“Nooooo! Don’t do that! I hate when cute girls mess up their looks.”
“You’ll have to dress more girly and learn about make up and stuff”
“Everyone is going to think you’re a [lesbian]”
“You can’t do that! Just… don’t.”
I’m not even joking, you guys. The past couple of weeks, I have gotten all of these reactions (and more) when I tell people I am shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s. In the interest in full disclosure, I have always wanted to shave my head. I think women who can rock no hair are absolutely gorgeous. I have had an incredible amount of different styles, colors, cuts, and looks on the top of my head. I am no stranger to “bold” hair choices, but I have not yet been bald. I’m really excited.
Through out my hair adventures thus far, I have realized that people will judge me based on my aesthetics (surprise, surprise, right?). I have also realized that people will judge me n the words I speak, the actions I perform, the money I make, the family and friends I have, the car I drive, the stuff I love, and any other damn thing they please. So excuse me if I choose how I present myself without really worrying about others too much. Now, back to the unsolicited “advice” and feedback…
Normally, what I do is giggle and coyly say “I’m sorry, I didn’t know my body was up for discussion with you,” “Thanks for your concern, but I’m actually really excited,” or even “I’m not too worried, it’s just hair.” If I’m being real, what I’d like to say is something more like “Hey IDIOT. My body, my looks, and my message are not for you to decide. If I want to shave my head to help further the dialogue that will help prevent conversations in hushed tones about a family member’s health, or make hospital stays easier for the kids and families battling these terrifying odds and treatments, or even just because I want to show solidarity with the kids going through chemo… It is none of your business. Don’t like it? Don’t look. Burying your head in the sand will not do anything to help, but it’s preferable to you trying to ‘correct’ my choice that I am thrilled with.”
When I was ten I had to learn what cancer is because my cousin was diagnosed with it even though he was just a couple months older than me; before that, “cancer” was some disease that people my grandparents’ ages got… after they had rich incredible lives and had done a stupid amount of awesome stuff. I spent the next few years hearing second or third hand how Julian and his family were doing because I had NO IDEA how to reach out to them and ask myself. His family handled it with unsurpassed grace and love- selfishly, I love that I share some of their genetic code, because they are incredible humans.
Fundraising and getting shaved is my small way of trying to help anyone else’s family from going through that. I can’t write about their experiences because I am across the country from where they live, I wasn’t there, and even if I was I wouldn’t share their stories because they deserve that privacy. What I can write about is statistics (as a sociologist, I’m good with those haha). In this day of divisions along the lines of socioeconomics, race, age, gender, sexuality, political parties, appearance, or whatever else… the one thing that crosses every single one of those lines is cancer. Every day, forty three children are diagnosed with this life-altering disease, and (on average) five of them will lose the battle that then lies ahead of them. Even when a child survives the disease and treatments, there are often lasting effects as a result of the medical process of defeating cancer- ones which usually require lifelong follow ups.
The reason I chose St. Baldrick’s it two-fold. 1- the funding they provide in the form of grants is going directly to researchers. For every dollar donated, about 77 cents go to the research programs. There’s research every day that is working not only on more efficient treatments, but ones that are easier on the patients. and 2- A bald head (especially on a woman) is something that can start conversations. Conversations start ideas. Ideas start change. If there’s something childrens’ oncology needs, it’s change. For me this is a no-brainer.
So… to the guy who was flirting with me until he realized I was serious about this, or the random co-workers who accidentally make ignorant comments about me appearing lesbian (which, on a side note is not a bad thing- a lot of the most incredible people I know are!), to my twelve year old students just figuring out gender roles, and how to present yourself as you are… and anyone else who has a thing to say other than “good for you! I support you.” ::
Thanks for the input, but this… this is mine. Only mine. And I’m stoked to completely kill the fashion game with no hair. See you on the flip side!
Ps- to those people who have supported me (either with real support, or just by not openly dissenting): THANK YOU. I can’t thank you enough.