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My Crowning Glory…is my attitude to OPO—Other People’s Opinions about my hair loss. Whether it’s thinning, falling or greying hair, it’s just keratin—a dead protein. It doesn’t define me.
Yes, I have hair loss. I’ve lived with it since my teen years. It’s not alopecia, as in clear baldness. But my scalp shines through. My fairness makes it more obvious.
It amuses me how most people cannot handle it. Some people, while speaking to me, are unable to tear their eyes away from my hairline; whereas I am unable to tear my eyes away from the hilarious horror upon their face. When did we become a society that cannot get past the exclusive focus on looks?
While men’s baldness is the butt of jokes, we still accept it. However, women’s hair loss is a taboo topic. Balding women are supposed to not exist. Certainly, we need not enter a beauty salon…we’re better off getting a hair transplant.
Coco Chanel said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” Well, I will add to that. A woman who stops buying into the stereotypes and conditioning (pun intended) about her hair is a free bird. Well-groomed hair is a must, but our beauty salons, our advertising industry, our marriage market all take it to an extreme. We have to stop the shaming.
I used to be conscious about my hair loss and have often found myself withdrawing, holding back, bowing my head or shrinking away from the blinding overhead lights so ubiquitous in modern malls and offices. I’ve avoided bright sunlight and swimming pools, and shirked outdoor activities, unable to enjoy the wind blowing through my hair, because I’m wondering if everyone’s staring at my hair.
I used to frequently be questioned, “How did you lose your hair?” followed by “Haven’t you tried XYZ treatment or ABC hair loss clinic?” Interestingly when I stopped answering long ago, people quit asking!
Dear agonized aunties with your angst-filled theories about how “girls these days straighten, color and ruin their hair”, I am quite sure I didn’t do anything to cause it. It’s hereditary and male pattern balding. I’ve been tested to within an inch of my life and my hormones are A-OK, thank you. Yes, I’ve tried various treatments. No, I refuse to use the only treatment that might work—minoxidil lotion.
I’d rather spend my money on experiences, on my physical and mental health than on dead protein. A whole industry has sprung up over hair loss. We’re bombarded with billboard ads for hair transplant and alternative treatment. They show unsuccessful, bald ‘Before’ men with bowed heads, and then the smiling ‘After’ men with a thick thatch of hair, and money and girlfriends in their lives.
There’s a serious dearth of hair stylists who can keep their opinions to themselves. My innumerable experiences of humiliation in the salon chair are proof that the beauty industry (like many others) sells by shaming.
Why else would the stylists wait until they have slathered heavy product onto my limp, wet hair? When they’ve got the entire salon looking at me with undisguised pity, they pounce for the inevitable interrogation! “Madam, how did this happen? We have ABC oil and XYZ massage that will help it to grow back.”
My experience with US hair stylists was empowering. They were respectful and cheerful, exclaiming about how prettily my hair waves and how this cut and that layer would make it look even better. How different is that from the hopeless shrugging of shoulders in Indian salons, about “Madam, your hair is so thin. If I cut it, you will not look nice”!
I now firmly request while making an appointment that the hair stylist avoid personal comments and selling me products and services. I’ve had the good luck of finding 2-3 hair stylists who take delight in trying out different cuts that flatter my hair and my face cut. It’s a refreshing change to walk out feeling stylish and on top of the world!
I’ve learned that the confidence I feel about myself as a whole person is mirrored back in others’ responses to me. I also learned that I have a lot more hair than I imagine! My so-called flaws are not my problems and I refuse to own them…it’s up to others to accept us as we are.
Hair loss is just a minor ‘disfigurement’; it’s cosmetic. I often joke that my kidneys, heart and liver are working just fine. It’s more important to me to work on my inner self, because I believe beauty comes from within. I am blessed with other crowning glories that sparkle brighter than a shining mop of curls.
A woman who holds her head up high, refusing to accept the shame that comes with not looking perfect enough, is the most beautiful woman. I have family, friends and colleagues who are shamed for their acne, eczema, greying hair, dark circles, wrinkles, vitiligo and—in our white skin-obsessed country—dark skin. It saddens me how we’re not allowed to just be.
They say your hair is your best accessory. I say get over your looks. You look beautiful if you feel beautiful. The more attention you pay to the shaming about your looks, the more your natural shine will dim.
Know that your true beauty comes when you’re radiant with pride about yourself, and your contentment with your lot in life. Hair is here today and will be gone tomorrow. What remains is what matters. Be yourself, play up your positive features and bank on your personality.
Image source: pixabay
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I'm currently a communications specialist in the corporate world, and mom to a teen
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