Sunday, September 8, 2013

Who Needs Hair Anyway?

Alopecia areata is a funny little condition.  Being a bald woman elicits stares, questions, and concern for my health.  Overall there is nothing wrong with me health-wise.  My immune system, due to some trigger or some stress, just decided to attack my hair follicles, and now I'm bald.

These are the recent comments my family has received due to my baldness:

Hubby is at the grocery store with all the kids.  The cashier, full of concern says, "And how is your wife feeling? Is she doing OK?"

Hubby just says, "Yeah, she's great!  Thanks for asking." 

I was out of town recently, and my parents took the kids fishing.  There were two little kids there to play with the boys.

Number Two looks at the eight year old boy and says, "My Mommy is bald, did you know that?  My Mommy is bald!"

The 8 year old looks at Number Two with a scoff and says, "I'm not listening to a word you say."

Mostly my kids love the "awe" factor of having a mother without hair. 

Number One had a friend over, and I walked in wearing my baseball cap after a workout.  Number One says to me, "Mommy, take off your hat and show Max you're bald!" 

Nice way to put me on the spot, kid.

I don't mind being bald.  In so many ways it's easier than having hair.  My hair is only washed once a week, and then hung to dry.  It takes no time to get ready in the morning, because all I have to do is put the hair on and not waste any time on styling.  And on hot days, it's easy to make myself cooler by simply taking off my hair. 

The one thing I do miss is eyebrows.  I've been toying with the idea of having them tattooed on my face.  Not sure if I want to commit to that, and I haven't even started looking into prices yet.  But eyebrows round out your face.  They give a visual clue showing people where your face ends and your skull begins.  Without it, I sort of look alien! 

I hope perception of alopecia is changing. I hope people are becoming more aware of this condition, as it currently affects about 2% of the world's population.  In recent years, more research has been done and more attempts to spread the word about alopecia.  Because of its nature as a benign condition, funding is short and therefore a cure is still in the works.

Recently I've been reading Libra by Don DeLillo.  He describes David Ferrie, who was alleged to have been involved in the assassination of JFK.  Ferrie suffered from alopecia areata, as an adult. 

DeLillo states, "Ferrie suffered from a rare and horrific condition that had no cure.  His body was one hundred percent bald.  It looked like something pulled from the earth, a tuberous stem or fungus esteemed by gourmets." 

This description of someone with alopecia made me wince.  I almost want to write DeLillo and ask him why he chose to describe it this way.  Is it to make Ferrie out as a bad guy, some mutant?  I'm not far enough into the book yet to answer that question, but as a sufferer of alopecia I feel his description is harsh.

I'm pretty sure I don't look like some "tuberous stem," pulled from the ground.  I've accepted my
baldness, but still suffer when others feel the need to lower the self-esteem of people just because they're different.  And, I realize it's just a paragraph in a book, and I'm sensitive to it because I've suffered from this condition since I was a child, but I feel like his usage of words makes it seem like alopecia is akin to leprosy or something. 

I'll have to think longer about the eyebrows.  Would adding eyebrows to my face add or detract from the fact that I have no hair.  Do I even need them, or do I just want them because I haven't entirely accepted and become okay with the fact that I look different from everyone else?


  1. Don't you love how kids can put you on the spot, lol! My brother shaved off his eyebrows a long time ago (he had hair.) We couldn't wait until they grew back and we could definitely tell something was amiss (on him.) I'd suggest going to a make-up consultant and have them show you ways to draw them in. My eyebrows only grow a little and I have to draw them in the rest of the way. I had someone show me years ago another way that made them look more realistic. That's a less permanent way to see how you like the look. I think that adding eyebrows detracts from the fact that you have no hair...

  2. I don't know. I tried to draw them one time and they looked horrible. I think they only look good drawn on when you have a little hair there already! It blends in, and it doesn't look so fake.
    We'll see. I'm not so sure I'll ever get up the nerve to do it!

  3. Hi Lauren. I really appreciated this post. My 13-year-old son has alopecia areata and has had it since he was two. It had been such a journey and he finds it especially trying now that he's a teen. He has hair that comes and goes and we do our best to support him, no matter what kind of day he's having. It makes such a big difference knowing one is not alone. By the way, this is Rosanna Leo from Twitter. We just connected there recently. Love your pic. Beautiful.

  4. Rosanna, I had patchy alopecia as a child, and I know how hard it can be as a child struggling with this disorder. I agree with you, for the longest time, I thought I was alone. It's so great you are there for your son and showing him your support. There are Facebook groups, support groups, NAAF--lots of ways to connect with other alopecians. Just remember to tell him that he looks great the way he is. I had a hard time accepting the way I looked when I finally lost all my hair 3.5 years ago, and it took a lot of outside validation for me to think I looked okay without hair. Look me up on Facebook, and we can chat if you want!

  5. Thanks for your candour, Lauren. I applaud you for sharing your story. Will look you up indeed. :)


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