The Terror Of Cutting Long Black Hair Kept Her Up At Night

I struggled to let go of my long Black hair — even though I knew I had to.

Nia Simone McLeod
5 min readMar 18, 2022


Two women with long, curly hair in white tank tops look into the camera.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

As I held the gray shears, moments away from cutting the hair I’d spent five years growing, my hands began to quiver. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. My large halo of kinks and coils was haphazardly sectioned into parts, each bonded by a multi-colored hair tie.

A tear fell down my cheek, like I was breaking up a long-standing friendship — because I was.

The first time I realized the quality of my hair was declining I felt betrayed. I had just taken out 6-week old box braids. I looked in the mirror at my impromptu braid out, sprinkled with lint and curl pudding residue, and noticed I could see straight through it.

My eyes widened almost cartoonishly. My afro, my mane, my crown, was thinning.

I started washing my hair and tried to forget about what I’d just witnessed. But I couldn’t help wondering where I went wrong: Did I leave the box braids in for too long? Is my work stressing me out to the point where I’m losing my hair? Am I allergic to that growth oil I just bought from Walmart?

I first thought about cutting my hair during that wash day. But, my hair, having grown way past my shoulders, was longer than ever. It made my stomach turn to have to sacrifice that length. All those years we’d spent together would have been for nothing.

My hair and I had been through it all. We laughed together after I took out my Bantu knots and looked more like Cynthia from Rugrats and less like I Decided-era Solange. We cried together after a boy I was dating made fun of my “nappy” edges, once straight and swooped by Eco Styler gel, and how they didn’t mesh with my wavy wig.

I couldn’t let it go. Not yet.

I began wearing more protective styles, like wigs and braids. I rarely wore my natural hair out. I successfully forgot about the declining quality of my hair until a particular two-strand twisting session months later.

While twisting up a section of my hair, I found a bald spot near my edges. Fueled by a flash of red-hot anger, I threw the container of curl pudding across the room…



Nia Simone McLeod

Freelance writer covering pop culture, creativity, race + other fun stuff | she/her | Subscribe to my newsletter: