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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, June 24, 2009

This pink-and-white scarf was a Goodwill find. Thanks Mom!

Would you rather...

Would you rather lose your hair or a lose a finger?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mom made this fun scarf, black and bright. Perfect for a sunny day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Monday, June 22, 2009

Mom made this scarf...browns and blue-greens.
P.S. I purposely didn't apply brow tint and mascara today, just to get used to the look. Not as bad as I thought, so long as I continue to wear glasses.

Letting Go

I hold onto things. It’s my way.

Bank statements, signed yearbooks, partially filled journals, scratched up leather purses, clothes I’m going to fit into again one day, cute shoes I would love to wear if only they didn’t hurt my feet so badly, photos of people I don’t even remember…I still have my tax records from my college years, report cards from elementary school, expired driver’s licenses and passports.

Call it sentimental. Call it research for my book. Call it the hoarding gene. Any which way you dice it, it’s over the top. And it has been weighing me down and holding me back—which is why I decided to make 2009 My Year of Letting Go.

I started the year with a colon cleanse, to let go of the toxins in my body. Bye bye holiday sugar, fat, alcohol, and caffeine.

Next I played with a shredder to safely and securely let go of an entire filebox of unnecessary papers. Good riddance paystubs from old jobs and utility bills from prior residences.

In February and March, I let go of two dozen shopping bags full of used-up and useless material possessions. So long moth-eaten sweaters, faded and bleach-stained t-shirts, blister-causing heels, tapered-legged suits, and many, many miscellaneous never-gonna-be-used-in-my-lifetime household items.

It was working. After dozens of trips to the alley recycling bin and neighborhood Goodwill, my load was lighter, for sure. But I was still feeling burdened by old grudges, wounds, anger, other people’s expectations, and a few societal norms I no longer believed but by which I continued to measure my success.

To let go of these long-held patterns and deeply rooted belief structures, I was going to need the help of a professional. Enter licensed practitioner Joanne Wambeke of Colorado Healing Services.

In our session, Joanne used the Japanese healing art of jin shin jyutsu to find – and treat – my internal energy blocks. Not acupuncture, but accupressure. Not needles, but the gentle pressure of fingertips. I’m sure it worked, because the longer I lay on the massage table in the dark, listening to soothing music, the more relaxed I felt. Farewell, accumulated energy. Hello, natural energy flow and clearer thinking.

The harmonization of energy and pulsation was followed by a secret Letting Go ceremony, involving the release of my inhibiting beliefs into a small body of water. Well, at least the beliefs I could think of in a 15-minute meditation and fit on a small piece of dissolving paper, which was released into a water-filled kitchen sink. The voices of an overbearing boss, judgmental relative, and lying ex faded and slipped out of reach.

I’ve taken my Letting Go goal very seriously – except, it seems, when it comes to my hair. Sure, now I talk openly about my alopecia when once I went to great lengths to hide it. Yes, now I laugh about being called a pirate when once I couldn’t even say the word “wig” because I was so ashamed of my hair loss. Certainly, I’ve come a long way.

Actually, I’ve come so far that it took me awhile to realize I was still holding onto anything related to my hair.

I was researching the official definitions of alopecia and all the types—areata, totalis, universalis—so I could explain the differences here in the blog.

Always, I’ve been an areata, the type of alopecia characterized by patchy hair loss. It started with one small, quarter-sized bald spot. Then the spot multiplied, and multiplied again, like rapidly dividing cells, creating one big bald patch on the left side of my head, another on the right side, another in the back. But still, patchy: large bald patches paired with smaller patches of hair. That is, until this year, my Year of Letting Go.

Here on the blog, and to anyone who'd listen, I’ve been going on about my three remaining hairs, posting pictures of them, joking about them, carefully pulling them out from behind the scarf before I head out each day, all the time ignoring the fact that three hairs no longer qualifies as a patch. Three wiry hairs means I have transitioned from alopecia areata to alopecia totalis, or total loss of scalp hair.

It shouldn’t matter. I mean, I’m okay being a bald girl. I am. I don’t expect to get my hair back. Ever. I’m okay with that. And it’s not like anything has changed from yesterday. I only had three wiry hairs yesterday. I’ve had three wiry hairs all year, which sounds like a long time until you realize I started losing my hair in 1994. I’ve been an areata for 15 years, and now suddenly, for no apparent reason, I’ve become a totalis.

Before I can even accept my new label, I find myself worrying about slippery slopes, and transitioning from totalis to universalis, which is a total loss of body hair. No more eyebrows. No more eyelashes. No more stray hair on my leg. Not that stray hairs on my leg are a big problem. But still…

All of a sudden I’m more acutely aware of a loose lash, the shape of my eyebrow. Is it happening now? Will it happen soon? Will I know it when it happens? Will I see a clump of lashes on my mascara wand one day? Should I stop using mascara? Can you stop the progression? Can you slow it?

And here I am again, holding onto hairs, and beliefs about their significance, and the comfort of old labels.

I feel a knot in my chest. My heart rate rises. This is not good. I must take action immediately.

So today, in My Year of Letting Go, I am publicly letting go. I’m letting go of my need to know, to control, and to label. I'm letting go of my belief that eyebrows and lashes somehow make me more normal. I'm letting go of wanting to be normal. Even better, I'm letting go of my definition of what it means to be normal. Again.

It is what it is. And whatever it is, I’ll be okay.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Sunday, June 21, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, June 21, 2009

Too bad Joanne is in at the Qi-gong retreat this week instead of on email. This scarf used to be hers, and I don't think she's seen me wear it. Thanks Joanne!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, June 20, 2009

Again, Mom made this scarf. Lucky for me, it matches my dress perfectly. Yes, a dress. Tonight I am going to a summer solstice party. Not a dressy party, but to me, summer means dresses. And I happen to be a big fan of dresses.

Friday, June 19, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Friday, June 19, 2009

This scarf is from Hobby Lobby - a location with lots of starter scarves in bandanna size. I look mad or sad but it's only because the sun finally came out today and I was blinded by the brightness. That's what happens after dreary days in the rain...you squint when you come into the light. Trust me, it was a perfectly good day and I feel fine.

Benefit of Not Having Hair #4: No Hair in the Shower Drain

I hate collecting wadded up hair from the bottom of the shower. Maybe it's because I have no hair, which means I know it's not MY hair, but that of a guest or a host or some random hotel customer who left me his or her hair. Yuck. The good news? I almost NEVER have to do this.

What I Know

It’s just hair.
What a ridiculous blog topic.
Get over yourself.
Who cares about hair loss?

And yet.

People do care about hair, a lot more than they’re willing to admit.

How else would you explain the fascination with Britney’s head shaving? What about Colbert shaving his head in support of the troops? Forget about shaving…what about the girl on America’s Next Top Model who cried when they wanted to cut her hair?

How else would you explain the reaction of 52-year old Jessie to her new hairdo on What Not to Wear last Friday?

I’m a What Not to Wear addict. You know the show: stylists transform fashion disasters with age-appropriate, tasteful, professional, modern, flattering clothing. Sure, Stacy and Clinton can be a little mean. But they never insult a person’s body. Instead, they rip up a person’s clothes: grandma’s yellowing slips worn as dresses, leopard skin spandex tights, crochet vests, high-waisted Mom jeans, plaid pajama pants worn to the grocery store, and the occasional odd accessory like butterfly wings or a fuzzy tail. (Seriously, some of these people need their wardrobes ripped up—literally.) I’m a fan.

So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that the seventh season had officially kicked off and that new episodes would be airing on Friday nights again. (I need a life, but that’s another blog post.) What a lineup! Blossom, a roller derby queen, a big-haired Texan…I couldn’t wait to sit on the couch and soak in the style lessons.

Most of the time, the fashion makeover candidate walks away not just with a more polished look, but more confidence. But not Jessie, the glitzy, stuck-in-the-80s divorcee. She missed her old hair: her too blonde, too-sprayed, too “Big-as-Texas” hair. She cried, withdrew, asked her male friends not to come to her reveal party, and couldn’t enjoy the experience. She said she’d never have a date again in her life because her long hair was now short hair. She couldn’t wait to get her old hair back, even after all her friends and family raved over her new look.

Some say she’s ungrateful. Others say she’s got issues. Others agree with her and think Nick messed this one up. You can check out the new do here and decide for yourself.

I happen to like it. Of course, I’m not the best judge. I don’t even have hair. What do I know?

Let me tell you. I know that bald can be beautiful, because I’ve seen it. I know that we are more than our hair, because I’ve lived it. I know that life goes on, and sometimes gets better, after hair loss.

I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on anyone, but I wish that more people knew what I know. I wish Jessie knew.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Thursday, June 18, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, June 18, 2009

This scarf is from Talbots, though I don't think that's where we actually bought it. I believe Mom got this one at Goodwill.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If I Had a Million Dollars

Baby fuzz. Say the words and hearts start melting. See that soft, fine hair on an infant’s head and your hand automatically reaches out to touch, pat, or pet. Oohs and ahhs and a drawn-out “aw” spontaneously slip from your mouth.

Now imagine that same soft, fine hair on the balding head of a grown woman. On me.

In my world, talks of baby fuzz mean I have a spot of new hair growth. My baby fuzz is soft, but not cute. Certainly not ooh-and-ahh inspiring or aw-worthy. More like patchy. Well, more like one small patch on the left side of my scalp. Or a handful of hairs at my hairline. The hairs are blonde, fine, sparse. They come and they go, to where I don’t know. I don’t see them on the inside of my scarf, the pañuelo of the day. I don’t see them at the bottom of my shower drain or on my pillow. They just disappear.

I know better than to get excited about baby fuzz on my head. But I can’t help but be curious—what if? I find myself studying my head in the mirror. Touching, patting, petting it. Wondering: What if it were to grow back? What would I do?

It’s like playing the lottery. I know the odds are low, but even so, even when I forget to buy a ticket, I still like to think—what if? If I had a million dollars, ten million, a hundred million, what would I do? How would I spend it?

Of course I can’t know for sure until it happens. But I have a rough plan, at least for the lottery winnings.

For the hair, I have no such plan. If it did grow back–and I know people who’ve experienced re-growth–I wouldn’t know what to do.

It’s been so long since I’ve had hair, I no longer remember what to do with it. A couple of weeks ago my cousin asked me to put a new clip in the back of her hair and I froze. Do I grab all the hair with the clip or only a portion of it? Do I use my hands or is the clip grip sufficient?

I look at my niece’s long hair and I don’t remember how to twist it into a French braid.

I don't remember how much prep time to allow for hairstyling. I don't even own a blow-dryer. Or a curling iron. Or a snag-free ponytail holder.

But that’s not the hard part. I would relearn hair care if it came to that.

The hard part would be trusting a brush not to tug the hair right out of my scalp. I don't know if I could highlight my hair or perm or cut it ever again and not worry that it would cause a bout of hair loss. I would be afraid to wash it.

The hard part would be relaxing enough to let someone touch my hair. I don't know if I could allow a man to run his fingers through it or a small child comb it without wanting to check their hands, the ground, my head for loose hairs.

The hard part would be believing my hair would still be attached to my head when I woke up.

The hard part would be figuring out who I was all over again—with hair. After spending so much time learning to embrace myself without it.

I used to ask the Universe every day to give me my hair back. Now I’m not sure I could handle it. Even more important, I’m not sure I’d want it.

Better to have something I'm prepared for, like the million dollars.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guess who made this pink and black scarf? That's right! Mom.
Thought the bright color would cheer my dreary, rainy day...not sure it worked. But I'll keep working on it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This purple scarf is another one from Hobby Lobby. Great color! More bandanna than scarf, but when folded properly, it does the job.

What's that crazy background, you ask? It's laundry day, and in the background you see scarves hanging on the line. The line being my bathroom shower rod. I like things to air dry.

Monday, June 15, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Monday, June 15, 2009

More purple. Did I mention I love purple?
Mom made this scarf too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, June 14, 2009

This photo is for Mom...she'll know why.
Purple scarf, made by her. We like purple.

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tomas and I wish Mom a Happy Birthday!
The blue scarf is one she sewed for me.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mom: The One Constant in my Hair Loss Saga

We had been in Parsippany for a year, maybe two, when Mom discovered my first bald spot. I was four years old.

The way she tells it, she had been tickling me on her bed when she accidentally observed a round patch of bare skin on my scalp.

I can picture the two of us trying to be quiet while Melanie naps in the second bedroom. I am sitting on the thin, ribbed, yellow bedspread, watching Mom fold Dad’s white undershirts into neat little packages the size of a slice of Wonder bread. One by one, she stacks the slices on the bed and then walks the whole loaf to a drawer. I follow her every move with my eyes and mindlessly stroke my sockless foot.

“We got a lot done today, Miss Christy Lou Who.” She talks just above a whisper as she approaches the bed, grinning. “Now it’s Christy time.”

"Mommy, there’s no such thing as Christy time.” I giggle.

“What? Of course there is! It starts like this.” She leans in and tickles my belly.

“Mommy, stop!” I squeal, erupt in laughter, and wriggle my slender body away from her spidery hands. I am not fast enough to escape, nor do I want to be.

“In Christy time, everything is backwards. Stop means go! Stop means more! Are you sure you want me to stop?” She is fluttering her hands on my arms and my feet.

“Mommy!” I extend my arms to push her away, and jerk my head back and forth. My long blonde hair flies in every direction.

“Oh. Oh my.”

It takes me a few seconds to realize the tickling has stopped. I relax all my muscles and sink into the mattress. I am breathing heavy from the fight.

“Sit up, baby.” She pats the bed.

I sit up, dangling my feet over the side of the mattress.

“Stay still a minute.”

I stay still, but my eyes wander the room. I look at the yellow lamp on the nightstand. At the wall closet with the open accordion door. At Mom’s blouses and mini dresses hanging on the rod. Such pretty bright colors and patterns.

Mom probes my scalp with her long, slender fingers. It calms me. My breathing slows.

“Mommy, why does Melanie have curly hair and I don’t?” I tilt my head.

“Everybody’s different, Christy. Some people have beautiful curly hair like your sister and some people have beautiful straight hair like you.” Mom has found the bald patch on my head. She is touching the raw skin, just like I will years later.

“Is that why you don’t have blonde hair like we do?” I close my eyes and lean into my mother’s touch. I don’t know what she’s doing, just that it feels good. “Cuz everybody’s different?”

“Well, yes and no. Some things you can get from your mommy and daddy. You girls get your blonde hair from your daddy. He had blonde hair when he was a baby.” She gently pushes my head down. My long locks cascade over my face.

“But his hair changed to brown when he got bigger?” I am a rag doll.

“Yes, yes it did.” Mom’s brow furrows but her tone remains calm. She wraps her arms around me and squeezes. I fold into her arms.

“Is my hair going to change when I get bigger Mommy?”

“I don’t know. Probably.” She holds on for several minutes.


My hair changed alright, in ways we never imagined. Through it all, Mom was by my side. She researched alopecia and found doctors, support groups, wig shops, and berets. She yelled and threw fits when I wasn't treated the way she thought I should be. She sewed Velcro strips of hair into baseball caps and then made scarves - many, many scarves, in every color of the rainbow.

Happy birthday, Mom. And thank you...for everything.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Friday, June 12, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Friday, June 12, 2009

More Yellow for Mums, paired with a teal tie-dye bandanna from Hobby Lobby.

Bad Hair Days and the Bald Girl

Here's a question for you: Once you lose all your hair, can you still have bad hair days? Without hair, are your bad hair days over? Or are all days bad hair days? Or do we need an entirely new category: Bad Bald Days? Thoughts?

Bad Hair Days: Share Your Stories

We’ve all had them, complained about them, cried over them, thrown tantrums on them, and let them affect our self-esteem.

Now let's talk about them. Share your bad hair day stories here.

Benefit of Not Having Hair #3: Rain Has No Effect on My Hairdo

It's been raining a lot lately. No seriously. A loooot. It's making me crazy, actually. It makes me want to sleep in, hide indoors, surf the Internet, and eat and eat and eat and eat. But you know what it doesn't do? Mess up my hairdo. At all. Don't you wish you had no hair?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just Another Bad Hair Day...That's how it Started

Some people’s lives change in an instant. Mine changed slowly, starting with a pout, a rant, and a tantrum, on what started as just another bad hair day.

Arggggh! I picture myself slamming down the tall, slender tin of foam mousse – shitfuckgodammit I hate my hair – groaning, accidentally knocking over the Aqua Net aerosol hair spray can – Why can’t anything ever go right in my whole life?

Despite near scorching from too many presses of a hot curling iron, one side of my shoulder length, ash blonde hair stubbornly insisted on flipping under instead of feathering back.

It’s not like it was a special day. It wasn’t a date or a dance or the day we took our school photos. Not that I had a lot of dates in high school. And I hadn’t been to one dance in the three years we’d lived in Raleigh. But that didn’t matter. That wasn’t the point. It didn’t have to be a special day for me to need manageable hair that I could whip into my style of choice, which on this particular day happened to be a classic Princess Diana feathery do.

A study conducted by researchers at Yale University found that bad hair days can increase self doubt, heighten social insecurities, and cause both men and women to be more self-critical in general. So I wasn’t being unreasonable when I considered climbing back into bed, curling up in a ball, and calling it a day – all because of an errant flip.

A missed day of school? Now that was unreasonable. An absence would mean making up my calculus test after school on a later date. An absence would mean I’d have to learn torque from the physics textbook, and not from watching Mr. Prim spin around on his swiveling desk chair. Even worse: An absence would tarnish my perfect attendance record. And that just wasn’t acceptable. So, I took a deep breath and tried one more time to position, lift, and scrunch my hair into submission.

My hands were deep in my mane when my fingers suddenly brushed against a smooth patch of skin on my scalp where hair should be. That’s weird. I picked up a hand mirror and used it to view the back of my head in the vanity. As I fingered my hair with one hand and angled the hand mirror with the other, up and down, left and right, I saw it – a small, round bald spot the size of a quarter. What the hell?

© 2009 Christy Bailey

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, June 11, 2009

I've got a lot of brown scarves, which means I buy a lot of brown clothes. That's how it is. I'm always buying clothes to match the scarves, because the scarves are harder to come by. Sure, I have a lot of scarves, but I've been collecting for seven years. Hard to believe.
This brown scarf was made by Mom. (shock)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This is the infamous dressy black scarf, the one that makes small children think I'm a pirate, the same one that the airline employee didn't think was good enough for first-class status. Mom made this scarf. I wear it a lot.
(Hear that Mom? It's been around and will need replacing soon. Hope you're desperately seeking more fabric.)

Does Head Shape Matter?

“But you have such a nice, round head.” That’s what people say to me.

It’s a compliment, I guess, but not one I ever expected or hoped to hear. I smile and say thank you but don’t know how to compartmentalize the information. It doesn’t fit into any known categories of physical beauty: skin tone, eye color, thinness, femininity, definition of cheek bones, tightness of skin, softness of features. Having a perfectly round head is meaningless by societal standards, like having a perfectly arched armpit or a lovely knuckle. No scale exists for these features. And without a measure for the object of flattery or praise, the compliment seems meaningless, a mere comment or statement of fact.

It’s true that my head is round and mostly lump-free. But I only know that because I don’t have hair.

And it’s only a compliment because I don’t have hair.

People with hair don’t care what shape their head is. They also don’t know what shape their head is.

“You look so much better bald than I would,” they gush. Because they have peanut heads, bumpy or lumpy or scarred scalps, giant craniums with craters or knots. So they say.

Now they can find out—kind of, anyway.

For a small fee, “Ofer” offers a virtual head shaving. You submit a photo, and you get four versions of you as a baldie. It’s supposed to help you see how much better you’d look bald than patchy or half bald or dramatically thinning, so you can build the confidence you need to just shave it off already. Check it out. Even if you don't want to try it, you may want to look at those who have become imaginary baldies.

You can also see what a variety of celebs would like like if they were bald. See what you think.

Now, I have to say: Some of the celebs look better than others. It could be merely an issue of facial features. Those with the best facial features don’t need to hide under their hair; they are stunning without it. But I can’t help but wonder if Ofer gives his personal favorites better looking scalps than others.

Which brings me back to my original thought: Does head shape matter? Is being bald any easier when you have a nice, round head?

I don't think so. Either you're devastated and you don't care about your head shape, or you're okay with it, and you don't care about your head shape.

I think maybe it's something to say when people don't know what else to say.

The good news is I'm okay with my hair loss now. I embrace it. And though head shape compliments don't make me blush or glow and smile, I still like them. Because I know that the people who say it mean well.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Forever and Ever, Amen

Come on...everyone knows this one. But just in case, I figured I'd better publish the trilogy from the blog post. Introducing Randy Travis, my friends...this one is a classic.

I Am Not My Hair Video

India Arie on YouTube: I Am Not My Hair with Akon, inspired by Melissa Etheridge's 2005 Grammy appearance

Daytrotter Download: The Way I Am

Daytrotter has a free download of Ingrid Michaelson's The Way I Am. You have to register, though, with your email address and year of birth (of all things). Once you register, you can hit play or download. Still catchy, I must admit.

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mom made this one out of a striking batik fabric. Love it. I used to have more matching clothes but they were worn out and went to Goodwill. Looks like shopping is on the agenda.

Take Me the Way I Am

There aren’t a lot of songs about hair loss. So last summer when I heard “Rogaine” in a breathy, singsongy voice on the radio, I went on high alert. I held my breath in anticipation of learning the artist name: Ingrid Michaelson.

Immediately, “The Way I Am” became my new favorite song.

The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson

If you were falling, then I would catch you.
You need a light, I’d find a match.
Cause I love the way you say good morning.
And you take me the way I am.
If you are chilly, here take my sweater.
Your head is aching, I’ll make it better.
Cause I love the way you call me baby.
And you take me the way I am.
I’d buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair.
Sew on patches to all you tear.
Cause I love you more than I could ever promise.
And you take me the way I am.

At first, I found the lyrics to “The Way I Am” sweet. You take me the way I am? Wow. We all long to find someone who will do just that – accept the good, bad and ugly in us.

The more I listened to the song, however, the more I became bothered by it.

Never mind the implication that baldness is some sort of problem with an easy fix, like a chill, or a headache, or a holey sock. Just use Rogaine, and shazam, problem solved. It’s not always that easy. There are many types of baldness, caused by different things, and treated in different ways. With my type, some people lose quarter-sized patches of hair on their scalp, while others lose all body hair. Some grow their hair back quickly, while others never get their hair back. Some people re-grow their hair with Rogaine, only to lose it again when they stop taking the treatment. I certainly tried it, years ago, before there even was a Rogaine for women. I only had a few bald spots back then, and I was desperate to have my hair back. I also tried steroid shots and an irritant cream that turned my head purple and made me want to scratch my skin off. Sometimes these treatments work on alopecia. None of them worked on me.

Then there’s the idea that balding heads are indeed a problem—something that needs to be fixed. Aren’t bald men considered sexy these days? Think Taye Diggs. Yowza! Couldn't someone facing hair loss embrace a bald head? Why should we assume that everyone automatically wants to treat hair loss?

But what really bugged me was the underlying message of acceptance paired with the “I’d buy you Rogaine” lyrics. Can you “take me the way I am” and still want to make changes? Doesn’t acceptance mean you experience something without attempting to change it?

I had to look up the definition.

From merriam-webster:
transitive verb
1 a: to receive willingly b: to be able or designed to take or hold (something applied or added)
2: to give admittance or approval to
3 a: to endure without protest or reaction b: to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable c: to recognize as true :
4 a: to make a favorable response to b: to agree to undertake (a responsibility)
5: to assume an obligation to pay ; also : to take in payment
6: to receive (a legislative report) officially

Hmmm…not exactly what I’d hoped for. The only definition with any reference to change is the third one: to endure without protest or reaction.

Is a balding head something to be endured? Maybe it is.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Once upon a time, bald wasn't even acceptable, much less sexy. Balding men scrambled to find just the right toupee and then prayed people wouldn't notice the rug on their head. Balding women didn't exist, at least not in the public eye. People didn't embrace their baldness. They didn't own it.

But that was before Sean Connery went bald and still managed to be sexy.

That was before Michael Jordan and many other basketball players made it cool to be bald.

That was before Melissa Etheridge performed bald at the 2005 Grammy awards.

That was before Robin Roberts ditched her wig on Good Morning America last year. And then walked the runway - bald.

As long as there are confident bald people willing to set an example, there's hope for all of us.

As for Ingrid Michaelson’s song, I still find it catchy and sweet. It’s just not my idea of true acceptance anymore.

What is? How about these:

“I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your ex-pec-tations
no no I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within”
– Singer India Arie, “I am not my hair”

“They say time takes its toll on a body
Makes a young girl’s brown hair turn gray
Well honey, I don’t care, I ain’t in love with your hair
And if it all fell out, well, I’d love you anyway.”
– Singer Randy Travis, “Forever and Ever, Amen”

What do you think? Are acceptance and change mutually exclusive?

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Monday, June 8, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Monday, June 8, 2009

This scarf used to be a swimsuit coverup...until Mom cut it into two pieces and made me twin scarves. This one has been in my collection since the beginning, and I still love the colors. Just wish it were a little bigger.
The photo was taken this morning, when we were still fogged in. Of course, now the sun is blazing, and the sky is blue. Figures. But at least I did get one beach photo into the mix. It's the last one; I'm leaving Margate City, NJ this afternoon.
Bye, bye beach vacation.

pañuelo of the day: Sunday, June 7, 2009

New: A better view of the scarf.

This is a gorgeous hand-sewn scarf, but you can't really tell because the picture is dark. I'm trying not to repeat, but I may have to wear this one again soon, just so you can see the design.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Just Hair...Or is it?

I used to love Sundays for the extra newspaper stories, coupons, and classified ads, partnered with strong coffee, of course. I still enjoy these things. But I’ve discovered a new reason to love Sundays: That’s when the secrets are posted on PostSecret.

Created by Frank Warren, PostSecret is a group art project that involves people mailing their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. The only rules are that they must be true and never shared with anyone before. If you haven't checked out the website, do so. It's amazing to see what people say when they know they won't be discovered.

My biggest secret used to be that my hair was really a wig—an auburn, vacuum-seal, custom, natural hair piece made of fine European hair.

It looked real, and that was the problem. I was determined to make people think it was real. Or at least to make sure they never, ever wondered if it was real or not. Like most people with a big secret, I went to great lengths to cover it up.

Some people want to go where everybody knows their name. Me? I moved to another state where nobody knew my name, or my original hair color, or what my hair used to look like before it fell out. In this new place, people knew me as Christy with the auburn hair. They had never seen me with patchy hair, or with a comb-over hairstyle, or in wool berets. Every now and then, someone in this new place would make a joke about redheads, and it always took me a minute to remember that I was the redhead being referenced. Ah, they don’t know my secret, I’d smile to myself.

For a long time, I didn’t go to the gym because my fancy hair didn’t mix well with sweat. Imagine wearing a flimsy silicone hot pad over your head while you’re on the elliptical machine. That’s what made up the suction cap of my fancy hair piece: bendable silicone. Try it sometime. It’s not fun. Finally, Mom figured out how to sew Velcro strips of synthetic hair into breathable baseball caps: a three-inch strip of short bangs in the front, a longer strip of shoulder-length hair in the back and sides. We were careful to match the color of the synthetic hair strips to the color of my fancy hair piece. The length too. That way people wouldn’t wonder why my hair looked different in the gym than, say, the grocery store. Or in the office. Suddenly, I was able to work out again. I started running. I toned up. And if anyone noticed the difference, they didn’t say anything.

It took even longer for me to get the courage to swim. My suction hair piece was supposed to stay on in the water, but I never trusted it. The suction required a completely bald head, and I still had hair patches back then. I liked my patches – a couple at the bangs area, a couple at my ears – because they made my fake hat hair look more natural. Besides, real people swam laps in a swim cap. But I couldn’t just drive to the pool in a swim cap. I’d look ridiculous. Which meant I’d have to put the swim cap on in the women’s locker room. Finally I figured out a plan: I’d make the switch behind the shower curtain. It wasn’t easy. I was the only person taking a big duffel bag into the shower stall. But where else would I put the fancy hair piece without anyone else seeing it? I would walk into the stall wearing the fancy hair, and walk out in a blue swim cap, the fancy hair carefully tucked away in the duffel bag. After the swim, I reversed the process, removing the swim cap, then replacing the hair piece onto my nearly bald head, always behind the curtain. I would even dab a little water on my wig and wrap my head in a towel before departing the shower stall. One time a friend asked, "How does your hair always dry so quickly?" I smiled. She didn’t know.

Keeping my big secret took a lot out of me. Not just energy, or time, but opportunity, too. To trust. To set an example. To educate. To increase awareness.

It’s like the movie, Milk. Great movie. What did Harvey Milk say? Something like, if they know one of us, they will vote for us. I can't recall it verbatim. But the idea was that people didn't even realize that they knew gay people, because so many gay people were afraid to come out.

Okay, so it's not exactly the same. But so many alopecians hide their baldness. They don't share their secret.

I am finally ready to unleash my secret hair confessions, both from my days with and without hair:
  • I cried when I got my first perm because I didn’t like the way my hair turned out. It was too curly. (Wasn't that the idea?)

  • I lied when I said the sun naturally turned my orange, yellow, and then a platinum color only seen on strippers. It wasn’t the sun; it was Sun-In. I have no idea why.

  • I spent way too much time wishing my hair was something it wasn’t: curlier, blonder, fuller, thicker, shinier.

  • I cried myself to sleep every night for months when my hair first started falling out.

  • I felt guilty for crying over my hair. It wasn’t like I had lost a limb or anything.

  • I felt guilty for wanting a cure for alopecia. It wasn’t fatal.

Is it just hair? We like to think so. But until we can truly open up about the topic, until we can confess how much time and money we spend on our hair, how strongly we react when our hair doesn't turn out the way we want, how negatively a bad hair day can affect our self-esteem, how important the right hair color, length, and style is to our identity and our sexuality...until we can admit all that and more, how are we supposed to have a fair discussion about baldness in women? How will we accept it, perhaps even embrace it?

What do you think?

© 2009 Christy Bailey

pañuelo of the day: Saturday, June 6, 2009

Another Hobby Lobby bandanna/scarf. Nice and colorful, for Corri, who said I was dressing in too many drab colors lately.

pañuelo of the day: Friday, June 5, 2009

The teal scarf: another hand sewn by Mom. Love the color, but it sure would look better against a turquoise sea background. Unfortunately, the weather at the Jersey shore has not been cooperating.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Benefit of Not Having Hair #2: Who Needs Shampoo?

I love the scents, but I don't need shampoo. And when I do use it, for my three hairs, I don't need a lot of it. So a travel size bottle lasts a year. Talk about cost savings!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Thursday, June 4, 2009

This lightweight cotton scarf was made by ECHO.

pañuelo of the day: Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This is my nike scarf. It's stretchy. It's coolmax. It's got the swish. I love it - great for exercise, heat, and hot tubs.

What Does My Hair Say About Me? Apparently, That I'm a Pirate

Growing up, my hair said I was a follower. I had a short Twiggy shag and a Farrah Fawcett feathery flip, Madonna's teased hair and a Molly Ringwald poodle perm bob - always well after the trend had caught on.

The pattern stops at The Rachel, the bouncy, long, layered hairstyle introduced and popularized by Jennifer Aniston in the first season of Friends. That was the year I transitioned from late majority follower to trendsetter. I use the term loosely, because I was not setting trends that generated followers: the oddly placed barrette, the female combover, the office beret, the synthetic strip of bangs velcroed to a baseball cap.

Let's be clear: I did not want to separate myself from the crowd. I was dragged away kicking and screaming. For some of us, that's the only way to cross the chasm from one way of thinking to another.

If my hair hadn't fallen out, I probably wouldn't have adopted a style of my own, especially one that sends such mixed messages. Today, I am Pañuelo Girl, the girl who wears scarves. It means different things to different people, and I'm okay with that.

Sean said he thought I was a motorcycle chick.

Jane said she thought I was stylish.

Every now and then a guy - usually an African American - thinks I am a hip hop girl.

Of course, there are those who think I have cancer.

Kids have their own ideas about scarves. One day I was working the volunteer registration booth for a trail cleanup project, when a four-year-old boy approached me, cocked his head to the left, and asked, "Are you a pirate?"

"Why, yes, how did you know?" I laughed.

"Because of that thing on your head!" He was talking about my black scarf, tied do-rag style, with a double knot at the back of my head, long tails hanging down my back. He grinned and turned to the man behind him. "She’s a real pirate, grandpa!"

I had to smile.

People will always apply their own perspective to what they see, but that doesn't change who or what I am.

What does my "hairdo" say about me? It says I'm comfortable with myself, that I don't mind standing out in a crowd, that I embrace my individuality. It says I'm more than my hair.

What does your hair say about you?

Read this Oprah magazine story to find out what other women are saying about their hair.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I ain't afraid of no tank top.
This scarf has been around for years; it's Forenza. Remember Forenza? We don't throw anything away in our family, so good ole' Mom was able to produce this from a carefully labeled box to help me build my scarf collection.
Circa 1985?!?!?

Enough already!

As summer rapidly approaches, and the tank tops and shorts and bathing suits march to the front of the closet, I can’t help but think about skin. About showing skin. About showing unsightly skin.

Suddenly I wish I had been more serious about that diet I started back in January. I wish I had joined a gym, hired a trainer, built an exercise habit. Something. Then maybe I wouldn’t be anticipating the summer season with such dread.

True, I’d like to be trimmer, and fitter, and healthier. I would. But this isn’t another article on how to get into bikini shape in 10 days. Or how to cleanse yourself into a size extra small. Please. (Though you know I’ve considered it.)

No, that’s not it at all. For those of us who didn’t shrink or tighten or tone as much as we wanted, the question becomes: Cover it up or bare it?

Certainly you’ve heard the commentaries. A deejay asserts that women over 35 and over 120 pounds should NOT wear a bikini, under no uncertain terms. A family member tells you it’s time to retire the tank tops until you can reduce the flap factor on your arms. A friend asks if she’s too fat for shorts.

With all this talk about what people should and shouldn’t wear as the temperatures rise, I can’t help but wonder, do we owe it to other people to cover up our unsightly skin?

And who gets to determine what is—and is not—unsightly?

I’m not just talking about fatty cells and cellulite, but also hairless heads.

One time an airline employee told me I couldn’t wear a scarf in first class. I was flying standby, on a buddy pass, and was required to follow a dress code. No jeans. No open-toed shoes. No t-shirt material. No spandex. Check, check, check, and check. Apparently Mr. Snooty Pants thought a headscarf didn’t fit the rules, didn’t look upscale enough for his taste. Nowhere on the list of rules did it say No headscarf. I wish I had whipped the scarf off my bald head and quipped, “Better?” Unfortunately, I wasn’t as strong then as I am now. My eyes watered. I could barely speak. I told him I had a medical condition and he still downgraded me to coach.

From my alopecia support group, I heard about a stewardess who was required to wear a wig on the plane when her hair fell out. Another girl was required to wear a wig at the reception counter at a gym. Seeing a bald headed woman, they were told, would make customers uncomfortable. The airline stewardess bought a wig. The bald gym receptionist quit.

How are we supposed to increase awareness about alopecia and hair loss in women if we are always covering it up?

Sure, there will always be a need for dress codes. No shirt, no shoes, no service at a restaurant. No midriff showing in the office. No Borat mankinis at the neighborhood swimming pool.

But it’s time to ask ourselves: Why is it that thigh dimples and dangling arm fat and hairless heads make us so uncomfortable?

So enough already! I’m heading to the shore today and I am packing tank tops, shorts, and a bathing suit. I might even bare my naked head. If you find any of it unsightly, then by all means, don’t look. But please, keep your mouth shut.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

Monday, June 1, 2009

pañuelo of the day: Monday, June 1, 2009

This one is by ExOfficio. It's unisex, and it repels insects. Very cool. But don't overuse it - after 50 washes, the Buzz Off insect shield wears off.