Thursday, June 25, 2009

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.


Mel said...

To each his own I guess. Everyone copes in their own way. Some men do the comb over when they begin to bald, some go to the hair club for men, my husband among others said "aw screw it" and shaved his head completely. Each person, alopecia or genes will deal with baldness in their own way. A tattoo seems a bit rash to me though. But if that's his way of dealing then oh well.

You are strong and beautiful. You are paneulo girl. And I am proud to call you my friend.

Katie said...

As a former make-up counter lady, the best beauty advice I can give to anyone other than to use a sunblock/sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, getting your eyebrows tattooed on is not a good idea. Like all tats, the color fades and it rarely looks good. Smart decision to not get them tattooed on!

P.S. The same goes for eyeliner and lip liner/lipstick!

mojee said...

i like your conclustion. "whatever makes you happy."

Anonymous said...

OK, I've lost my comments 3 times so far. I hope it works this time. I'm a bit tired so my comments may be a bit blunt and insensitive.

I don't like needles, I'm not a fan of body art and I'm told that tattoos on boney areas can hurt quite a bit. With all this in mind, the tattoo option would not have been one for me.

That said, this topic raises some questions for me about my one hair loss. When my hair loss reached a certain point friends told me I should shave it all off. Was this acceptance? What was wrong with my fringe? It was trimmed and washed every day (really easy when there was so little). The fringe was who I was naturally. Being bald has been a style choice. Is that a bad thing--a lack of acceptance? Shaving my hair actually hid the hair loss. However, when people ask me about being bald, I'm open about the fact that I was looking my hair and would probably have very little if I allowed it to grow again.

I wonder if the man in the photo had the same things to consider? If keeping what he had naturally was not acceptable, then he had several options. Though tattooing is one, ink can't really emulate the texture of hair. Past this, though society may perceive the tattooing of hair on the top of ones head as being OK, I'm pretty sure a lot of people would think the man would look like a dope if he lost his mustache and had a facsimile tattooed on as a replacement. Why?

Your blog has caused me to question something another friend shared on Facebook. Her daughter (I think she's about 8-10 y.o.) donated her hair to Locks of Love (which assists children with medical hair loss). If society was more accepting of hair loss, would there even be a need for such an act?

On the other hand, what does it say when one child shows concern for others and is willing to give of herself to help? If hair is so important, isn't intentionally having much of yours cut off to give to others, a step in the right direction?

I've come to a conclusion that children, in particular those who may be facing serious medical conditions, may already had more than enough to come to grips with. Acceptance of hair loss is probably a tertiary issue compared to everything else going on. There will be time for that later.

I'm not so sure adults are that much different. Many people have lots of "stuff" to deal with in their lives. In my opinion there may be a lot of things I think they should do. However, as opinionated as I am, I also respect the fact that people have the right to make their own choices. If I don't agree with the choice then I can always speak my mind. However, in the end, the people have the choice and I can accept that (I wouldn't want it any other way), even if I struggle with not liking the esthetics that go along with it. In the end it's not my body or my life.