‘Hair is rejuvenated and restored to its smooth, beautiful lustre’.
‘Give your hair the lushes bounce it deserves’.
‘Say goodbye to dullness and split ends & hello to shine, volume and vibrancy’.
Hair, hair, hair…Sure on the surface, the hair on your head can serve a purely practical purpose; it’s there to protect your scalp from sunburn in the heat and It helps keep your head warm in the winter. But below the surface, hair is far more than mere function, it’s a sign of health, beauty and most importantly, femininity.
However more specifically to me; from bright red during the beginning of a new exciting romance, to jet black when he said he wanted to see other people; my hair has always been an indicator to the outside world, my emotion state and relationship status far quicker than Facebook ever could. From shaved sides at the peak of the punk rock era, (I was a big Sex Pistols fan) to cornrows when I visited Jamaica; my hair was a clue to what subculture I was part of and what country I had just visited. From big quiffs that feed on hairspray, to rolled out of bed hair that considered the word comb as part of an indecipherable foreign language; my hair told you what decade it was without you having to look at a calendar and when it was my time of the month, and trying to look pretty was off the agenda.
Ever since I was eight years old, my hair has always been the centre of my universe and in this vast, scary and all in compassing world, it was my sole means to make sure that I was seen, heard and understood. No matter what devastation was going on in the world or in my personal life, as long as my hair looked good, I felt good and knew everything would be okay again.
22 Nov 1963. 28 Aug 1963. 2 Feb 1990. The assignation of JFK, Martin Luther king’s dream speech, the release of Nelson Mandela. By instinct people always know the exact day of important historical events. Personally I can’t tell you the exact day I lost my virginity or when I had my first period, but I can tell you the exact day I lost my hair – 2nd of April 1995 at 12.35 pm. I was combing my hair when I started to see large clumps of it appearing on my brush, every time I ran it through. A scream later and equipped worryingly with a magnifying glass, my mother soon confounded my worst nightmare; with a heavy heart she told me I had bald patched dotted around my head – I WAS LOSING MY FUCKING HAIR!
“It’s not cancer”, the doctor said. My mother and I exhaled simultaneously.
“But you do have Alopecia Areata”, I nearly fainted.
To me, this was worse than a nightmare and more horrific than a scary film; unlike a nightmare, I couldn’t wake up from it the next morning with the solace of a full head of cascading hair and unlike a horror film, I couldn’t turn the TV off and hide behind my hair for safety. To me and I’m ashamed to say it now, but to a 17-year-old me, Aplopecia Areata was somehow worse than cancer. Cancer was gallant, it made you brave and strong. But with alopecia you got no sympathy, with alopecia you don’t get any tears, except If they are your own.
The doctors said it had come as a side effect of having thyroid disease; but I didn’t hear him, in my head I was blaming God, “why me?!” Eventually, with the clarity of a deafeningly quite drive home, I looked back closer to home and all the years I abused my hair… Frustration, hurt and embarrassment rose up inside me as I had flashbacks; the bleaching my hair, the constantly pulling, twisting and wrestling it into various Celeb Do’s and the tons of chemicals I drowned it in, because the adverts told me so.
I blamed myself for a very long time and the ugliness I felt inside and outside damaged my health and self-esteem; I lost weight and looked for every excuse possible to not leave the house – my life came to a complete standstill. My family and friends tried their best to encourage and support me at the time and I love them now for doing it, but back then, all I wanted to do was build a wall between myself, men, the world and hide behind it forever.
The inciting incident that finally drew me out of the house wasn’t a spectacular occurrence, a cathartic experience or finding true love that offered me a hand of salvation to pull me out of self-deprecation and depression – it was time. I started leaving the house more, seeing friends and family because I realised the world continued to turn with or without me, food needed to be put in my stomach and I felt very lonely…
I was getting used to being out and about but I was still very tentative around the issue of men, I still linked beauty and femininity with hair, but I didn’t have hair so that meant I was neither beautiful nor feminine. Even when men did approach me, deep down I felt that they only did so out of pity or to win a bet – why else would they talk to the hairless rat in the corner?
But everything changed when I met Elsa.
Elsa was tall, slim and bathed in caramel. When my friend Charlotte first introduced her boyfriend’s sister to me, I couldn’t help thinking, “If I was gay, I defiantly would!” … The drinks flowed and the snorts of laughter ensued, Elsa was such a fun person to be around and I enjoyed her company so very much. Finally, during our bonding session, with our comfort at a high, Elsa revealed to me that she was seven months pregnant.
At first I thought she was being funny, because clearly she had the body of a catwalk model – where would she even find the room to put a baby!? Secondly, I ashamedly questioned her sanity because I thought maybe she was so broody, she conjured up the existence of a fake baby to cope. Then without a fault in her speech, a breath misplaced or a change in expression, she calmly said, “I was a victim of FGM (Female genital mutilation)”.
Elsa could hardly suppress a laugh as I tried to inconspicuously look her up and down, as if I could notice, as if expecting to see giant neon signs or tentacles on her. But I saw nothing, she was flawless, stunning and every other women on the planet seemed to dull compared to her. Yet as a result of a rather absurd, archaic traditions in some countries in Africa, Elsa was left unable to have sex or have children. Thus her husband and her had to spend three years looking for a surrogate so they could have the children they so desperately wanted together. Fortunately, thirteen months ago they found Celia and ever since she got pregnant, Elsa has been iridescent with the joy of impending motherhood.
After exchanging numbers and staying in touch, I soon began to realise that despite having sexuality and natural child birth robbed from her; not one inch of Elsa felt any less feminine, beautiful or lovable. Elsa didn’t focus on what her life lacked, instead she focused on what she had in abundance. Elsa didn’t accept societies shallow notion of beauty, instead she embraced her inner and more radiant beauty.
Elsa had complete love for her husband and her new baby Ocean, who despite not sharing her DNA, Ocean somehow became every bit as magnificent as her mother with each passing day.
Once again time slowly worked its magic and it soon became crystal clear that being bald didn’t make me the beast I had feared for so long. Rather, it made me unique and just another shade of beautiful on the women spectrum. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I love sex and I don’t think I could live without it and the thought of not being able have kids would be far too unbearable; but yet these same things didn’t compromise Elsa beauty, femininity or love for life.
So this summer, I firmly took the lesson on board and I’m going to leave the wigs and scarves at home and go to the beach to catch some sun; with the family and friends who were rays of lights in my darkest days and if I find Mr. Right at the beach, even better! I’m just another shade of beautiful on the women spectrum.