Friday, September 18, 2009

I know the rules.

When I go to a job interview, I always wear a suit. I wear nice shoes, even if they hurt my feet. Sometimes I get a manicure.

What I struggle with is the neat, professional hairstyle, because I don’t have hair.

Sure, I could wear my wig. That’s what I used to do years ago, back when I wore wigs, back when I hid behind my wig and nobody even knew I had alopecia.

But the $3,500 wig has been packed in a shoebox since 2002, the year I walked away from everything I knew and joined the Peace Corps.

It wasn’t easy. I struggled with the change from fancy hairpieces and wigs to bandannas and scarves.

Some of the volunteers thought I had cancer, as if the Peace Corps would have accepted an active chemo patient into service. They didn’t ask me about it, they asked my friends.

Some of the people in my small, volcanic island town thought I was hiding Rapunzel hair under the bandanna. “What’s your hair like under there?” they’d ask. “Is it long and beautiful?” I’d roll my eyes, throw a sideways glance their way, try to laugh it off. But I wasn’t laughing.

I wasn’t laughing when a photographer instructed me to remove the bandanna for my official permanent residence ID card photo. I wasn’t laughing when a Peace Corps doctor said I would probably want to wear a wig to the baile (dance), and not the bandanna. I wasn't laughing when an airline employee bumped me out of the first class cabin because he thought my nice headscarf wasn't dressy enough for the buddy pass dress code. I wasn't laughing when another airline employee looked at my driver's license photo with the wig, and then looked at me with the scarf, and said I looked better before.

There were times I would have given anything to have my wig back. There were times I wished I hadn't made the change to scarves.

But, gradually, I got used to the look, along with the comments and questions and challenges that came with it. Today I am the girl with the scarves, and I like it that way. I couldn't go back to wigs now.

But are headscarves appropriate job interview attire?

Maybe if you have cancer.

And therein lies the dilemma.

If I wear the scarf and don’t mention it, the interviewers will think I have cancer. They’re not supposed to ask about that kind of thing, but they will make assumptions—assumptions that affect me and my chances for proceeding to the next round or getting that job offer.

If I wear the scarf and do mention it, things get awkward fast. I’m talking about personal, private, medical stuff that’s not typically discussed in the interview format. It’s like saying, by the way, I have a wart on my big toe, and I just thought you should know that upfront.

It’s not that I mind talking about it. I just wonder whether or not I should. I wonder how to approach it. And I wonder if maybe I’m making things harder for myself when I don’t have to.

And yet.

If I were to wear the wig, I would feel like I had sold out. And that’s exactly what I’m trying not to do.

How will the world ever accept women without hair if nobody steps up and demands acceptance?

How will the world ever get used to women without hair if there are no women willing to present themselves without hair?

And really, would I even want to work for a place that wouldn't allow me to wear scarves to the office? Would I want to work in a place where the range of acceptable images didn't include my scarf look?

I need to figure this out fast. My next "interview" is coming up, an oral examination by a panel of experts about my knowledge, skills and abilities in healthcare communications.

I need a plan. I've got my ideas, but I'm open to yours. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Picnics and Lunches and TV Segments, Oh My

On Monday, my alopecia support group held its annual picnic. It’s the one time of year when the Denver alopecians get together with the families, bald adults with bald children, the patients with Dr. Norris, a prominent researcher in the field. I think this is my fourth picnic with the group, and every year I get something new out of it.

One year, Dr. Norris suggested that alopecians probably should steer clear of immunity boosting products such as Airborne. That’s because alopecia is an autoimmune disease, meaning that our immune system is already working on overdrive fighting our hair. The last thing we need is an artificial immunity boost.

Another year, Dr. Norris said he’d never seen an alopecia patient with skin cancer. Not that he was recommending sunbathing without sunscreen or spending your days in the tanning booth—we all know that’s bad. It was more of an observation—but an interesting one. What does it mean? Who knows.

Research on alopecia continues; that’s what I heard from Dr. Norris this year.

But that’s not what made an impact on me this year. Instead, it was a side conversation that sticks with me.

I was talking to some people about the Bald Girls Do Lunch segment on the Today show in late July. Bald Girls Do Lunch is a nonprofit whose mission is to help women with alopecia cope, gain confidence, and feel a sense of community—primarily by bringing them together at lunches, dinners, and events. Let’s face it, there is no cure. No promising new treatments. Not yet anyway. Bald Girls Do Lunch helps women cope effectively today.

Now, this is a group whose mission aligns with mine.

Anyway, we’re at the picnic and I bring up the segment.

“I loved it!” I say. “Finally, we’re getting some good exposure for alopecia.”

Others chime in. We smile. We high five. We celebrate. We always celebrate positive media impressions for alopecians—especially one of this magnitude. The Today Show. Wow. And what a message! Normally, television coverage focuses on getting the bald girl into some sort of wig. Not that there’s anything wrong with a wig, Lord knows I spent my share of time in one.

“But,” says a woman whose grown daughter has had alopecia for years, whose daughter experienced re-growth through three pregnancies only to lose her hair again, whose daughter isn’t even at the picnic because she lives in another state, “They looked so happy.”

“Yes,” I smile. Happy alopecians. Isn’t that great?

“They didn’t even say they were devastated,” she says.

“No,” I shake my head, still smiling. They sure didn’t say that. Hallelujah.

“They didn’t say that every day of their lives they wake up and they’re devastated,” she says.


I suggest that maybe these ladies really are okay with it now. Maybe they used to be devastated but aren’t anymore. Maybe they feel better when they're with other people.

"But they aren't being honest," she says.

I confess that I don’t wake up every day and feel bad about my hair loss. Not now, not 17 years after the bald spot that started my total loss of scalp hair.

She couldn’t see that. She really felt that an opportunity was lost, an opportunity to convey the emotional toll that alopecia takes.

And she’s right.

Later that night, Dr. Norris commented about the emotional toll of alopecia, especially on women. He said he thinks this part of the disease is largely ignored, goes largely untreated.

And he’s right.

When my hair started to fall out, I remember crying myself to sleep every night. I stopped looking in mirrors. I refused to be in pictures. I didn’t talk about it. I closed myself off in ways I can only now see, many years later, many years after finally accepting my fate.

I think alopecia will always be an emotional disease as much as a physical one.

But…devastation isn’t a state any reasonable person wants to maintain. Devastation isn’t a healthy state of being. It just isn’t. At some point, you have to accept a life without hair.

Sure, some people get their hair back. I saw a few such people at the picnic. And they looked great. But that’s not what most of us are facing. We’re facing a life without hair.

And there are worse things in life than losing hair. Really. I can name several, real-life things that happened to people I know just this year.

So, I choose to accept my hair loss—embrace it, even. I choose to examine my life without hair, to share my experiences and observations with other people, to educate as many people as possible, and to do my part in creating a world where women do not have to feel such devastation over losing their hair. At least not over the long-term.

That’s all I can do.

And maybe—just maybe—in my lifetime I will get to see a shift in thinking about bald women.

I'm not sure this particular woman from the picnic will be among those who make that shift. But you never know. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not sure why I look so flustered. Can't be the scarf--it's one of my faves, made by Mom just for me, a perfect option for dress-up and casual events, a perfect choice for summer or winter. I can only guess that the look on my face is in response to the abundance of zucchini that has suddenly taken over my life. Parmesan crusted zucchini rounds, anyone? Chocolate zucchini bread? Zucchini omelettes? Zucchini lasagne? Just how much can you do with zucchini? I'll let you know in a couple of weeks.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bald? So What

Sunday, July 19, was the first National Bald Out Day, organized by Mary Marshall (pictured here) of San Diego.

The idea was to encourage people without hair to come out of the wig closet for one day. The benefits were two-fold. By shedding their wigs, bald people—especially women—would increase awareness about hair loss. But also, for bald women, going out in public without their wig, their crutch, could be empowering.

How did I celebrate National Bald Out Day? Not by baring my bald head. It’s not that I didn’t support the effort. I did. I do. It sounded like a great cause.
Every now and then I consider parading around in my bare head. Okay, parading sounds a bit flamboyant for me. Every now and then I consider skulking around without anything covering my bald head—no scarf, no hat, no wig. I think about it. I even threaten to do it someday. But I don’t actually do it.

Back when P!nk launched her singing career and her rebel image, I thought the epitome of freedom was pink hair. Sporting pink hair was like an “up yours” to conformity. A freshly minted MBA at the time, I was knee deep in conformity. Corporate recruiters insisted they wanted out-of-the-box thinkers, creative problem solvers, innovative business leaders who refused to do things the way they’d always been done. But show up in a suit, please. Don’t wear any gaudy costume jewelry. No nose rings or pink hair, for God’s sake. I was the queen of conformity then, with my Ann Taylor and Jones New York outfits, my one piercing in each ear, and my shoulder-length, auburn hair, styled conservatively. I was Christy with the auburn hair, only my auburn hair wasn’t my own. It was a wig. An expensive, human hair, vacuum seal, custom-fit wig designed to look natural. That wig helped me feel normal. But deep inside I longed to show up at work with pink hair. I couldn’t do it.

Today I could do it. But pink hair is no longer the epitome of freedom to me. Now it’s a bald head. And I can’t do it.

While island hopping around Greece after college, my naïve American eyes noticed something different about the women on the beaches: they were topless. Skinny women, fat women, old women, young women, exotic women, even mustached and bearded women paraded—yes, paraded around the white sand in bikini bottoms and bare torsos. I envied their freedom. I wanted a piece of it, to feel it, if only for just a day. Every morning I told myself, “This is the day I will go topless in Greece.” And every day I put on my bikini top, or my one-piece bathing suit. Nobody—not one person in Santorini, Paros, or Mykonos—cared what I wore on the beach. But I cared.

I said I was worried about tan lines. The topless women in Greece had tanned torsos, the result of being unencumbered by a need for tops on the beach. When I glanced across black sand or blue waters, I couldn’t immediately tell the difference between the men and women. I just saw a sea of bronzed bodies in colorful bikini bottoms. If I went topless, well…that would be different. I’d have a white stripe across my chest. Whereas they blended in, I would stand out.

I said I was worried about blistering my virgin skin. I’d had sunburns before, and I said I just couldn’t risk another bad burn on my white, white skin.

Now I say the same about my scalp. I couldn’t possibly bare my naked scalp, because I’m worried about tan lines. I have tan lines on my forehead from wearing a bandanna. I might blister the virgin skin of my scalp.

The truth is, I’m just not free enough to take this step. It’s still out of reach.
For now.
But I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to parade around town without anything covering my head and say, "Sure, I'm bald. So what?!"

© 2009 Christy Bailey

pañuelo of the day: Monday, August 3, 2009

Okay, this wasn't taken today, and it's not a pañuelo, it's a fuzzy hat. But it's an important hat, because it's what I sleep in every night. Yes, even in the summer. I'm on the right side of the photo, and that's Dee on the left, on our girls vacation last September.

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, August 2, 2009

Again, I like the darker scarves as opposed to the lighter ones. But Mom found this fabric and whipped up this scarf, and it does match some of my clothes, so...I still wear it.

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, August 1, 2009

This is another scarf made with love by Mom. Thank God for Moms.

pañuelo of the day: Friday, July 31, 2009

The sun finally came out again today, and I couldn't wait to soak it up.
This scarf is from Coldwater Creek. I bought it at last year's summer clearance sale. They had tons. It wasn't cheap, maybe $7 at deep discounted prices. But still, it's fun, and I do like pink.

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, July 30, 2009

This brown and blue and khaki scarf was made by Mom. I like the darker scarves best, but this one does match a whole lot of clothes.

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, July 29. 2009

This black-and-white bandanna scarf is from Hobby Lobby.
Just in case you're wondering, the background is a painting of Yellow Dog, may he rest in peace. Greg Johnson painted the portrait. I can connect you to him if you're interested in commissioning a portrait of your beloved pet. He's good.

Friday, July 31, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This black-and-white scarf was another Mom purchase. And speaking of Mom, that's her on the right. She probably won't like that I put her picture in here, but I get tired of the solo photos. We're at a restaurant celebrating June and July birthdays with friends and a couple of margaritas.

pañuelo of the day: Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 2 of Housesitting at Amy's. The scarf is a green Hobby Lobby bandanna.

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, July 26, 2009

Today I started a housesitting gig at my friend Amy's house. Nice pond, huh?
The pink scarf came from Mom. It's a casual hangout scarf, probably purchased at Goodwill or a resale shop.

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, July 25, 2009

BBQ! Today I saw a bunch of Colorado friends at an evening cookout party. Of course, it rained. And I was still hobbling. But it was great to see people. Joanne gave me the new chile pepper scarf. Not sure where she got it. Guess I should have asked.

pañuelo of the day: Friday, July 24, 2009

Another long day, followed by a big rest on the couch. Scarf? This pink-and-blue number is one of my favorite workout and hangout scarves. I think Mom bought it, but I have no idea where from. Maybe she'll check the blog and fill us in.

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, July 23, 2009

This is another work scarf: browns and black, made by Mom. Perfect for a day of meetings.

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Today was the big interview day, and I wore the famous black scarf. But afterwards, when I was breathing a sigh of relief that it was over, I rested in another new scarf, a Mom purchase from Goodwill. I had trouble capturing the blue and green on the bottom, so I put in two photos.

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Of course, Mom gifted me with new scarves the minute I stepped into Colorado. This one is my new favorite. I think she got it at Goodwill, or at a resale shop. As I understand it, the scarf was much bigger when she purchased it. But Mom is clever with a sewing machine. So she cut the material in half and made two scarves: one for me and one for my niece Lindsey. Love the blues!

pañuelo of the day: Monday, July 20, 2009

We made it! Here I am in Broomfield, Colorado, resting at my sister's house. I look pretty worn out. And I am. Luckily, we made good time and arrived before the big storm, which did millions of dollars in damage to the area.
The scarf is one Mom bought at Goodwill.

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, July 19, 2009

Still driving, clearly. This time from Springfield to Salina, Kansas. I don't recommend this driving was way too long a day.
The scarf is a Hobby Lobby bandanna. Much cuter than yesterday, but I may have been more tired.

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, July 18: 2009

This is me on the road, driving from DC to Springfield, Missouri. I'm at the Holiday Inn, with Mom, my travel angel. She helped me with the driving, since I was suffering from a sprained ankle. Still am, nearly two weeks later. What can I say? It was a bad sprain.
Anyway, the scarf is a Hobby Lobby camouflage bandanna.

Friday, July 17, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Friday, July 17, 2009

Mom made this scarf. If I look dead tired in this photo, it's because I am dead tired. I'll try for a better look tomorrow.

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, July 16, 2009

This is another Hobby Lobby scarf, a blue-and-purple one. I had to take two photos so you could see the pattern, though with the poor lighting, you can't see much of the purple. Or maybe that's just my computer screen. Or my tired eyes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I think this red flowery scarf is a Hobby Lobby find, back when Hobby Lobby made scarves a little bigger. I can't be sure. All I know is: It matches my cute red shirt perfectly, and I have a mojito in my hand, so life is good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Comfortable in My Own Skin

When I made the transition from wigs to scarves, I remember being uncomfortable. I did not look people in the eye; I studied the floor, the ceiling, the space just beyond someone’s shoulder. I remember wishing I were invisible, that I could blend into the background, that the earth would swallow me up.

What I didn’t know then, but know now, is that everyone knew it.

I signed up for the Peace Corps knowing I would have to let go of my anonymity. I saw the video, the girl who says all the unwanted attention is a little much sometimes. I got it. I was okay with it. In my interview, I repeatedly said, “No problem” to everything they threw my way. Extra attention? No problem. Unwanted attention? No problem. I was going to stand out, and it wasn’t a problem.

And it wasn’t—eventually. I got used to being recognized, followed, stared at, and yes, even complimented. I even grew to like it, to need it, to crave it. I enjoyed being the It Girl in town. Sometimes I miss it, even now, seven years after my arrival in Honduras, five years since my return.

But those first few days, with my naked scalp wrapped in a scarf, just a scarf, only a scarf—I felt so exposed. I felt it, but I didn’t know that people could see it. I didn’t know how obvious it was, how visible, until a month ago, when I was tagged in a photo posted on Facebook, by a fellow volunteer, from the very first day in country.

And then I saw it, so clearly, a woman I didn't even recognize anymore, the me I used to be before I was comfortable in my own skin.

Day 1 in Honduras
The shift from wig to scarf, just a scarf, only a scarf

A bright swatch of fabric, announcing my entrance into a room
The scarf was looser, lower on my forehead
Perhaps I tie it tighter now
But that’s not why I look so different
I hold my arms close to my center
As if to protect myself
From what? I can’t recall
The girl in this photo looks both ways when she steps into a room
She doesn’t look people in the eye
She has erected walls
She is me, but she isn’t me
I don’t know this girl anymore

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This scarf is a great summer option. It's lightweight and a fun summery color. Mom picked the fabric and sewed this one, and then we shopped for days to find matching outfits. Tip: Browns are hard to match. Bring the scarf with you to your favorite clothing store.

pañuelo of the day: Monday, July 13, 2009

This is a blue Hobby Lobby scarf, which I sported here in Northern Virginia while I limped and hobbled and rested. A whole day without driving. Ahhh.

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another staged photo, taken today of the bandanna scarf I wore on the drive from upstate NY to Northern Virginia on Sunday. I call this scarf my Harley bandanna, even though I got it at Hobby Lobby, which is pretty much the opposite of a Harley store.
I'm waiting on a photo of me applying the RICE treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I wouldn't normally want to share this type of photo with the world (and I won't if it turns out bad), but it was taken of me and little Anna, an adorable four-year old who was fascinated by my swollen and bruised ankle. So fascinated that she insisted on wrapping her leg in my Ace bandage, and icing her foot alongside me. I hope it comes soon, and it's good, so I can post it. (For now, use your imagination.)

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another staged photo: This is the dress and scarf I wore to a fancy dinner out in Saratoga Springs with friends Saturday night. Only, it took so much energy to hobble around that there was none left for photo taking.

As for the scarf, I have to be honest. I have no idea where this one came from. I'm assuming Mom gave it to me, but I'm not sure if she got it from Goodwill, or from a box of old clothes she meant to give to Goodwill but never did. Maybe she'll respond and enlighten us.

pañuelo of the day: Friday, July 10, 2009

Okay, this is where the staged photos begin. On Thursday night, I sprained my ankle. And no, I don't have a great story. I was standing, then I was falling, then I was hobbling. I've been hobbling ever since. Of course, I kept moving, from idyllic Southern Vermont (site of accident) to upstate New York. But somehow, taking a photo seemed to be where I had to draw the line. I can assure you, however, that this brown scarf, made by my Mom, was the one I wore on Friday, with this very shirt. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit the photo was taken today, back in Northern Virginia.

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, July 9, 2009

At Ben & Jerry's for the tour, the graveyard of retired flavors, a scoop of peanut butter cookie dough, and some spin art. A worthwhile excursion.

This is my purple scarf, a favorite for casual and dressup. Mom made it, or maybe it was Denise? Either way, I hope it never goes to the graveyard. Ever.

Peace, Love & Icecream...Now this is my kind of place.

Chocolate peanut butter cookie dough went to the graveyard? What?!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The scarf is a black-and-white sunburst print from Coldwater Creek. When I don't have a perfect color match, I just pair a shirt with a black-and-white print and black pants.
As for my podium look, that's going to take some work.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Benefit of Not Having Hair #6: Prep Time

I don't think I've ever been more exhausted than I am here at my MFA residency. It's not just the schedule; it's the emotional drain of sharing open wounds with each other. That's what writers do. We don't start with what we did over the weekend; we start with the traumas and tragedies in our lives, the things that drew us to writing and that we share in our stories. Don't get me wrong; I love it. But it's tiring. We're also putting ourselves out there. I've read my work in an official "reading" for the first time. I'm getting my work critiqued. The good news? Well, there's lots of good news. So I'll stick to the hair-related variety here. Since I don't have to wash my hair, I am able to get ready much faster than most. Which is good, considering how tired I am each day.

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Downtown Montpelier: Is this a Main Street or what? I went down to the used bookstore in the morning to buy some of my books for the semester. The town has a nice vibe, a very anti-conformity vibe.
The scarf was made by Mom; it's been a favorite this week. Too bad you can't see the striped pants, a perfect color match. Good thing you can't see the pants, after all the food we've been eating. (The food is provided by a culinary institute; not the dorm food I remember!)

pañuelo of the day: Monday, July 6, 2009

Everyone is so nice at Vermont College. When I had my first breakdown, my new poet friend gave me a card about courage. I have to remind myself: It takes courage to put yourself out there. Another poet friend gave me flowers from her garden; I came back to my dorm room to find them, fresh, in a vase, by my door.
The scarf is a solid brown bandanna from Hobby Lobby.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, July 5, 2009

Later in the day I bought maple syrup and visited with the llamas. Maple syrup - expensive. Llamas - very cute. I also sampled my first creamee, a soft serve cone of maple ice cream. Ok, well, I say sample but what I really mean is I ate a medium cone. Delish.

This morning the sun was actually out. We've heard about sun in Vermont, but we hadn't seen it yet. I took advantage and went on a short walk this morning. I selected the blue house for my background today because it matches my eyes. And I like blue. And I like the idea of blue houses.

Oh yeah, the scarf. It's another black one, made by Mom. And no, I am not cheating. I own several black scarves. I will photograph them all together later and post just so you'll see I'm telling the truth.

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, July 4, 2009

This scarf was made by Mom. It really does match my shirt, but you can't tell, b/c the green part of the shirt is at the bottom. So you're just going to have to trust me on this. It is not very Fourth of July-ish. But then, the day didn't feel very Fourth of July-ish. I went to 3 lectures and a reading. I had a meeting with a graduate assistant about my work. It was a busy school day, not a day off, not a break, not a holiday. (Though, we did have a cookout.)
P.S. The building in the background is my dorm. Cute, huh?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Friday, July 3, 2009

This scarf was made by Mom. You can't tell but it's black with streaks of gray, burgundy, and purple. And it matches my necklace, which is important.
I am standing in front of Noble Hall, where I've attended 8 lectures, 31 student readings, and a handful of faculty readings in less than a week. This is the spot from which I watched the Montpelier Fourth of July fireworks display. So yes, I've already watched my holiday fireworks. Not much when compared to Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks show in the country, but still, beautiful.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Would you rather...

Have noticeable bald spots on your head or noticeable acne on your face?

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, July 2, 2009

This is one of my oldest and worn-out scarves, a Hobby Lobby bandanna scarf.

Happy Anniversary Melanie and Glenn!

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Too busy.
Too tired.
Too rainy.
Too hard.
This has been my life the past couple of days, here in Vermont as I begin my writing program. I've even thought about moving to a scarf of the week while I'm here, but I worked too hard to pack only outfits that matched scarves I haven't worn yet since starting the blog, and wouldn't want to waste all that effort. So I'm back...catching up on my posts and sharing more scarves.
This scarf was a Goodwill find (thanks Mom). Note: Montpelier is such a cute town; see the houses in the background? I think I could be happy here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

pañuelo of the day: June 30, 2009

This is me, exhausted, in my sand-colored Buzz Off, mosquito-repelling scarf. The cinder block walls make it look like I'm in prison, when actually I am in my dorm room: 313, the same room I had in college. The group shower is down the hall; the bathroom is next door. The bed is a twin bed; the school-issued blanket has holes. A window fan cools the room, but just a little. The rain is much more effective. Despite the challenges, I sleep well at night, because I am plain old wiped out. Speaking of which, I'm signing off now. Good night, folks.

Monday, June 29, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Monday, June 29, 2009

This is a green Hobby Lobby bandanna scarf - the perfect color for Vermont, which is green in color, and green in its environmentally sound practices, and green in name: The Green Mountain State.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, June 28, 2009

This scarf may have been made by Denise, my sister's friend. She partnered up with Melanie one year for Christmas to increase my scarf collection. As I recall, Melanie selected and purchased fabrics; Denise sewed the scarves. Six headscarves. (Thanks Melanie and Denise, wherever you are.) Of course, it also could have been made by Mom. As you are starting to see, Mom makes a lot of my scarves. (Thanks Mom.) It's hard to keep track.

Just a note: The second photo today was taken at the Visitor Center at the Connecticut/Vermont border.
A nice young man saw me doing the self-portrait thing and kindly offered to take a picture of me. I didn't bother to tell him that the purpose of the photo was the scarf and not the Visitor Center. Oh well, now I have documentation that I really am in Vermont. In case any of you were skeptical.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, June 27, 2009

I don't know where I got this scarf. Mom probably bought it at Goodwill. That's where most of the mystery scarves come from. You can't tell from this photo, but the scarf design includes pretty pink flowers, which is why I matched it with a pretty pink shirt. I tried to get a better angle, but I'm supposed to be on the road now, and I'm still packing, and jumping through hoops for my job search, and doing my homework. After 25 tries, some of just the tip of my head and others showing double, if not triple chins, I gave up. Matching or not, it's still a lovely scarf.
Okay, so where am I heading? Vermont. Tomorrow is Day 1 of my low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. I am very excited! But I'm not sure how much time - or Internet access - I'll have. So be warned: Things will be posted, but I have no idea when or how much or how often.
Thanks to everyone who signed on as a follower and to everyone who reads my ramblings. Later!

Friday, June 26, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Friday, June 26, 2009

It's Go Yellow For Mums Friday, the day my friend Taryn has asked her peeps to wear yellow in support of her cancer-battling mother. I wish I could wear yellow, but it's not my color. So I'm sporting this tie-dye Hobby Lobby bandanna instead. Lots of yellow. Lots of memories too. My friend Colleen, may she rest in peace, had the same bandanna. She may have even bought this one for me. She lost her cancer battle, but left a lasting impression on me. We did triathlons together. She introduced me to most of my Colorado friends. I went to her chemo treatments and took her wig shopping. I wore my first bandanna with her after years of hiding behind wigs. She sent me quarterly care packages when I lived in Honduras. We had a lot of laughs together. Cancer sucks. It takes a lot of good people from us, too soon. So today I'm wearing this panuelo in support of Taryn's mom and her recovery, and for all my loved ones who have been affected by cancer, and for all who have survived this disease, for those who are fighting it right now, and of course for Colleen, who is no longer with us.

Benefit of Not Having Hair #5: A Built-in Recession Proof Hair Care Plan

In these hard times, a lot of people are talking about how to cut back on hair care. They're waiting more time inbetween haircuts, buying generic products, even dilluting shampoos with water to make them last longer. I don't have hair, so my hair care plan is pretty simple. I wash my head in the shower with soap. It's a bare bones hair care plan for a bare head. And believe me, that's about all my budget can afford right now. Lucky me!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, June 25, 2009

This was my Aunt Ruth's scarf years ago. She probably wore it on her waist or around her neck. Me? I wear it on my head. Of course. Thanks Ruth!

Acceptance: It's a Process

Oh. My. God. Gasp! Now I’ve seen it all. Oh, no you didn’t. What a giant step backwards. How sad. How awful. Poor guy. Aw. Man, it sucks to be bald.

These are just some of the thoughts swirling around my head since first seeing this photo. I thought I’d settle on one reaction and write about that, but it wasn’t that simple.

You know what this is, right? It’s a tattoo. Of hair. On a balding head. And it’s coming to the United States of America as a solution for the follicly challenged. (Yes, I’m making up words, get over it.) The man in the photo is a HiStyl client after receiving tattoos.

I don’t know why I had such a negative string of reactions to this solution.

Perhaps I was responding to it as a sort of fraud, tattooed hair follicles held out as real when they’re not. From across a room, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between tattooed hair and natural hair. From this close-up picture, I can’t even tell where the actual hairline ends and the tattoo begins. Can you? But then I can’t always tell who is wearing a wig and who isn’t, and I know the signs. For years I wore a very natural hairpiece that fooled a lot of people. How is a tattoo of hair follicles any different? And what is so wrong with the pretense of being natural if it makes you more comfortable?

Maybe, then, my response was so strong because tattoos are just too permanent. What if you experience a re-growth? (It happens.) Or the opposite – what if you experience additional hair loss? Then you’d have a gap between the tattooed hair follicles and the natural ones. Of course, there are remedies for these things. And couldn’t the same be said of tattooed eyebrows? When I lost my brow hairs, I considered this option. I didn’t do it, and my eyebrows grew back in – lighter, lower, sparser. I’m glad I didn’t get tattooed eyebrows, but I’ve never had a negative reaction to them on others.

Hmmm…I am starting to think my initial rejection of tattooed hair follicles came from my new philosophy of acceptance. No, really. I want so badly to live in a world where people without hair feel beautiful and accepted and confident, not shameful and sad and isolated. I wear the scarves. I try to set an example. I blog. I spread the word about alopecia. All in an attempt to create a world of acceptance.

I guess I got so caught up in my vision that I forgot the meaning of the word, and that true acceptance means allowing people to make their own choices and then supporting them in whatever they choose. For that, I apologize.

Today, my solution is a pañuelo, a colorful scarf that matches my outfit and lets my head breathe. For others, it could be a natural hairpiece made of human hair, or hair transplants, or a pink wig or fun hats or even a proudly bared bald head. Or even tattooed hair follicles.

Whatever makes you happy, and comfortable, and confident, I’m for that.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Want to see some people who really are comfortable with their differences? Check out this article from Mental Floss Magazine. It's not what you think.