Sunday, May 24, 2009

It Starts at Birth

"It's a girl!" soon leads to comments about hair. "Oooh, what a head of hair!" they say. It's so soft, so dark, so blonde, so messy, so short, so long, so straight, so fine, so thick, so cute. Or maybe they don't say anything about the hair, just that it will grow in time. Which prompts Mom to run out and buy a hairband with a giant pink bow at Target. Girls learn from an early age that hair is important. Important enough to warrant dozens of hair decoration products and a drawer to store them in - metal clips and plastic barrettes and bobby pins and snag free pony tail holders with fabric flowers or tiny crystal balls. Important enough to demand daily attention - shampooing and conditioning and styling, often accompanied by the sweet scents of pineapples or tangerines or lilacs or spring meadows. Important enough to require suffering - the real tears cried when Mom brushes the tangles out of your hair. Important enough to garner compliments - and advice - from strangers. "What beautiful long hair you have, my dear, don't ever let your mommy cut it." Important enough to attract the gentle touch of loved ones, Mom running her fingers through your hair, Aunt Sally tucking it behind your ear, Daddy smoothing down a flyaway hair at a picnic, Grams caressing your hair as you tell her about your day.

I don't remember a time in my life when hair wasn't important. So imagine my surprise, and horror, when it all of a sudden fell out. I was 26 years old when alopecia areata attacked my hair follicles and robbed me of hair, and along with it, my drawer of hair decoration products, the required daily attention, the compliments, the caresses and strokes.

My journey to self acceptance has been a long one. A bumpy one. An emotional one. Along the way, I have come to know more than I ever imagined about treatments, and wigs, and beauty, and strength, and compassion. I've learned a lot about myself. And for reasons I can't explain in one single post, I've also learned about scarves, which have now become my hair - well, more like head - decoration product of choice.

Sometimes I think my journey is over. I've made my choice about how to present myself and I'm okay with it. I own it: the girl with the scarves. That's me. But I've also learned that journeys are never really over. Every day I face a new comment or challenge or dilemma. Every day I have to explain or justify my choice or even question it. Four million Americans suffer from alopecia, but three hundred million Americans don't. Of those three hundred million, many have never even heard of alopecia. And until everyone knows and understands and accepts girls without hair, my journey won't be over.

© 2009 Christy Bailey


Mel Budd said...

Love the blog! Thanks for sharing. I like your honesty and style of writing. Eventhough I haven't see you and Melanie since that sad day when you moved away from your house across the street from us in Manassas, I love that we have been able to reconnect and share our lives again in this digital age.

mojee said...

that is my favorite scarf.