If you ask most women what one of their worst fears are, other than maiming and death, invariably most say it’s losing their hair.
With good reason.
Women’s beauty is linked to their hair. We spend ass tons of money, time, and effort on it. Perms, dying, cutting, blow-outs, extensions, all the shit. We’ve been obsessed with it for nearly as long as we’ve been alive to have hair.
It’s not just women who care about women’s hair either. Men are often all up in that biz too. Ages ago, in my piddly community college days, a fellow student by the name of Mike would flirt with me before art history class. I wasn’t interested in the least, but hey, my fragile ego didn’t mind. At the time, I had my long blonde hair permed. It’s the only time anyone has ever liked my hair. I’m dead serious, but we’ll get into that later. And yeah, I know you’re thinking, “A perm? Who the hell likes perms?” But seriously, you don’t even know.
By now my perm had started to grow out, as perms are wont to, so I chopped that mofo off. I went to school the next day, my long locks neatly shorn into the same shaggy pixie I’ve been cursed to habitually sport, (even now as I write this blog). I walked to class, waiting for the teacher to unlock the door. Mike was there.
His eyes were saucers. No. Fucking dinner plates.
“What did you do!?” He exclaimed in actual horror. It was like I’d drop-kicked a kitten in front of him. I looked at him in confusion, wondering what he meant. “Your hair!” He gestured, quick to point out the offense.
“Oh!” I chirped, happy to know what he was carrying on about. “I cut it!”
“Yes but…WHY?!” It was the most italicized “why” I’ve ever heard. And it was the last thing he ever said to me.
Not one more word. Ever.
So yeah. Point is, everyone cares about women’s hair. Everyone.
And that’s where I have a problem.
I don’t have a lot of it.
I’ve always had very fine hair. I blame my follicle sucking evil twin who stole so many nutrients in the womb from me that she was a full two pounds heavier at birth.
We’re fraternal, and she grew up with the thick, dark, lustrous hair of a goddess, something she was quick to lord over me. I, however, had thin, fine, blonde wisps that my mother kept short for years because even she thought my hair was too thin. Hair only gets thinner with age, so time has not been kind to me.
I’ve done what I could with it. I’ve permed it (a short-lived but semi successful period in my hair history), grown it out, and then ultimately realized I had no choice but to chop it off, to the chagrin of Mikes everywhere.
I know it’s a bit silly to go on about this. There are people with real, valid problems. People with cancers and tragedies and natural disasters, all of which would make a better article than this. But this has been my stupid little cross to bear from the very beginning. I’m not bald or anything, and if I do a ton to it, I can definitely lessen the look of my thin hair, but not by a lot. You can always see my scalp through my hair and when it gets wet…well, I might as well be bald then.
Here, have a look. See how tiny that ponytail is? Sheesh.
Every time I got my hair cut, the stylist would exclaim over how thin it was. As though I’d never looked in a damn mirror. “Your hair is so thin!” If I ever hear those five fucking words again, I’m going to shank someone with their own scissors. The stylist would then proceed to try to sell me every product under the sun and blow dry my short hair into a style that could only be described as the lovechild of a mushroom and a 90’s third grade teacher.
Fugly. But, admittedly, voluminous.
The stylists were bad enough, but the people around me were worse. I used to teach kids at church (back when I used to very grudgingly go), and one of them was talking to her friend in the hall about me, laughing about how thin my hair was. I went home and cried my eyes out. Then, the next week, I bluntly told her how her words had hurt me because kids need to know actions have consequences. She looked mortified. Good. Kids are shits.
My family was no better. My twin has regularly made fun of my hair through the years. Then, my aunt, for my birthday, decided to take me to a salon supply store to buy me thickeners for my hair. I did not ask for this, she just thought I needed it and had no second thoughts as to whether this was actually just a birthday insult rather than a present. A year ago, without asking, she also bought me a whole line of hair growth treatments costing some three hundred dollars, telling me she’d seen it on tv and thought of me. I promptly declined, so she had to eat the expense herself, to which I at least had a small bit of satisfaction. She’s also offered me her post cancer wig to keep because it would make my hair look, “so much better.” Fuck her. I mean, I’m glad she beat cancer, but fuck her anyway.
The sad thing is, when I dream at night, I always, and I mean always, have thick, beautiful hair. My own fucking subconscious refuses to admit I’m half bald.
Don’t get me started on the doctor, who, when I went in with bronchitis, went on and on about how I should get Rogaine for women. I didn’t ask him, didn’t bring it up. I was there for my cough, not his advice on my appearance. He pointed out how little hair I had and assumed that I would want his doctorly, asshole opinion. He even said that he had hair loss too and used the treatments with great results. Then, he finished, “But that’s just me. I’m vain though. I actually care how I look.” Meaning, of course, that I must not care about my own appearance. I went home and cried after that one too. Haven’t been back.
Not long after, my gynecologist wrote in my chart that I had alopecia. First off, I do? No one ever told ME that. Second, what does my head have to do with my vagina? Stick to your region lady.
So, surely you get where I’m going with this by now? People are dicks and apparently thick hair is everything.
Then one day I got fed up. I have devoted so much agony and despair and tears over something I cannot control. I mean, I could get chemicals that would make my hair thicker. Until they gave me cancer and my hair fell out anyway from chemo! And the idea of wearing an itchy uncomfortable wig makes me want to scream. I shouldn’t have to hide my head because I don’t look like everyone else. How is that fair? If my hair keeps thinning like it has, I’ve determined to embrace the bald. I won’t be happy about it, but what choice do I have? I told my sisters this a couple years ago and they gaped at me. Just. Gaped. It was so awkward. There I was, apparently drop kicking kittens again. They were looking at me just like Mike had.
I feel so alone in this. I know there are tons of women out there with thin or no hair. My other sisters (besides my thieving twin), don’t have a lot of hair either. But compared to me they’re fucking Rapunzels. Rarely, I’ll see someone with hair like mine out in the wilds of Ross, and I just want to run to her and say, “You’re like me! You’re like me! I’m so sorry!” and hug her until she has to club me with one of those cool ceramic elephants I’ve long had my eye on.
In the last five years or so, women have been buzzing their heads. You’d think that would excite me, right? I think they look fabulous. Sexy, powerful, amazing. But two things keep me from joining their badass ranks. First, they still have hair. It’s reeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaally short, but it’s there. You don’t see shiny scalp gleaming through, you see their tiny little baby hairs. It doesn’t count. Unless you get a venus razor and get rid of every last speck, they are not bald. Gorgeous, yes. Bald? No.
Second? They all seem to have symmetrical skulls. How the hell do they get so lucky? No one really knows what’s going on under their hair, but every time I’ve seen it done, they all have gloriously round, attractive domes that don’t make them look like they had a brick strapped to the back of their head throughout their formative years. Mine is probably from my wretch of a twin kicking me repeatedly in the womb.
So, very long, ranty story short, I’m screwed. Perms and hair treatments are full of carcinogens. I hate my hair but I’m pretty happy being cancer free, so I think I’ll avoid those. Wigs are fake, uncomfortable, and rage-inducing. Hats are silly. Fun, but silly. What’s a balding girl like me to do?
Well, I’ve decided I have to accept it. Do I really have a choice? I can take it kicking and screaming and crying my eyes out, or I can calm my shit and get over it.
I have my bad days and good days. I always feel like, when people meet me for the first time, I need to apologize for not having enough hair. I don’t actually do it, but I want to for some reason. I want to say, “I know, I know, I have thin hair. I’m so sorry everyone. It’s all my fault somehow. I should go live in a cave with all the other hideous people and let you surface dwellers bask in your full headed glory.” It’s a stupid, unhealthy reaction, but I promise, it’s the first thing that shoots into my mind when people see me.
But I can’t keep living this way.
Society has beaten women down in so many ways. If you’re over 35, you’re not sexy. If your body doesn’t look a certain way, you’re not sexy. If you don’t have thick hair, you’re not sexy. And if you’re not sexy?
As someone who hits all of these boxes, it’s been hard. I feel left out, forgotten. Because it sure as hell feels like the world has no place for women like me.
But you know what? Fuck them. I don’t know why I give a shit about what the world thinks. It is nothing but centuries of brain washing from media, peers and the cruel words of others. The world sucks. Why should I want to be accepted by it? Why do I need to be sexy anyway? Is there an actual, valid reason for being such? Sure, it’s nice to be able to attract someone, if that’s what you’re looking for, but guess what? I’ve already done that. And he thinks I’m beautiful. He says I have, “angel baby hair,” and tells me wonderful things that all people deserve to hear. He says if I go bald and have to shave my head he doesn’t care. He gets angry for me when others put me down, he picks up the pieces when I’m crying my eyes out. I should be strong enough to be fine even without his approval, but it’s been absolutely lovely to have.
But yeah. He’s literally the only one who has ever been supportive about my hair. No one else. Period. Why am I surprised, though? Society doesn’t care about anyone. Why the hell am I letting it have such power over my happiness? When has society ever gotten anything right? It has brought us racism, bigotry, misogyny, eating disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, and so much self-hate. Why do I give it that kind of power over myself? It’s like trying to impress the popular kid at school who wouldn’t spit on you if your head was on fire. Why break my back and give it my mental health and happiness when it wants nothing but to suck me dry? And why, as women, (men too), do we allow ourselves to feel like our worth is wrapped up in our physicality? We don’t owe anyone anything. No one has the right to dictate how I look. If you really think about it it’s absolutely ridiculous that we place the expectation on ourselves to look a certain way for strangers. I’m trying to live my fucking life, who cares what I look like? Am I a piece of art? No! I’m not put on this earth for the visual enjoyment of others. And yet, that’s what we’re basically told. We need to be pretty, we need to be sexy, we need to be young, so that others can look upon something pleasant.
Seriously, think about that again.
We put ourselves through hell so that others can look upon something pleasant.
This is wrong! This is vile! This is pure evil! And it’s killing us. It puts us at odds with each other. The judgements and the snark if we don’t live up to what others want of us! It makes us miserable, unhappy, depressed. And I’m sick of giving other people that kind of power over me.
So I don’t have a lot of hair, so what? I’ve got lots of great physical traits. Everyone does! We come in all shapes and variations and everyone has something beautiful about them. We need to look for that beauty, in others and in ourselves.
Most importantly, we need to start stripping society of its false power. Power that we willingly give it. It is society that dictates what is considered beautiful. And we buy into that. We literally pay money for it. We buy makeup and beauty treatments and clothes and plastic surgeries. We pump money into an industry that makes us hate ourselves. We are actually paying money to hate ourselves.
If you want to do your hair, or look a certain way or put effort into how you look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If that’s what YOU want to do. If you’re doing it because it makes YOU happy. If you’re doing it because you feel like shit without it, because you’re afraid of what others think, because you know you don’t match the poster child of perfect beauty that’s been stuck in our heads our whole lives? Then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. And that’s where we have problems. That is where our mental health suffers and we need to change this.
But I can’t do this by myself.
I can, however, make myself happy. I can ignore the tone deaf comments and criticism and rude looks. I can focus on the people that love me. On my supportive husband who sees beauty in me that I’m only just allowing myself to see. On my own self-worth and accomplishments, that I need to acknowledge better. I can focus on the beauty in others and be a safe and accepting haven for them.
If we all did this, if we all got rid of our superficial judgements and self-hate? We could change society forever. Because society is us. We are our own abusers, our own toxicity. And the only way we can stop it is to take ourselves out of the problem. Be the opposite of the hate and criticism. Be kind. Love yourself. Love others.
And, the next time you make the rare sighting of a woman with thin hair, out and about, perhaps even buying a ceramic elephant at Ross? Should you go inform her that her hair is thin? Point it out to her? Go on and on about how little she has? Don’t you dare fucking say a thing. Because I promise, she already knows.