It’s Not All Vanity

I thought maybe I should document my hair changes. So I took these photos in September:
my thinning hair in september 2011

Maybe those don’t look so bad? But wait, it gets worse!

I feel like I can’t really talk about my hair loss without sounding like a vain, self-absorbed schmuck, but you’re lying if you say you’ve never worried about your appearance. I’m getting older and looking older, that’s just life. Things are wrinkling and sagging, and I’m just not as bright and shiny as I was in my 20’s, or even in my 30’s. In my head I still feel like a 12-year-old, but when I look in the mirror I feel old and unnecessary. Still I could fix my hair up and feel like a beautiful woman. But now even my hair is going! I feel like soon there will be nothing left to make me feel pretty or desirable. I feel so alone.

Yes, men go bald too. But that is socially acceptable. I know men must experience these kinds of feelings when their hair begins to thin. But the difference is male baldness is viewed as “normal” even sexy! As long as men don’t try to do anything crazy like a big comb-over, or a long ponytail in the back, baldness on a man can actually give him more credibility, making him appear distinguished or experienced, which can equal serious sex appeal. It doesn’t work the same for a woman. Baldness is not socially acceptable for women. Hell, growing older is not even socially acceptable for a woman! Picture a 44-year-old woman with a balding head and a 35-year-old woman with thick tempting locks of glorious hair, both at the same job interview. Which one gets the job? Which one is talked about later with snickering revulsion? Be honest.

‘A woman’s hair is her glory.’ Where did that crap come from? Oh yeah, the bible. This is how long this crap has been ingrained in us. But let’s not go down that road today.

Ok, so I already know what it’s like to be a young bald woman. I shaved my head for years…oh hello irony.

In my 20’s I shaved my head my because I liked it, because I was “punk rock,” and because I wanted to make a statement (to myself) that I didn’t need to hide behind hair to make me feel beautiful. And on more than one occasion, complete strangers (usually men) approached me at the bar, the grocery store, the bus stop, anywhere, and offered their unsolicited opinions, “You’re such a pretty girl, why would you do that to your head?” or “You’d be so much prettier if you had hair.” Those comments enraged me when I was young.

Now I’m haunted by them.

When I told my uncle that I was going bald he was pretty insensitive to my pain and anxiety. “Didn’t you used to wear a Sinead O’Connor cut? Don’t worry about your hair. Be happy.” That’s all he said. And as I started telling friends about my hair loss I received similar responses like, “I always thought your bald head was cute.”

Ok, so it’s not like I didn’t know my fashion choices were someday going to come back to bite me in the ass, but when I shaved my head I was 20, thin, and cute. Being bald does not up the cuteness points when you’re 44, wrinkling, and packing on a few extra pounds. At this point in my life, maybe I just want to blend in with “normal” for a change. I know my loved ones are just trying to be helpful and supportive, just like all the people suggesting the “good wigs they have these days.” Have you ever worn a wig? They are hot and itchy, and not really all that pleasant. And who swims in a wig? I picture myself on a gorgeous Hawaiian beach, with my “very good wig” floating out to sea.

I emailed some photos to a couple of my closest friends (see I told you it gets worse).

 One friend said it was hardly noticeable but that I should try Nioxin shampoo, one suggested Rogaine, and one said she liked me bald anyway. But the friend I’d known the longest had perhaps the most honest reaction. She never mentioned the hair loss, but simply suggested I start buying really cute hats, and sent me several links to hat stores. It honestly made me laugh a little, but it also made me sad. And then, of course I got mad about having to go through this at all. I thought about wearing a hat to professional functions, or job interviews. And what happens when someone thinks they’re funny and knocks the hat off my head…and then I have to try to make jokes to ease their discomfort at having been shocked by my bald head. Totally not worth all that trouble!

The day after the first dermatologist told me I was going bald I was almost an hour late to work. I just kept crying as I was trying to get ready. I didn’t think I was ever going to pull myself together. Having a bad hair day will forever mean something else to me now. When I finally got to work, I explained to my 25-year-old co-worker why I was late. She said I was silly and she couldn’t see any bald spots. (I guess I’m learning how to do a decent comb-over now.) I showed her these photos. The look on her face was all shock, and fear, and maybe worst of all…pity.

I got seriously depressed about my hair for a few weeks. I cried and slept a lot. I got angry. But I didn’t believe this was really happening to me (I still don’t believe it). So with hope in my heart, and a cute hat on my head I marched off to the endocrinologist.

[Next post: The Endocrinologist/ Hey what happened to my body hair? And Lupus testing. The fun continues…]
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