BIG CHOP. Again.

Friday, July 21, 2017

I shaved my head

Choker by Nyar Nam
Earrings by Amar Design Studio
I hadn’t been planning to. I didn’t spend weeks mulling over the decision and trying to figure out when would be best, and where to get it done or who I would entrust the task to. 


Nothing like that at all.
About a week ago, I woke up, planning to head to Kenyatta Market to get my hair braided before I travelled upcountry for my grandfather’s funeral. I was pretty sure that’s what I was going to do. I got into the shower and as I enjoyed the wonderful sensations of hot water on my head as I shampooed and conditioned my hair in preparation for the braiding, I was suddenly struck with the thought.

“Shave your head.”

It was a really loud thought, I swear I may have even heard it spoken out loud, but of course I was by myself so no such thing happened. The idea didn’t let up though, even though I tried to shrug it off. It kept growing louder and louder, with the idea seemingly more meaningful as the minutes ticked by. And then my grandad’s face kept flashing in my mind.

See, my grandad, my dad’s dad, had just passed away a week before that. It was a big blow to the family as he was such a prominent and loving figure in our lives. He used to call me and all my female first cousins, “Muhiki” (bride) or “Darling” because we were named after his wife, Wangechi. This was a huge loss, so it only made sense, somehow to mark it in some significant way. My boss, Troy, had shared with me some pretty striking sentiments about dealing with loss the previous week and he had left me with much to ponder.

And so, that’s what I decided I would do, even though I stalled a little bit and asked a very important person in my life what he thought of the decision. He was super supportive and in about an hour, the deed was done.

Hair gone.

I tried to recreate this portrait I took of my Guka.
Afterwards, I did some research and found out about Tonsure, (the act of cutting the hair or shaving the head) after the death of an elder member of the family. This is an age-old Hindu custom. In Hinduism, the underlying concept is that hair is a symbolic offering to the gods, representing a real sacrifice of beauty, hence shaving your head shows your grief for the departed soul.

Also, hair on the head is treated as an adornment and as a symbol of vanity. On the death of an elderly person in a family, the Hindus consider the children of the family not to be egoistic in nature but be humble, devoted and submitted to nature. So they need them to give up their adornment and vanity in humiliation.”

Now, I’m not Hindu, but this sat well with me.

Later, I did rationalize the decision as well. If I may be completely honest, I do want to grow my fro out, but my hair was really damaged from months of color jobs and the lowest possible maintenance you could subject your hair to so I figured why not just start afresh from scratch?

I also felt like metaphorically speaking, shedding all that damaged hair would also signify my shedding of some pretty negative and toxic vibes that I may have accumulated over the last few months/years. Given that I have some wonderful new developments in my life, why not let go of anything that may taint them? Shaving the hair off is, of course, symbolic, but attaching that significance to it really has left me feeling lighter, and happier. Cue Frozen’s “Let It Go”. The cold against my bald head has bothered me though. 

Big chopping is not something I’m new to though, I did it last year, and have done it a few times before that over the last 20 years. In fact, the first time I did it I was 9 years old, although that was not at all what I intended it to be. Long story for another day.

This time though, with all the significance I have attached to it, it does feel great. If feels monumental in some way and I’m glad to start over.

So there you have it.
I'm a baldie again.

Would you big chop? 
Or have you ever done it?
How did it feel for you and was there any significance attached to it?
I'd love to hear about it.



  1. I big chopped 6months ago. Clean shave! I walked in to a random place in westlands and was like "I need to shave my hair" The barber almost said no imagine but I was firm with what I wanted. My hair was quite long and a month prior to that I had gotten some fancy jaw length cut and some color to go with it. When I saw the pile of hair on the floor I almost cried out loud.

    Most people thought I was crazy or having a life crisis. I'm turning 25 in September (yipeee!) and I didn't think about it from the quarter life crisis angle at all.

    I just wanted a new beginning. It was the first time ever doing this. It came with so many emotions. From feeling brand new to almost regretting it. I picked up myself really fast though and got to play around with bright lipsticks and big earrings which I thought complimented my head really well.

    Looking back now, my hair is so fresh. No relaxers. Head to toe shower everyday. It's fun. It's different. Brings out the fearless in me. I can't just comb my hair on the side of my face to hide a pimple or have a mood depending on how good my hair looks.

    Hair is not everything, of course, but it is something. And you can bet that a dramatic change in someone's appearance can signify some pretty dramatic personal growth. Or at least for me it was a desire for growth.


    1. Woah!
      Man, that sounds dramatic, and trust me, if I had much longer hair than I did, I probably would have reacted in a much more dramatic way. I'm glad you were able to pick yourself up real quick after that, and yay for enjoying it now. I totally get that fearlessness you speak of. The boldness that comes with it, and also knowing that you can let go of something that you held on to so dearly once, and seeing life go on just fine without it. There's a sort of power that comes with that, I feel.
      Wishing you all the best as you hit a quarter century, and thank you so much for responding! :-)

  2. Tonsure is also a Luhya tradition so it's very present within African spirituality. May your grandfather rest in peace.

    1. I remember learning about this while at high school! Turns out in Luhya tradition the process is called "Lovego" which means "To Shave" in Luhya ( ). I'm guessing it's pronounced (loh-veh-goh) but even the loose English translation , love-go, meaning love has gone, is so telling of death of a loved one. African spirituality really needs to be explored and curated better. May he rest in eternal peace Patricia.

    2. Thank you so much Nafula, I really appreciate that.

      And Anon, I love that "lovego" Luhya and English meanings. Thanks for sharing! Much love to you both!

  3. May your Guka Rest in Peace. I had a big chip a week ago and actually I do It oftenly and mine is to Let negativity and toxic things go away. And it feels so fresh

    1. Thank you Nonsizi!

      And you do it often, huh? I love that! I used to as well, then thought about growing my hair out, than after making significant headway, decided to just let it all go again!

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hey Patricia, am deeply sorry about your grandpa. I've always thought you look amazing with short hair. Personally i'd love to try the big chop just to try something new..... but i'm not sure what pulls me back.

    1. Thanks Sarah! :-)

      I think maybe it just could be the fear of something new, something you've never done before. It's valid, but I say maybe that should be reason enough to go ahead and do it. And at the end of the day, hair does grow back, trust! You have a beautiful smile, I'm sure you'll rock the big chop well if you do go ahead.
      Have a lovely day!

  5. This post came at the right time,did a chop yesterday that I consider my biggest and first ever since I started growing natural hair,eight inches to be exact.I was so sure about the decision but when I saw falling to the floor my heart nearly stopped.I suddenly had mixed feelings and wasn't sure anymore.i then quitely whispered to the hair dresser that I needed to shut my eyes for a few minutes.I opened my eyes and could not recognize myself,I looked and felt so I was brand new.That aside a cut my hair because I needed to start a fresh,a bit of change and grow healthy hair.I'm so looking forward to start this journey and have fun in the process.

    1. Oh wow!
      Yay for the big chop! Man, 8 inches is a lot but after all is said and done, I'm sure feeling brand new must feel so good! Well in! II do hope you get the fresh start that you needed! Have lots of fun!

  6. I cut my hair for the first time in Standard One after getting 'mashillingi' (this chop was not intentional though. Haha). I cut my hair again in high school after it just started falling off. But this year, I cut it ALL off. Best decision I ever made. I got bolder (it takes guts to walk around bald) and developed a 'signature look' (I have a curved cut on the side of my cut and an undercut too) Wishing you all the best now that you have shed the hair and negativity off! :)

    1. Wow! You must be such a presence when you walk into a room, I can feel it just by your comment!
      Your hair cut must be really dope!

      Thanks for sharing and hopefully I'll get to bump into you sometime, I'd love to see your signature look!

  7. I am sorry for your loss Pat

    I chopped my hair when I was in high school for the first time when I lost my sister because she was the only person who did my hair after my Mom's departure.

    So each time I went to the coiffeur I would cry & think of her. But I now have my locks on for 21Months now because I thought she would love to see my long hair if she was around.

    Thank you Girl.

  8. So sorry for your loss Patricia. From that pic your grandpa must have been one of the very few men you can describe as sweet. I see where you get your heart from. And I hope I'm blessed to look half as good as he did at that age. RIP grandpa.
    Oh, and you look amazing btw.

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  10. FEBRUARY 23, 2019 AT 8:02 AM
    I lost the Martriach in our family one year ago, 25th Feb is the anniversary.
    We exchanged many phone calls in our life together.
    You see she was my mother's mother, who took care of me when I was born because my mother had to be elsewhere.

    And as my love for her blossomed over the years, I never saw her for her age. She was 84 at the time of passing. She was kind, and when my mother left me with her, she gave me my name, after her own brother who had passed on the same year I was born.
    She was also my mother. I loved her. Beyond measure.

    When you talk about your grand father in the way he would speak to you, that speaks to me. It almost feels like I missed a chance to show total love for my grandmother, the one I loved beyond all else. Who gave me a name and mothered me before I came to my senses.
    I still grieve a year on, I don't know why this woman's love matters so much.

    But I know love has its own sake, love.

    May God RIP them


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