Alopecia - Part III of III
All photo cred goes to Misty Frampton
I had finally got my sorts together - well, as much as a 23-year-old girl can. I had done an extensive amount of research on my options as far as treatments went. I also had read stories and personal accounts on others like myself who had alopecia. I realized I have a much less extreme case than most people I had read about, but I felt connected and inspired, nonetheless. I definitely felt less alone. I had extra tests done and went and got more of the same opinions from different doctors. I talked with my sisters, my parents, my closest friends. And after a few weeks... I finally let my heart completely take over.
One night, I fell asleep wondering why simply choosing to be a woman with no hair/short hair/baldness is unacceptable in society today. My dreams whispered back to me: Because we make it unacceptable. I woke up thinking, I don’t want to participate in making it unacceptable. I got dressed telling myself that it was time to shine (literally?).
I drove to a barber shop wanting to take control of my life. Slowly watching my head lose its hair has been a slow, lengthy, painful, and emotional burying experience. I knew that if I did what I wanted, I had control. And that felt like power. That felt like acceptance.
I parked on the street. I got out of my car and walked along to the small shop I had Googled. I was wearing a dark spaghetti strap dress with pink patterned roses growing on its design. My heart started to flutter. I was starting to get nightmarish flashbacks to past salon experiences.
Naturally, salons were an uncomfortable setting for me. I recall watching hairdressers fingering through my hair through the mirror. Their faces were all the same, doubtful and uncertain. Definitely not pleased or excited. Whenever I had wanted a cut a certain way, they always pulled the other way (perhaps rightfully so). My worst memory surfaced and made me cringe. I had had a man who was to cut my hair simply tell me that my hair was too thin and that he didn’t feel comfortable cutting my hair. I walked out of that salon uncut, got into my car and cried in the parking lot. (I’m telling you guys, these parking lots are great crying environments, man…)
Doubt was making me hesitant. I stared at the front door of Stefahn’s Barber Shop. What if they looked at me funny when I asked to get my hair buzzed? What if they said that my hair was too thin for them to undertake the challenge? What if they asked me why I wanted to do it, and I had to tell them I had alopecia and then everything became weird?
I took a breath. Power.
I took a breath. Acceptance.
...And that acceptance had to start with me.
I opened the door to the quaint shop. I was suddenly surrounded by strangers. I told myself to play it cool. Two men were sitting down getting their hair cut. That left two empty seats. I wondered if I would I even get far enough in this interaction to get to sit down.
“Can we help you?” A man with glasses asked.
“Yes. Um,” I coughed quietly, “I’d like to buzz my head.”
“Dibs!” Someone called out. I was too shy and nervous to see who it was. A commotion stirred. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. It was full of “Alright”’s and “Awesome”’s. Everyone was excited, everyone wanted to cut my hair. Half a second ago I was nervous and anxious as hell. Suddenly I was totally pumped. I was told to hang up my jacket and backpack and have a seat.
Turns out, Stefahn’s Barber Shop ain’t no salon.
I sat down. Stefahn introduced himself and asked exactly what I was looking for. I took a breath and said: “I’m not ready to go bald just yet, but I don’t want to have to do a thing when I wake up in the morning. I’ll trust you with the rest.”
Throughout the haircut, I was already getting looks and compliments from the staff and customers alike. What it really was was an environment of encouragement and support. There was no "Hmm... Are you sure that's a good idea?" or "Why don't you think about it a bit more," questions and comments to try and stop me. The last few weeks had been hell. Suddenly sitting in the spinning chair, I felt like a champ.
Conversation was natural and easy going. Jokes about Tinder and references to movies I had never seen were thrown around. I felt so at home. I secretly wondered if it would be weird if I came back before my next haircut was due just to hang out.
One of the other barbers sat down and asked me why I had decided to cut my hair. I wondered if I should lie and just say, “Because I can fucking rock it. Duh.” But I felt safe, so I finally let it go. I told him I had alopecia. That I wasn’t losing my hair in crazy amounts or at a crazy rate, but that it was just emotionally, physically, and mentally easier to deal with my unique hair loss when I had little hair to lose in the first place.
Then I waited. I was waiting for the typical reactions I had gotten in the last few weeks:
- I couldn’t tell. Are you sure you actually have alopecia? You look fine to me…
- Did you look into treatments? It’s treatable, right?”
- Have you considered wigs?
- Is that a type of cancer? Are you dying?
- Oh. I’m so sorry. That’s so sad. I’m so sorry. That’s...really sad. I'm so SO sorry.
“Man, that sucks. A buddy of mine had that. Well, the buzz looks great."
Done. Done. And done. I smiled, and then we kept talking about this and that. Sometimes I chimed in. Sometimes I just listened. I laughed when the razor tickled my neck and ears. I wasn’t used to it.
But I liked it.
I don’t know if it was the haircut, but I can certainly say that a large part of how happy I was walking out was because of that shop and everyone inside it. I felt like this weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt like things were going to be better than just okay. I felt like myself again, with a side of alopecia, and an extra order of a badass buzzcut that I was rocking.
And then I never worried about alopecia again. I gained all the self confidence possible to have in a lifetime. I never let insecurities weigh me down. My dating life was off the wall. I fucked society in the ass and did what I wanted without a care. I owned life like a boss and even now sometimes I don’t even wear clothes in public because I don’t care if I’m normal or fit in at all. Let ‘em judge, I know i’m goddamn beautiful inside and out. All natural, baby.
Actually, honestly… I’m still embarrassed about having a disease and hesitant to bring it up. I’m embarrassed that this specific disease robs me of what society (myself included) considers powerful, feminine, beautiful, and healthy. I'm nervous that my dating pool just became a lot smaller due to having alopecia and choosing not to hide it.
*Note* This worry about dating with alopecia prompted me to write, "Everybody's Scared." I was nervous about finding a man who would love me for who I was, so I wrote about a man loving me despite having lovely flowing hair. There is a line from that piece that probably makes more sense. I ask my fictional romantic interest, "If I told you that everything I am is real but not always pretty, would you still have walked me home?”
The patches of my imminent baldness are much more obvious now, though I like it. Still, I wonder what I will feel like when those patches migrate, grow, and become more aggressive (if they do at all). Also, a part of me wishes I could say that I just cut my hair boy-short because I wanted to be a boss and rock it. I wish my true reply was, “Because life is too short” or “Why the hell not?” But being diagnosed with alopecia was definitely what sparked my lovely visit to Stefahn’s Barber Shop.
In all honesty, I had planned on not writing about this. Not sharing it with the public eye. At least that was the plan until I was talking to one of my little sisters on the phone and she said, “You’re being so brave. And it’s so great that you’re a writer too. I’ll bet there are a lot of girls/women/boys/men out there who are embarrassed or ashamed about their appearance for whatever reason… I bet they feel alone, and I bet your writing will help them...inspire them...make them feel like they aren’t on their own. Help them embrace their imperfections.” It meant a lot coming from her, as she has her own war with society as a homosexual. Her and her girlfriend still struggle everyday to find a place in society where they can be happy and worry-free. I had always considered her brave, and for her to think the same of me was an honor.
I’m not saying that my writing will inspire women and men who are ashamed about their “problems” or “shortcomings,” but i’m not not saying that my writing will inspire women and men who are ashamed about their “problems” or “shortcomings.” *Reference*
What I’ve always hoped my writing would do is make people feel less alone. I’ve hoped that it would be something they could relate to whether I write about wondering where the love of my life is and why he is taking his damn time in finding me, a shitty day at work, a new job, a new city... I just always hope my writing is something that allows others to feel emotions other than loneliness.
I also hope that readers understand that my method of coping, buzzing and writing, isn’t everyone’s method. Buzzing my head wasn’t “I’m a badass, i’m going to embrace who I am,” thing. It was the answer to the never ending question I always ask myself: “What makes me happy?” For some, maybe fitting in a bit more, in a quieter way is the answer or maybe taking an even further extreme method will be the key. Who knows? I certainly don’t.
Believe me, in the last few weeks… after spilling my hairless guts on the table, friends and family have unloaded their own insecurities into the mix. Whether it was teeth, age spots, a nose, or freckles...I never thought about how all of us have these things we don’t like about ourselves that eat away at us. It made me sad when I realized how much we focus on where we feel we lack. I only wish those who told me about what they would change about themselves realize how special and beautiful and amazing they are to me. If only my friends, family, and even strangers I passed by on the street alike knew how they overwhelmed me on a normal Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon with something beautiful and unique about them...
This isn’t my creed to convince people to stop hiding their insecurities, to embrace their inner self… This is simply me admitting that i’m not perfect (surprise?). This is me not necessarily liking or loving myself, but accepting myself. Or woah, woah...I’m not there yet, but at least, I feel like i’m on my way to learning to accept myself. And I really don’t think I can ask much more from me at the moment.
So. Here’s to another challenge in my life. Another chapter or another adventure, so to speak. I have alopecia. I am also a bit socially awkward sometimes. And in both, I am not alone.
Thanks to everyone for their love, support, encouragement, acceptance, patience, and attempts to humor me when I needed love, support, encouragement, acceptance, patience, and to be humored. You all are lovely.