Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Postcards: Keri Smith

Keri Smith is one of my art heros. During my first trip to San Francisco in 2005, I discovered her book Living Out Loud: Activities to Fuel a Creative Life (2003). Reading a chapter about how she prepared for her 30th birthday inspired me to honour a significant birthday by shaving my head. Hair has always been my way of marking transition. A week after I left a relationship, I had my shoulder-length hair cut short to symbolize my new freedom. When my cousin Heidi was going through chemo and lost her dark curly hair, I had my hair cut very short in solidarity. The significant birthday was a transition worth celebrating. Although my hair has been both longish and short, I had never shaved it all off. A few months before making this plan, my mom revealed that she had always wanted to shave her head but didn't have the courage. Part of my head shave decision was to honour my mom.

An arts writer and a photographer documented the head shave at my hair salon and an article appeared in the local arts paper with before-and-after photos. Without hair, I discovered that I have a beautifully shaped scalp. I also learned that bald heads are cold, even in Spring; that a bald head is like Velcro and sleeping with a flannel pillowcase was difficult. Bus drivers stopped for me, even when I wasn't intending to take the bus (I'm assuming they thought I had cancer). 

Shaving my head was a radical act and I felt bold and confident as I embraced the significant birthday. Would I do this again? In a heart beat... but only during warm weather.

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