Five years is a long time. Five years ago, I was 23 working at a day camp where my long locks of hair were beloved by the little campers—especially the girls, they loved “styling” it.
Since then, I’ve started my professional career, which has entailed living in another province and moving several times over the last few years.
Along the way one of the few constants has been my hair. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had relatively long curly hair that my mother absolutely adores. It’s been both an annoyance—trying to fit it under my football helmet and keep it out of my eyes on the rugby pitch—and a defining feature—there was a long stint where my friends called me 'Curly'.
So, five years ago this month, I got my last haircut. It wasn’t a conscious choice to grow it out for as long as I did, it just became convenient for me to keep my hair out of my eyes by throwing it into a top-knot—my friends referred to me as 'Arya Stark' from Game of Thrones—and later a 'man bun'.
The long hair certainly helped me stick out in a room, especially when I lived in Saskatchewan, and earned me plenty of nicknames and a conversation or two from strangers when I’d go out. Some of the comparisons made ranged from very complementary—John Snow, Thor, Troy Polamalu—to justifiably snarky—Cousin It, Chewbacca, and Big Foot.
As someone who has always gravitated towards the punk and emo music scene, I absolutely revelled in the anti-establishment vibe my hair gave off. It was my way of never truly growing up, the kind of growing up so often sang about in those genres I love.
The growing up where friends drift away, and life becomes harder. Nobody sang about it better than my all-time favourite artist Jeff Rosenstock on 'Get Old Forever', or on pretty much every 'Bomb the Music Industry!' song he’s written. So, every time my hair would annoy me, I’d think about how it also illustrated who I am.
But I always planned to cut it one day and donate it to those who need it more than me. Those who aren’t as lucky as I’ve been, those who don’t have that option to grow out their hair like I did and will do again.
That’s why when I jokingly told my partner I’d shave my head for a Halloween costume, and she fully believed me and started telling everyone, I decided I might as well follow through. It felt like there was no better time than now with Breast Cancer Awareness Month wrapping up and Movember beginning.
So, the other day I finally got a haircut. My partner bunched my flowing mane into five 16-inch ponytails and cut off my hair to donate to A Child’s Voice Foundation’s Angel Hair for Kids program.
I also learned it takes between 10 and 12 donated ponytails and $2,000 to make one hair prosthesis, so I plan to do this again because why not? I’m fortunate enough to be able to grow my hair and help out those who don’t have that privilege, so I can finally put my mop to good use.
And I know nobody loves my hair more than my mother, who lost her heart and soul to cancer 20 years ago, the man I’m named after, my grandfather. Upon finding out I had cut it, she texted me, "at least our drain will be happy... you have great hair. Bless you. Love that."
This is just a simple way to do the bare minimum for those who need our support.