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Posting your new haircut on social media is practically expected these days. You feel pretty, and your friends confirm that you are, indeed, fabulous. And then everyone moves on to the next baby snap or unicorn smoothie pic. But when Tricia Minnick recently posted her fresh new look on Facebook, it caused a much bigger stir—not necessarily because of her hair but rather the lack of it. The Austin, TX, mom shaved her head, and no, before you ask, she doesn't have cancer and she isn't going through some Girl Interrupted mental crisis. Her new buzz cut, it turns out, has little to do with her hair and everything to do with her body.
"I've wanted to shave my head for almost 20 years," she wrote in her Facebook post. "But, I've also been fat for almost my entire life, and society tells fat girls that they can't do whatever they want with their hair."
The fact that society has ~opinions~ on how women should wear their hair shouldn't surprise you. Images of long, flowing locks are everywhere, proclaiming that this is what's beautiful and sexy. And while there's nothing wrong with getting extensions or rocking a butt-length braid if that's what makes you feel awesome, there isn't a ton of room for other variations on "pretty" hair. Going short (even shoulder-length—gasp!) is somehow viewed as going rogue or something you do after a big breakup or life change. Add to that the judgment reserved for anyone who is overweight and you get a perfect storm of body shaming. The subliminal message is that if you absolutely must have short hair, then you'd better look like Cara Delevingne to pull it off; larger ladies need not apply. (The short hair judgment even reaches as far as children's sports, like when this girl was disqualified from a soccer match for looking like a boy.)
But Tricia was done with this nonsense. So when her husband came home last week with his head shaved, at first she was jealous of his freedom to do whatever he liked with his body. But then, she says, it inspired her to do the same.
"I said f*ck it. It's my head. I don't care what others think," she told Shape. "I don't care if it makes me look fatter. (News flash—I'm fat. Hair isn't going to fix that.) I don't care if it makes you think I'm having some sort of breakdown. I. Don't. Care."
Shaving her head was the culmination of years of hair-hate, she says. Even though she's always had what others considered "great hair"—thick, bouncy, and fast-growing—she never loved it herself. "I always wanted to be bald. I'm not sure of the exact moment that the desire was born, but I can look back to my early teen years and remember dreaming about shaving my head."
Tricia grew up in a home where long hair was considered ideal or even revered. Her mother always kept her hair long because it was her father's preference, and she says that even as a child she hated this idea of women molding themselves to a man's ideal. At 16, she got a short haircut, but while she felt liberated, family members told her she "looked like a boy" and questioned her femininity.
So she grew it back out, and for a while, tried her best to fit into the beauty norms, changing her clothing and makeup, and always experimenting with her hair—trying different cuts and colors. "I tried hairstyle after hairstyle and loathed every single one," she says. "I would explain to the stylist that I need something to make me feel like...me. And no matter how technically lovely the cut was, I would sit in my car afterward and cry." Tricia even lost weight to reach a size she felt was more "acceptable." Even then she didn't feel like shaving her head was an option.
"I was thin and no longer had people cautioning me that short hair would make my face look fuller, but when I mentioned shaving my head, or even cutting my hair short, people would get visibly upset and tell me I was much too pretty to have a shaved head," she says. "I was in the best shape of my life, for once I had control of my demons, but I couldn't shake the ties that bound my hair to my femininity."
Many years and many not-quite-right haircuts later, she found herself as an adult who not only hated her hair but hated her body and even herself. She'd regained the weight she'd lost and had given up on makeup and fashion. "I was never going to have that dainty feminine figure and if I'm honest, I'll admit that I felt like a failure as a woman," she says.
And then came that day her husband shaved his head as if it wasn't any big deal...because it wasn't a big deal. "Something clicked in my brain," she says. "I have two young boys who are watching me. I actively work with them to dispel bullsh*t gender norms. I celebrate my 3-year-old son who finds joy in wearing twirly skirts. I encourage my 9-year-old to express himself in whichever way makes him happy, even if it's different from everyone else. And yet, I wasn't living that truth for myself."
So after two decades of waiting, Tricia gathered her family and handed her husband the razor. It was time. As her hair piled up in the sink, her boys cheered her on and her confidence grew. "My 3-year-old excitedly proclaimed, 'Mommy, you look beautiful!'" she says. "And in that moment, I realized I had never felt more beautiful or more alive. I was free." (Related: These Women Show Why the #LoveMyShape Movement Is So Freakin' Empowering)
The reaction to Tricia's bold cut has been overwhelmingly positive, but even if it wasn't she says it doesn't matter. She didn't shave her head for anyone else. For the first time in her life, she got a haircut purely to make herself happy.
"I don't know if I'll stay bald forever, but I do know that shaving my head has been an incredibly healing experience," she says. "I feel strong. I feel joyful. And I feel a connection with myself as a woman that I feared I had lost. It turns out, my femininity doesn't come from hair or from some other physical attribute, it comes from inside of me."