor.
Snip snip snip. The hair fell in the bathroom sink. It was a scary moment. But it somehow felt satisfying knowing that I was doing something that was calling to me for a long time. It felt right.
Sometimes we have to expose things and strip away layers to grow deeper in understanding and appreciation.
I finally understood what I looked like in raw form. There was nothing to hide behind. No long hair to hide the jawline I never liked. It forced me to come to terms with myself. It taught me to appreciate myself in a way I hadn’t learned before. It made me hold my head a little higher.
Sewing is such a parallel. When we buy clothes at the store and they don’t fit us perfectly, we get twisted ideas about how our body is “supposed” to be but isn’t. We let those lies influence us and we want to hide our bodies like I wanted to hide my jawline. When you sew, you have to really get to know your body. There is no hiding. You have to measure yourself here and there and everywhere. You have to take an honest look at yourself. It may be scary, but you uncover the mystery of who you are under all the clothes you wear, uncover the mystery of why your clothes fit the way they do.
With the knowledge gleaned from all that measuring and all that honest looking, you can create clothing that fits your body perfectly. You get to fall in love with yourself. You scrape off old paint (clothes that don’t fit you perfectly) to discover the unmatched beauty of the natural wood underneath. That’s who you are – you are unmatched beauty.
Uncover who you are, embrace who you are, embrace your measurements. No more hiding. It’s a beautiful way to fall in love with ourselves.