Tuesday, June 9, 2009

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


Joanne said...

Are acceptance & change mutually exclusive? Hmmm, what about accepting change?

mojee said...

i think there is a hymn with this theme. something about take me as i am. did not grow up a protestant so it's a faint memory. your blog will surely make way for acceptance.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the world of pop music. I've found that a lot of the songs in the music world really do speak to some unhealthy dynamics. That said, if the "other" in "The Way I Am" was already buying Rogaine, then the sentiment is rather sweet...or enabling, depending on your view.

I wanted to share the following ink that I think has relevance to your blog, as well as today's topic. The following is info about a new school we have opening up and the bio (and picture) of the experienced principal who is opening the school:


What does this say about acceptance and about image vs. substance. What lessons will these students take away from this school (as the students have at Polaris) about bald women and/or the relevance of hair? How will this help them (the female students in particular) should they face hair loss?

I wanted to share this because Diana has always presented herself as she is during my 6 years in the District. From what I know she is judged based on what she does as a principal (and as you can see she's done some impressive things). She may not be a celebrity, but she touches hundreds of young lives each year.

Mel said...

I think that it is impossible to claim to take someone "The way I am". We are each changing on a daily basis because of what life throws at us. No one is exactly who they were yesterday and tomorrow they will be a little bit different too. Change is constant. It can't be helped. But where the true challenge lies is in choosing to love someone no matter what happens. It's a lot of work. That is why we see such a high divorce rate. So many are unwilling to hold together through the change and challenges that shape our lives.