Chapter 11: Arriving at Border with Short Hair
After ingesting an insanely rich five-course meal, my friends and I gather in their backyard to partake in whiskey and cigars; the perfect way to end a perfect meal. Our bellies are full, conversation laced with laughter as we soak in the summer breeze and watch the tail end of a gorgeous sunset.
As the conversation lulls, I nonchalantly mention that I’ve been thinking about cutting my hair short. I explain that there’s this woman at work who has short hair and it’s just stunning on her; I go to grab my phone to show them a picture. Before I can reach it, my girlfriend shouts, “no you are NOT! You are going to look like a man! Too butch! Guys will think you are a lesbian.”
I am stunned silent.
After my friend reveals her opinion, the other parts of the crew chime in; and guess what, THEY AGREE WITH HER.
My shock quickly turns to anger mixed with a bit of awe. A wide array of emotions strike me as I receive this unexpected response from my friends. Where do I begin? How do I find the words to respond without becoming too emotional?
Usually, I would go straight to yell mode. As the sole fiery liberal, growing up amidst a conservative right-wing Italian family, yelling was the ONLY way to be heard. But I’ve learned the hard way, that yelling begets yelling and never resolves anything.
At the moment, it is difficult to process the emotion and what I felt to be a personal assault, so I focus on facts…
The fact is, they are not wrong. This is an opinion MANY people share; and whether said or unsaid, how many people view femininity. To their credit, they are very open about their feelings and I’d much rather it be said, so it can be addressed, debated and possibly open their aperture by offering an alternative point of view. We can’t solve problems or solve ignorance if we don’t talk about our true feelings.
I merely said “I hear you guys, but I’ve had short hair twice before, and I met my ex-husband while I had short hair. I’m not concerned about my femininity nor am I concerned about what men will think. And if someone assumes I’m a lesbian, I will take that as a compliment.” I decide not to share the photo of my inspiration hairstyle; I’ll keep that to myself for now.
Interestingly whenever I see a woman on the street with short hair, I am instantly drawn. She stands out to me. She appears confident, sassy and usually super stylish…and I think, WOW; I wish I had the balls to cut it all off again; because I love my hair short! It’s so easy to take care of and generally lower maintenance!
Every decade of my life, except for my 30’s, I had short hair. I met my ex-husband at 27 years old with short hair. But since he LOVED long hair, I started to grow it out once we got serious. I got so desperate for it to grow, my friend at work took me to a hair salon in Harlem to get cornrows. She convinced me that getting cornrows would stimulate my follicles, helping it grow faster. But my hair was baby fine and short; the stylist had to pull so hard to get the cornrows to stay. My scalp bled for two days and as it healed became insanely itchy (I did love how the cornrows looked but NEVER did them again. Crazy respect to those that sit through that process).
Here is my High School graduation photo.
And here’s a pic of the short hairstyle I had at 27 years old (pre-cornrows).
With the cornrow memory creeping up on me, I decided to hold off on chopping my hair again. Admittedly, the topic of femininity and gender identity stuck with me; I’ve marinated on this conversation for over a year!
Even more so, I had so much on my plate. Cutting my hair would be more change than I could handle. Short hair would have to wait…
Mainly because during this time, I was in the midst of massive turmoil…my entire life was in upheaval; both intended and unintended. I was in the middle of a custody battle with the Chupacabra of Joy (my ex-husband, The Vampire of Joy), buying my house in Westfield NJ (here’s a link to my blog about why I moved to Westfield), while selling my home in Staten Island. Simultaneously, I was renovating and designing the new house. I had three different lawyers at once; one for each house and one for custody. And you know, all the shit that goes along with moving especially the added challenges when going state to state. The massive amounts of logistics were breath-taking.
At the same time, I found out that my boyfriend Tommy had cheated on me when I found a picture of another woman on his screensaver (here is a link to the story about how I broke it off with Tommy).
The worst of it was learning that my Uncle Jimmy, who had stage 4 prostate and liver cancer, was getting sicker and weaker as the treatments took their toll.
But wait there’s more!!! I was having significant challenges at work as I launched and hired a brand new team and needed to get an executive coach (Coach Kira)to help me navigate the conflicts I faced (and apparently, conflicts I caused). Add the fact that I was 30 lbs overweight, had zero time to exercise, and was partying way too much; I was about to crash and burn.
It was a fucking pile-on! All of that happened in the span of four months! It felt like I was being suffocated inside a plastic bag while being dragged across hot coals. Symbolic asphyxiation while my hair was on fire.
I partied to forget and drank to catch my breath. But it was only adding to the misery because at the end of the night I still had to come home and face the madness by myself; drunk and alone. I had some very dark days during this time; chillingly dark.
Coach Kira proved to be one of the best gifts (it’s incredible how angels are put in your path when you need them). With her guidance and humanity, I was able to process the turmoil I was experiencing both professionally and personally. All the tools she bestowed like some fairy Godmother, helped me hold tight to the sanity I had left, navigate through this crazy storm of events and ultimately inspired me to grow into the best version of myself (thus far).
We laid out a concrete plan to address my current state of challenges and more importantly to help achieve my next set of goals. She was very clear that I couldn’t eat the entire elephant in one bite; that I needed to take one bite at a time.
So, I made a pact. I committed to focusing on my health (to first lose weight that I carried as a crutch, insulation of sorts), finish the essential house projects (no extras), stop taking on new TO DO’s. I also focused on finalizing the custody situation to the best of my ability, be present for MSP, surrender control, address or eliminate toxic relationships that cause me angst and finally, pause on dating for a while…
One year later, it is thrilling and a bit astonishing to declare that I fulfilled that pact.
I’ve accomplished everything I set out to achieve and didn’t lose my fucking mind in the process. My house is beautiful and better than I could have ever dreamed. I lost 30 lbs and continued to maintain the loss. I exercise EVERY. SINGLE. DAY (this is BIG because I used to HATE working out).
The custody battle is still in process, but we are one meeting away from resolving the visitation logistics; at least for the next two years. I officially broke up with dating (here is a link to the story where I talk about why I broke up with dating), my career is in a solid rhythm (challenges resolved) and I am taking on passion projects, like blogging for The Daily Feels (my stretch goal).
Most importantly, my soul is healing.
It’s funny because as I write these words, my heart instantly swells with gratitude and straight-up pride. I did that shit (with a little help from my friends/family), and I feel like fucking Wonder Woman.
FELLOW FREAKS, LET’S PAUSE FOR A SECOND: There is no doubt as you read my story, your mind is sparking with your own Wonder Woman or Superman moment(s). PLEASE WRITE IT DOWN RIGHT NOW! Read it back to yourself and share with a friend(s) as a reminder that you are downright amazing! There is something about writing it down that makes it more tangible. That will force you to recognize the incredible person you are and what you are capable of when you put your mind to something. Often, we forget to reflect and give ourselves credit. Now, is the time to say HELL YES, I’m a badass!
And I’m finally ready for my short hair. Except, I still hadn’t resolved one of the core reasons I didn’t cut my hair off last year. There was one last thing that was still eating at me…the question of femininity.
As I thought about this more, I observed and researched the focus our society puts on women’s hair. In pop culture, religion and throughout history, long hair has been synonymous with female sexuality and femininity. It is a symbol of her marital status, and of her youth and fertility. From the Orthodox neighborhood I grew up alongside in Bensonhurst, to the level of focus on the Kardashian’s follicle status. I mean, talk about a juxtaposition of femininity.
And then I thought, if I let society/friends/family rule my version of feminine I would be back in Bensonhurst cooking, cleaning and picking up after a houseful of kids in a hot pink Sergio Tacchini tracksuit with long flowing hair. That might be a beautiful life for someone else, but that is NOT my story.
The answer I was looking for is quite simple; femininity lies in the capable hands and personal definition of each woman. And there is nothing more beautiful or sexy, than when we live our truth. As I stand joyfully and powerfully in my mid-forties, I’m ready to own my story. Fresher, freakier and more feminine than ever; living out loud and in sync with my true ‘nature.’ Short hair and all…
Here is a pic after my haircut on Saturday, August 25th, 2018; minutes before I hit the road to celebrate with my best friend at his house in Rehoboth Beach, DE.
Fellow Freaks, please check out these great articles below that challenge gender identity and femininity in our culture. We are living in a magnificently diverse world filled with all types of beauty and definitions of feminine and masculine. Let’s embrace this change together. Let’s stop labeling and putting limits on each other. Let’s welcome individual expressions of style and see the beauty in all of them.
Are you with me?
Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 9-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP) and 15-year-old pug baby (Tiki Barber); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.
Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.
This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.