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


Joanne said...

I wonder what it would take for you to "bare all" (go bald)? I wonder what it takes for any of us to reveal who we really are -- scars and all...

Anonymous said...

When and if you do go bald, WEAR SUN SCREEN! A burned scalp is not pleasant (I know).

I think this entry touches on a key point. Each of us must decide what works for us (and what doesn't). In the end going topless or showing a bald head doesn't make any one truly free. It's how we perceive and value the act. I'm sure if you'd asked the women in Greece how they perceived their action of not wearing tops on the beach, they wouldn't portray it as an act of liberation. It's how they dress at the beach, which just happens to be culturally different from most places in North America.

Would pink hair have been liberating? It depends. If you were looking to work or a bank it probably wouldn't have done much to help you secure a job. However, then the question must be asked why you wanted to work in a bank (I use this an an example) given the importance of having the flexibility of having pink hair.

Jennifer/The Word Cellar said...

You'll go skulking about when you're ready, in your own time and own way, with or without scarf. (skulk!)

kastababy said...

I think it's probably easier to go about in the world bald if you learn to be comfortable being bald at home amongst family and friends. I will always be grateful to my dad for teaching me what unconditional acceptance and love really is -- because without that, I would never have the courage to go about being bald in public, taking pictures bald, go to work bald, or just be bald in general!

Like you, I didn't go outside bald on National Bald Out day, but my reason for not participating was very simple: I work 3rd shift, so while everyone else was out, I was in bed asleep (with nothing on my head of course -- so hey, I guess I did participate after all!)

Mary has started a wonderful thing -- and baby steps toward total freedom are perfectly okay too. You'll get to that bare-headed and to hell with the world stage soon enough.

But I do wonder -- is being ultra conformist being a non-conformist in itself???

Joanne said...

I asked the wrong question before. The "right" question in my opinion is: How do I need to change/what do I need to heal for you to feel comfortable expressing your true Self?

mojee said...

i know where you are coming from. the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. you have come a long way. someday your SKULKING will manifest. maybe it's a goal for all of us. BRING ON NATIONAL SKULKING DAY!

Judith Sara Gelt said...

Beautifully said. Miss your head, covered or not.