“I see you've had your little Waiting to Exhale moment."
That was the comment my sorority sister made when she saw me with my haircut for the first time. The thick, kinky-curly locks that went past my shoulders had been sheared off in favor of a much shorter tapered look.
I wondered if she really thought that my new 'do was man-inspired. I didn't blame her. It's common for a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend or husband to cut off nearly all her hair like Bernadette did in Waiting to Exhale.
But me? I'd been single for quite some time. I just wanted the 'fro gone because it was too much work! Or so I thought...
It wasn't until many months later I realized that deep down, I'd wanted a break from the past, too. And I got much more than that.
I didn't expect to undergo the mental transformation that I did. After my haircut, I questioned myself in ways I hadn't since high school.
Am I beautiful without long hair? I wondered.
Thoughts like that made me panic. Did the self-esteem I'd spent over 23 years building really shatter in an hour's worth of hair cutting?
Sure, I found pride in the numerous compliments my bold curls would garner, but I never saw myself as attached to my hair. Frankly, I'd hated my hair, not because I didn't think it was beautiful, but because it took entirely too long to style. (I'm lazy.)
I thought the freedom to wake up and go for once would cancel out any reservations I'd have about the new cut. Having an edgy cut would be more fun and unique; no longer would I blend in among the sea of afros. I knew I'd absolutely love it.
However, it took me quite a while to get used to being “near bald-headed." Sometimes I'd even wake up, look in the mirror, and go in shock over what I'd done.
So…why do I want this for you? Why insist that every woman question her beauty, as if the media doesn't give us enough cause for that already?
In the end, the unencumbered freedom, greater sense of self, and symbolic emotional healing I gained made me wonder why all women don't cut their hair!
Read more about the positive effects I experienced after cutting off my hair.
We all know that women, black women in particular, spend entirely too much time and money on their hair. I mean, have you seen the hair care aisle? Men have a few shelves. We have an aisle.
Black women have entire beauty supply stores! The Black hair care industry is even valued at almost $500 billion!
We're constantly inundated with hair ads and shampoo commercials and videos of gorgeous, extension-laden celebs. Hair, hair, hair!
Before you go on a date, what do you have to worry about? Makeup, outfit, and hair. Before a job interview? Outfit, interview prep, hair. Before you leave the house in general? Hair is always a concern!
That's not to say that having short hair is a walk in the park, either. But when I had short hair, I cut my wash day to a mere wash hour. Styling time went from an hour and a half to 15 minutes!
I wasn't overly worried about how to tame her (my hair is a she) or what impression she'd help me make because she was barely there, unlike my can't-ignore-it 'fro.
Having the ability to wake up and go most days caused me to lessen the importance I have on my hair. You don't realize how much value you place on your hair until you don't have any.
I gained a sense of freedom I'd never had. I'd always had too much damn hair.
I felt freer, lighter and not just in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense because I had more room to just focus on me, the real me, sans luscious locks, which brings me to my next point.
Greater Sense of Self
Men love long hair. That's no secret. Here's a secret: so do you.
It's not your fault. Society conditions men and women to go heart eyes over long, flowing hair. It's the standard of beauty.
Most of us won't realize how deep-seated this love for long hair is. A lot of us will even deny this internalized European standard of beauty, claiming that we love ourselves regardless of if our hair is two or twenty-two inches long.
“I am not my hair," we will say. And then we shear off our beloved hair and later that night, gawk in disbelief at our reflection as ridiculous worries seep out:
Will my hair ever grow back? Am I still attractive to men? Is my curl-free, short, natural hair beautiful?
Am I still beautiful?
Questioning your beauty makes you question your inner self. Maybe you had a good grasp of who you were before, but now you must reconfigure yourself as someone who is able to find her beauty with or without long hair.
Will you be someone who finds her power in her hair or will you reject that notion of womanhood? Are you someone who has the courage to go against what nearly everyone considers “beautiful" or do you readily go with society's standards because that's what's comfortable?
Cut off your hair and see. Because not only will you gain this clearer picture of yourself, but you'll gain a newfound strength and confidence in your femininity. And that's not even the best benefit…
Symbolic Emotional Healing
It's a peculiar feeling to watch your hair float to the floor, and then study it as it decorates the tiling, while coming to the sobering realization that it's no longer connected to your head. I am now a bald-headed bitch, you think. Or, for those less ratchet, I really don't have hair anymore.
I can only describe it as a mixture of fear, excitement, worry, but one other emotion is most prominent: relief. Oh what a great relief!
Maybe you're like me and don't even notice when you're lugging around too much emotional baggage until you see your strands severed, and with it feel simultaneous severing from past pain and emotional healing. Or maybe you're more in tune with your emotions and revel in your now unburdened back. Your load is almost weightless. It's light.
Here's the thing: that long-standing joke that women cut their hair when they're going through something–it's true, but those women get the last laugh. There are very few material things that you can shed in such a short amount of time and with it feel the immediate, deep impact that cutting off your hair gives you.
We talk about cutting off toxic people and things every New Year. It's easy to delete a phone number or throw away those brownies (mostly), but how easy is it to cut off the memory of the one you love telling you it's over or the deep-rooted self-hatred that drove you into a depression or the image of a text message with words that disrupt your entire world or the echo of your family members' voices saying you'll never be any good? Now imagine it being as easy as a snip!
Cutting off your hair won't heal the wound in its entirety, but it will pour on that soothing balm and get the healing process started. It's been a time-worn, crucial first step for countless women and take it from me, it feels damned good!
*Originally published on The Next Train's Coming; Featured image by Shutterstock.
Layla A. Reeves is a 20-something freelance writer, copy editor, and ESL teacher who's still trying to figure this life thing out, never mind adulting. She's lived overseas in Spain, but only mentions that when she wants to feel better about not knowing what she's doing. Read more of her musings on her blog.
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecole exclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
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Feature image by JD Mason/ Unsplash