Guest Blogger Meowser: The Hair Piece

Meowser's bald spot

Meowser with bald spot exposed


Meowser with hairpiece

Flashback, Pomona, California, 1989: My officemate R. and I went out for some drinks, and it got late and she invited me to come stay overnight on her couch rather than drive back to Glendale. R. is an African-American woman with a processed hairdo. At least that’s what I always thought it was, anyway. But right before putting on her jammies, R. nonchalantly slipped the wig off her head, revealing a very short Afro, and placed the wig on a fabric-covered foam head. She didn’t say a word about it, and neither did I.

*

Flashback, Bakersfield, California, 1999: Two years after PCOS-related male-pattern baldness became what I would soon come to know as a lifelong reality for me in my mid-thirties, I was in the market for some type of hair-resembling cover-up for my poor threadbare scalp, having muddled through for the past two years solely on hats, scarves, and the fervent hope that all my neighbors and potential employers were nearsighted. I happened into a tiny wig shop in a strip mall, still crawling with shame that I was one of those freaks who was going bald like a man, and while I was in there I saw a group of young African-American women trying on hairpieces and wigs and giggling. And watching them, and remembering R., all I could think then was, “God, we white women suck when it comes to this stuff. We think that if it doesn’t grow out of our head, it doesn’t count.’ Those women trying on those wigs, they don’t HAVE bad hair days, they feel free to borrow someone else’s hair if they want to! Why can’t we white chicks be smart like them?”

Of course, at that time I knew jackall that could fit in a worm’s mouth about what African-American women, especially those with “professional” aspirations R. never had, were expected to go through on a constant basis in order to have something “socially acceptable” on their heads — the scalp-lacerating hot combs, the noxious chemicals breathed and absorbed through the skin, the Kryptonite-esque avoidance of water anywhere near the face, the cornrows migraine-tight, tight, tight enough to hold a weave. (And if you’re still blissfully unaware of that reality yourself, this post, from an author named Ta Ankh on the Black Hair Yahoo Group via Pam Spaulding, spells it all out in grisly detail. In fact, just as an aside, if you can read just this piece alone and still look me in the eye and tell me “racism is dead,” I want to buy lots of real estate on Planet You, because Planet Me is still pretty frickin’ xenophobic.)

But even if my original line of thinking was somewhat shit-lubed, the basic premise of it — that I needn’t consider myself a failure as a woman if my hair never grew back again — is an idea that I need to hang on to even when it keeps wriggling through my fingers like a greased eel, which it does, again and again and again. Because my hair never did grow back again, and with it gone for more than a decade, it’s unlikely to. Lately I keep washing my hair with Nizoral A-D, which costs five times as much as my usual el-cheapo shampoo — why spend money on hair care products when there’s no goddamn hair to care for? — because it’s supposed to engender hair growth without the side effects of Rogaine, (which can include, among other things, more hair growth on the face, which I need like I need a giant runny nose growing out of my back). I keep checking my scalp every day for signs that I’m not wasting my money like my OB/GYN (who has PCOS herself) warned me I’d be doing if I laid out a thin paper dime for anything that came in a bottle that was supposed to restore hair growth. “Is that a new hair? I mean, it’s all gray and everything, but that totally wasn’t there before! ONE NEW GRAY HAIR, PEOPLE, ONE NEW GRAY HAIR!” When was the last time you heard a woman say that and actually look happy about it?

Flashback, Los Angeles, California, 1992: My friend K., who is a brilliant singer-songwriter-electric guitarist with cascading long, naturally blonde hair and an ongoing love-hate relationship with Sinead O’Connor in her buzzed-scalp phase, announces to me over dinner that during her coffeehouse gig that night, she plans to get her entire head shaved bald. Foolishly, I assume that this is all talk. Shave your head DURING a gig? Even K. isn’t crazy enough for that. But sure enough, that night K. plays her first song and then has her friend L. come up on stage with an electric razor and buzz off every last lock. Blonde hair all over the place. The crowd eats it up; the coffeehouse’s owner — L.’s mother — looks like she might faint from the cleanup job awaiting her after the show. K. rubs her head ecstatically. “I’m bald!” she screeches. “Look at me! I’m fuckin’ BALD!”

Here’s the thing. I know I don’t have to put myself through this. I know. I have a job where I do not have to have any public interaction whatsoever. I live in a town where it would be perfectly acceptable to flout gender expectations. If I wanted to shave my entire head completely bald like K. — or like Lindsay did once, to stunningly lovely effect — the only person who might complain would be C., who’d have to deal with my razor stubble when I nuzzled him. Razor stubble. Already a problem with that on my upper lip, chin, neck — yes, neck! — and anywhere else on my body that ever gets scraped with a razor (legs only when they’re going to be publicly visible or I want to wear tights). Do not want. Besides, my head gets cold nine months out of the year as it is.

And it’s not like I ever had good hair even when there was a lot more of it. My earliest memories involve my mom ripping a brush through my frizzy Jewish head, back in the days when there were no hair conditioners for children, when I was maybe 3 or 4, and telling me (although her own hair was smooth as a bunny’s) that it couldn’t possibly hurt that much. My hair stuck up straight in the air like Ed Grimley’s when it was cut short and grew out to the sides like a Christmas tree when it was long, despite glopping on tons of hot oil treatments and deep conditioners and embracing blowdryers and avoiding blowdryers or whatever some dumbass girl magazine told me I was “supposed” to be doing to make the stuff behave. It was pretty much a hairdresser’s nightmare, not to mention mine, and it commenced a very early love affair with hats and scarves. When I heard Whoopi Goldberg do her old standup bit (referenced in the Ta Ankh piece above) about the little black girl who wrapped her hair in a white towel and pretended it was long, luxurious, natural blonde hair, I too howled in recognition. (I actually got to see Whoopi perform this bit — which she also wrote — live when she was a rising star circa 1984, and it killed.)

I admire women and other femme-identified folks who feel free to screw with ideas of how much hair a woman is “supposed” to have and where. I really do. If they feel free to just let the mustache grow, let the bald spot be, and not apologize for it in any way, they are doing heavy lifting in this world in a way I cannot bring myself to do, not yet. Maybe it’s partly because I’m Aspie and thus feel like I’m potentially nerve-wracking enough to strangers as it is. Maybe it’s because I’m too invested in nice-Jewish-girlhood and don’t want to freak out my mom. But I’m certainly not alone, and I may even be handling it better than a lot of other women in my shoes. I bumped into this the other day during one of my periodic fits of hair-loss-related netsurfing:

A survey by Hairline International, the baldness support group, found that 78% of its female members no longer felt like women, 40% said their marriage had suffered and 63% had considered suicide.

Yes, suicide. Over hair. Granted, that’s in Great Britain and not in America, but I can’t imagine that American women who have the same problem are handling it with much more sangfroid than their British counterparts; Candace Hoffman of Herloss.org says an email questionnaire she distributed to over 100 women dealing with hair loss and baldness revealed that some of those women indeed “teetered on the brink of suicide” because of their condition. Once again, that bears repeating. Suicide. Over hair.

I am emphasizing that not to make light of how these women feel; I am doing so because this really is serious shit, this making women feel like they are total failures and would be better off dead for not fitting a mold for what they are supposed to look like. It really has to stop. I just wish I knew what the hell to do about it, when I don’t feel so hot about the state of my own scalp.

So I ask myself: If I’m willing to reject social programming regarding what the volume of my pantaloons should be, why should it be so much harder to reject social programming about what the volume of hair on top of my head should be?

Flashback, 2006: I am at a fat women’s swim surrounded by dozens of lovely fat chicks in bathing suits. I should be in my element, feeling totally relaxed and safe that I will not be pointed or laughed at for being a giant fatass in the pool. Instead, I find myself noting that not one woman besides me is wearing a bathing cap and that each and every one of them has a lush, full head of hair. “I’m the only bald FREAK in this entire place!” I say to myself, and find myself feeling very cold in the water on this hot afternoon indeed.

I don’t know. Maybe if there were as many bald chicks as there were fat chicks, it wouldn’t be so hard.

Here is one commitment I will make. When I hit the Chunky Dunk this summer, I will not have a meltdown over the hairs Nizoral did not restore. I will, instead, procure the most colorful, outlandish, ridiculous petaled swim cap I can find and wear it with pride in order to protect my head from sunburn and maybe strike up some interesting conversation while I’m at it. I’m thinking about this one. You will not be laughing at my fat ass, you will be laughing at — no, excuse me, with — my fabulously awful swim cap. At least that’s the story I’m stuck to for the nonce.

Meanwhile, in my above-the-water life, I have decided that itchy, hot full wigs can go fuck each other and have little itchy hairy babies without another dime from me. I have arrived at a compromise for when a hat or scarf won’t do, or I’m tired of them, and it’s this hairpiece from Jon Renau, matched to my natural color, with my bottom frizz straighened out with straightening cream. Maybe someday I’ll rip it off in public like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and freak everyone out.

Or not.

132 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Meowser: The Hair Piece

  1. I have always understood but also hated the emphasis and importance placed on a woman’s hair. And the idea of “good” hair – as though some hair is morally bad – also kills me. And not in a good way.

    Thank you for writing this.

  2. That’s a lovely-looking hairpiece, by the way.

    I went through a PCOS ‘scare’ this past year, and after blood tests (slightly elevated male hormones), an ultrasound (no cysts, but not surprising since I’ve been on the pill since I was 17) and eventually the gynecologist said no, I didn’t have PCOS, I’d just been on the pill so long my endometrium was thinned to the point where I didn’t really menstruate. But I’m still afraid he’s wrong, and one day I’ll wake up with male pattern baldness. My hair is thin enough as it is! The other night I had a dream that I had hair growing on my chest. And the last time I was in at the hairdressers, she commented that my hair was looking a bit thin-was I stressed?

    So, a question which I hope isn’t insensitive-was the balding obvious? Did it sneak up on you?

    I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing your story and pictures with us.

  3. I am fortunate enough that even though I have PCOS and grow hair everywhere else ($700 on laser treatments? after three years… kaput!) I was genetically blessed to have ridiculous amounts of hair on my head. Even that said, I TOTALLY get how someone could feel suicidal – or nearly so – about thinning scalps! I’ve had female relatives on both sides battle this issue, and I think I’m going to send one a link to this article… why? Well, I have to say that Meowser, you look seriously chic and smokin’ in that hairpiece, and I think it was a brilliant idea and now I want to tell everyone I know to try it. Heck, I appreciate wanting to grow more with the shampoo, but this looks so sharp, you may want to save the money! :)

  4. Nice to finally put a face with the screen name :) And I wouldn’t have known it was a hairpiece had you not told us.

    My husband started losing his hair in his early 20s. His brother started losing it before high school graduation. His hair loss still bothers him, but it’s more acceptable for men to be bald than women. And I think he looks better bald than with hair, anyway.

    My hair, I have to say, is my crowning glory. It’s naturally blonde but I have it died red with blonde highlights. My stylist is an awesome short-hair stylist and I pay her dearly. I get compliments on my hair nearly every day from women young and old, black and white. One exchange student on campus even told me in a Haitian accent that my hair looks like fire. My husband used to not believe me until we went shopping together and he saw first-hand how often I got complimented on it.

    So, I can understand the attachment women develop with their hair and how devastating it can be to lose it. For me, my hair was the first thing about myself that I felt good about. Because my family was poor, my mom or my stylist cousin usually cut my long, thick hair. When I was 14, I got a coupon for a free cut and style at a local salon. The stylist there knew I had a free coupon and still took the time to go through the style books with me and talk about what it is I wanted. She gave me a fabulous short cut – my first ever – which suits me and my thick hair much better and takes 5 minutes to style. For once, I felt good about myself and I’ve had short hair since. After realizing years later that my cousin was an awful stylist, I went back to the same salon and got another fabulous cut and style. I’ve been going to the same salon now for going on eight years and I’ve been with my current stylist for at least four years.

  5. As an aside from this great post about hair: Meowser, I luv luv luv those glasses. Where did you get them?

  6. This was a great post, about something I admit I’ve thought little about – this (and the article you linked to) were really eye opening for me. I’m a white girl with naturally straight hair, so, as you point out, I’ve never really HAD to think about it much. My sister has naturally curly, unruly hair, and I’ve often felt lucky to have hair that’s easy to manage compared to her. And my hair is an unusual shade of red that has made people say since I was a kid, “What a great color, where does it come from?” It’s been my favorite physical feature of myself for years, and I’ve thought about how I’ll feel when/if I go grey… but I’ve never thought about losing my hair entirely, or going very thin. It’s definitely something I’ll be more sensitive to in the future.

  7. The last time I went to a salon to have my hair cut was more than two years ago now. I’ve always had baby-fine hair and it’s never been particularly thick, but it’s nice hair. Well, the stylist kept carping on and on about ‘you’ve got hardly any hair, your hair is almost gone and it’s no good, I’m cutting it longer than you want so it looks like you’ve got some.’ Never mind that even though I’ve never been to beauty school I know perfectly well that one cuts hair shorter to make it look fuller. And never mind that I know perfectly well that I’ve got plenty of hair, that girl’s appalling behavior made me doubt my hair – and by extension my femininity – for the first time in my entire fucking life. I was so demoralized by the end that I didn’t even force her to go back and cut my bangs shorter when she insisted on cutting them to the length of the end of my nose, at which length they would constantly fall limply in my eyes and never be out of my damn way.

    I still can’t believe I PAID that bitch after she refused to give me the cut I wanted and spent the entire time insulting me. Where the hell was my self-esteem?

    It’s taken me more than two years to start getting up the nerve to decide it’s time to chance another salon. This time I’m getting recommendations from friends whose stylists clearly know what they’re doing. And if another stylist EVER says word one about my hair being crap and me not knowing what it will and won’t do or how I don’t really know what I want…I’m not only walking right then and there, I’m sending a letter to the owner of the salon to complain.

    Thanks, Meowser, for sharing your story. You look great, with or without the hairpiece. Oh, and that swimcap? Rocks in the most awesomely awful way imaginable! It is the new yardstick by which I will measure all kitsch.

  8. Thank you for such a fantastic and personal story, Meowser! And I LOVE that bathing cap. LOVE IT. I’m a fan of bathing caps, generally (so practical! so retro glam!), and I want you to know that I would wear that awesomely absurd flowered thing in solidarity with you any time we went swimming together.

  9. IN FACT, being a water loving creature, and being inspired by warm weather and The Rotunds bathing suit post, I am fixing to look into water aerobics here in Chicago and I do believe I will procure a bathing cap for the occasion.

  10. Wow, Meowser, thank you so much for sharing this! (And you are totally rocking that hairpiece!!) I can so relate, as nothing (not even fat!) can me feel bad about myself like my hair can. If I’m having a good hair day, I’m having a good day. If I’m having a bad hair day, it doesn’t matter how wonderful things may be, I’m going to feel irritable, angry, depressed and ugly. (And I can vividly remember great days turning to shit simply because I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror and “realized” that no, I’m actually NOT fabulous; my hair looks awful!!!)

    My hair has been a mixed blessing — it’s ridiculously thick, and (like Rachel) strangers will routinely complement me on it. However, it’s bushy and coarse and wavy/curly and I spent most of my life futilely wanting it to be sleek and shiny and stick-straight. (A lot like I futilely wanted my soft, curvy body to be skinny and boyish.) Interestingly (not!) those compliments only started coming when I stopped fighting it and trying to make it be something it wasn’t, and just embraced the curl and let it be natural. Also interestingly (not!) my hairstyling regimen went from about one hour down to five minutes.

    We are bombarded with hair messages just as we are with body messages, and that constant brainwashing is so hard to overcome. Loving ourselves as we are, working with what we have instead of chasing the impossible sometimes feels like going the wrong way on a one-way street. But just as I have more important things to think about than my weight/pants size, I have more important things to do than my hair.

  11. I don’t have time to say much at the moment, but Meowser, I love you. You rock.

    (D’oh! Lexy beat me!)

  12. Nice to know someone else has gone through what I’ve been going through… down to the jewish frizzy-curly-kinky hair to begin with. I’ve got PCOS, and am still trying to deal with the fact that I’ve got hair on my lip/chin/NECK!, which I’ve had increasing amounts of over the past ten years, and this year I’ve started wondering if I’m losing my hair, too.

    And to JPlum, you might want to get a second opinion. You don’t have to have the cysts to have PCOS –I don’t have them, either, and was told that the elevated male hormones were the defining symptom.

    And just in general, never ever ever go up to a woman with hair on her chin and thank her for being an inspiration for being ok with it. You don’t know that she is, and it might make her feel like total crap. I know it did to me.

  13. I had gorgeous hair, and a responsibility to the world to keep it at its best. Eventually I got so pissed off with that that I shaved it off to a half-inch all over.

    I love the bathing cap. One of the things I like about my short hair is that I can fit a bathing cap over it, but I don’t need to; my old hair needed a cap but didn’t fit in them.

    I have also discovered hats, because without hair to muss up, they are a lot easier to wear.

    And I also no longer look like I’d be perfectly at home in twinset and pearls, so I like that too.

    BUT I bet if I’d lost my hair through accident rather than choice, I’ve have been devastated. Like my thinness, it gave me access to a world of femme privilege (don’t laugh, it exists) which I can’t access as easily without it, though wearing a skirt helps.

  14. Thanks so much for posting this! I myself have PCOS, and I have naturally thin hair to begin with. I’m still in the early stages, having been diagnosed about 5 years ago in my late teens, but I’m aware that symptoms can progress, and have been thinking that hair loss may be something that I will eventually have to deal with.

    I really appreciate your candid way of explaining your journey, as well as the perspective offered. If my PCOS does progress to the point where I start to lose my hair, I feel like I can remember this blog as a means of bouying myself up and dealing with it in a healthy way. Thanks!

  15. Meowser, you are awesome and this post is super. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this out there because I think it is a subject that many of us don’t think enough about. (I SHOULD think about it more, because my mom’s hair is thin, not balding but just has always been naturally thin, and I know it bothers her a lot.) And I love your writing as usual, but I guess that goes without saying.

    Like other commenters, my hair was always what kept me going since I never felt good about my fat body. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I grew it out to waist length in high school. Like Sue, I always got lots of compliments on the thickness and the color, and used to worry a lot about what would happen when I went gray (my mom’s hair grayed at a very young age, so I was expecting the same around age 20). I think I was afraid I would lose an important part of my personal identity as a woman if I lost my hair color. Now that I am a little older and (this is probably the key) much more accepting of my body, I feel more like it will just be a good excuse to play around with hair color when my hair goes gray. I imagine I will still mind because I am having a really hard time with getting older, but my identity isn’t so wrapped up in my hair anymore.

    Oh, incidentally, I love that bathing cap and am considering copying you and buying it myself a lot more seriously than I should be (considering I usually end up swimming only once or twice a summer). If funds allow I think you should procure one of these Esther Williams suits (lots more patterns and colors available too) to go with it.

  16. I sometimes have nightmares about losing my hair (also my teeth). I wake up trying to scheme what hats or wigs I might get my hands on to cover it up. I get worry dreams about all sorts of things, but those dreams always have me peering closely at the part in my hair and trying to decide if it’s getting wider.

    I think that hair is a very big part of a woman’s identity. I once had an argument with a male friend who thought I was a “blonde,” and I was all, “My hair’s not blond, it’s light brown!” Not that I’d mind having blond hair (which was its color in my early childhood), but that’s not my identity. He made some comment about having known other women who’d get upset if you thought their hair was a different color from what they thought it was.

  17. Awesome cap! I want one! And, yeah, the hairpiece totally works on you.

    I have the gorgeous long blond hair that people pay hundreds of dollars for, but I’ve been cutting it off mid pregnancy so that the babies don’t use it as a comfort thingy when nursing. I’ve briefly thought about shaving down to an inch when I do my boys’ hair, but, despite the idea of being 8 months pregnant in Texas in August, I’ll probably still find a more traditional short cut.

  18. I always was tsk-tsked as a child for having ultra-fine unmanageable, not-thick hair. And I didn’t really realize until I was thinking about it while reading your article, what amount of emphasis really was placed on that, from the time I was a little bitty thing.

    It’s kind of amazing when you stop to think about how many nooks and crannies and miniscule details of our bodies, especially as women, are totally on the block for public judgment, and for determining our level of womanhood. (Level 10, I win!)

    I, for one, adore that bathing cap and would feel like immediate best friends with anyone awesome enough to wear it :)

  19. Thank you for posting this. I’m in my mid-30s, also have PCOS, also used to have thick, curly Jewish hair (which strangers would stop me to compliment me on) and am also now losing it at a rate which sometimes makes me feel full of despair.

    I’m surprised at how much it’s affected me, given I always considered myself a feminist, who didn’t believe in having to look a particular way. But it’s hard to lose something you loved – especially if you had a lot of trouble loving your appearance to start off with – and hair feels so bound up with our femininity. For myself, I mourn and worry. There are days when just hearing someone say “I have so much hair! I just can’t manage it!” feels searingly painful. It’s funny – hearing someone take joy in their body is never as awful as hearing someone complain about a “problem” you’d dearly love to have. Another lesson that we could all do with taking more delight in our bodies: I’m sure we all have “problems” other people would pay any money to have.

    I do remind myself that it is, indeed, just hair. That losing it will not affect my health, and in that I am lucky. I really want to read more about people who have made peace with this. I’ve been given comfort by the story of Gail Porter, the UK model who suffered total alopecia. This post also makes me think that maybe one day I won’t want to cry every time I think about my hair. Thank you.

  20. Wonderful post. The hairpiece looks lovely on you (and I covet the glasses!) And that bathing cap is awesome.

    It is bullshit that as women, our self-worth is so tied up in our appearance. A lack of hair shouldn’t make women feel suicidal. I completely understand why it would, but it shouldn’t! God, every day I get angrier about the messages we’re being sent through the media and advertising. One of these days, I may snap and blow something up.

    I also wish I had the courage to just let my facial hair be (I don’t have PCOS, it’s just genetic.) I have compromised by plucking out the darker and thicker hairs from my moustache and letting the rest be, instead of waxing, which I hate. (I know I just said I hate it, but if you’re not ready to just let your facial hair be, have you thought about waxing instead of shaving? It hurts like a motherfucker, and going for an appointment every six weeks or so is inconvinient and expensive, but with waxing there’s no stubble.)

  21. Hair seems to be a really powerful symbol of identity, power and sex.

    Look at what happened to Samson when his hair was cut. In times of war it has been common for female collaborators to have their head shaved – like this is supposed to be deeply shaming.

    I have thick, auburn-colored hair that’s always been sort of my trademark. And it was really devastating to lose it during chemotherapy. I mean, I’d already lost my health and any sense of control I felt over my life, and now whatever visual image I might have had of myself was gone too. Until that happens, you don’t really realize how much hair is part of your life – washing it every day, combing it, the feel of it on your head, the way you look in the mirror.

    I have a hard time dealing with the “bald is beautiful” cancer empowerment thing. To this day I have a visceral reaction whenever I see a bald woman, especially when it’s in a medical setting. Maybe I’m just not very evolved, or maybe it’s a bad reminder. :(

    And then I have to ask myself: How much of it is my own personal hangup and how much of it is about the way our culture views women?

    This was a really powerful commentary; I appreciate your sharing it.

  22. Meowser, great piece and hairpiece! The bathing cap is made of all kinds of win too; I’m feeling strangely attracted to the blue one with the white chinstrap on the same site.

    I’m another one who’s very attached to my hair; it’s always been far more popular than I am. :D It’s thick and relatively well-behaved, and a nice reddish-brown, but right now I’m dealing with having more grey than I’m willing to accept at my age. I’ll dye it, but I feel silly about how depressed I am that my hair’s days in its natural state are numbered.

  23. All of the comments here really emphasize, once again, the importance of choice. Cutting your hair or shaving your head or whatever can be incredibly powerful and empowering. However, losing your hair without having any say in the matter seems like it would be the exact opposite experience.

  24. Meowser, i think you’re made of 100000% pure unadulterated Win.

    I didn’t originally choose to cut off all my hair, it just kinda had to be done because it had gotten so thoroughly fried. I think it doesn’t hurt that i tend to value my own personal comf over how comfy people are (or are not) upon viewing my personage.

    I did find it rather interesting – i never really wanted to grow it out; i felt that i had to keep it “conservative” while i was unemployed and job-hunting. Then after i got a job, i felt like i couldn’t cut it until i was full-hire. By the time i was a full-hire, it was so long that everyone was telling me, “oh, you can’t cut it, it just got long enough to put it back!”

    So for me, growing it out was not a choice – and having long hair made me absolutely miserable. My self-esteem went through the floor – and since it was as slow a process as the hair-growing itself? Took me forever to figure out what was at the root (ha!) of the problem. Since cutting it all back off? WAY BETTER. In fact, it’s growing too fast! I need to cut it again. Hee.

    It really is all about choice.

  25. Karen, I also have long hair and I braided it when my kids were babies to keep it out of the way. If you don’t want to cut your long hair, then braids are a cool, contained option.

    I’ve always liked my hair best too, it’s a reddish brown and thick, coarse and straight. The only thing I ever wanted to change was to have naturally curly hair. Curls just seemed more feminine to me.

    As I don’t cut my hair, except for my bangs; it’s always been down to the small of my back. Except I just noticed a little while ago that it’s not anymore, it’s six to eight inches shorter now. I wonder if hair naturally grows to shorter lengths as we get older? So many people cut their hair anyway that they wouldn’t notice. I’m in my mid-forties and it seems like everything about my body is changing: eyes, hair, skin, periods.

    My husband tells me he likes how I’m going gray, love that man.

  26. Meowser, this post means a lot to me, since I too am losing my hair. I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to how I’m going to handle this when it’s no longer something I can easily hide (which I think is coming in about a year from now if it doesn’t improve). It does make me feel better to know that I’m not alone in this.

    And I’d never seen your picture before – you’re soooooo beautiful!

  27. Meowser – made of fabulous. Thank you for being brutally honest.

    I have PCOS. It SUCKS ASS (technical term).

    Though every other symptom causes me INCREDIBLE shame and humiliation, the hair loss, though it hasn’t happened yet, I am almost looking forward to, because I get to wear wigs. Every day!!! I may be a researcher at a major university but I am going to wear a damn blue wig in the lab. Swear!!!

    By the way, did I mention how much I fucking hate PCOS?

  28. Thank you for sharing this.

    I, too, have PCOS. I’m like shoutz up there. Lots of hair on my scalp. Lots of hair on other places, too. I have to shave my face every day. I could grow a right nice goatee if I weren’t so ashamed of what the reaction might be.

    I also have hairy armpits and hairy legs 90% of the year. I’m lazy, and my husband likes it/doesn’t care. I’ve never been comfortable enough to wear a skirt thusly, though. My own baggage, I guess.

    And I totally vote for the flowered swim cap. So cute!

  29. I think that hair is a very big part of a woman’s identity.

    Not only is hair itself important, but also the color of one’s hair. I’m naturally blonde and I wanted to go red for three years before I gathered the courage to finally do it. I was worried about hair damage, sure, but I was also worried about not being blonde, anymore. It was like the one thing that distinguished me in this rat race game of beauty we are all unwitting participants in. My mom also lectured me saying women pay plenty of money for hair the color of mine. When I finally did get it colored using a gift card she gave me, she said she wouldn’t have given it to me had she known what I would use it for.

    Three years later, my mom agrees I look much better red than blonde. Go figure.

  30. Interesting that this came up two days after I decided to buzz my hair again. It’s almost summer in Tucson; I needed a haircut but had no money; I got shot down by a guy I’d finally worked up the courage to hit on. Somehow all that added up to “OK NO MORE HAIR NOW.”

    This time, it hasn’t been much of a big deal, I think because my hair was short to start with. The last time, I went from hair down to my ass to stubbly scalp, and people were APPALLED. As many others have mentioned, there are those who will take it very very personally when you choose not to be pretty.

    Meowser: “If I’m willing to reject social programming regarding what the volume of my pantaloons should be, why should it be so much harder to reject social programming about what the volume of hair on top of my head should be?” I think this is really important to think about in FA circles. Many fat folks seem to be striving to expand societal definitions of beauty to INCLUDE fat, rather than giving a “fuck you” to those definitions in their entirety. Like it’s okay to be fat, but only if you have luscious hair/designer clothes/a face full of makeup/whatever. I personally am fat, have bad skin and no hair, and somehow manage to be ridiculously hot.

    Meowser, I think you are fabulous, with hairpiece or without. And I second whoever originally said that your glasses rock!

  31. Meowser,
    The swim cap totally rocks!! I swim with the Padded Lilies and we have the same swim cap!! Look, you can see us wearing them here: http://www.paddedlilies.com/

    And here:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21253905/displaymode/1107/s/1/framenumber/7/

    The caps look really good with a bright red swimsuit, as you can see! You’ll definitely make a big splash (pun absolutely intended) at the Chunky Dunk!

    On a serious note, your post was beautifully written and extremely moving. It was good for me to read about a different perspective from my own. I am a fat chick, but one aspect of my appearance I’ve always been pretty proud of is my head of smooth, thick, wavy black hair. (Though the occasional gray hairs that are starting to sprout up are quite distressing…) Anyway, you have expressed so beautifully through your own experience with your hair loss what a grieving process it is to confront one’s issues with self-image. It is something that resonates with all of us.

  32. I wonder how much of the “zomg hair = important” thing comes from the “well, at least i have a pretty face” thing. “I may be fat, but at least my hair is awesome”.

    Ew.

  33. Pingback: beautiful post about the importance of hair in women’s lives « Hair Stories

  34. Awwww, thanks, I love all you guys too!

    The glasses are from a small downtown Portland shop, Hendrix & McGuire. If you are in PDX and need glasses, I highly recommend them, they’re at Taylor and SW 10th. (I was so happy they were on my vision insurance!)

    JPlum, yes, it snuck up on me over a period of about three years. First I noticed I was getting thin enough on top that my scalp was getting sunburned, and then over the next three years, there were fewer and fewer ways I could arrange it in order to hide the bald spots.

    BTW, I want it noted that this started happening after I started taking metformin, so I was not exactly trusting that a doctor would have an “answer” for me here, and when I asked them about it it turns out they really did not have one. Maybe things are starting to change a decade later, who knows, and if it happened today I might have been able to reverse it in time. I guess I’ll never know.

    Truth be known, as much as I like the hairpiece, most of the time I still favor a hat. There is still some itchiness when I wear the piece, although not nearly as much as a full wig, plus — have you heard? — it rains a lot here, and if I have to spend a lot of time outdoors on a given day when it’s raining or supposed to, I’ll generally opt for a hat or scarf. I plop it on my head, boom, I’m done. Convenience, me like.

  35. Amazing Amazing post.

    My husband’s friend married a wonderful lady who was bald. She had shaved her head in college (to keep her best friend who was going through chemo company) and found she liked it better.

    She said “Why shouldn’t I decide how pretty I am.” When I feel in a funk, I try to think of her.

    Thank you for this post.

  36. I’m struggling with this myself. I do or don’t have PCOS, because the doctors can’t seem to agree on which symptoms qualify me. I have other stuff going on too, and fortunately my PCP (who is just awesome) said, pretty much, who cares what the labels are, what’s wrong and what do we want to fix?
    Anyway, my hair has been too thin for years, and in this last year is getting thinner, and it’s scaring the shit out of me. I totally get the suicide thing. (I’m not there, and won’t be, but I get it.) I tried to explain it to the ex (who was lovely about the hair; it barely registered for him… and let’s face it, he, like most people, look down onto the top of my head) just how upsetting this is for women. We are our breasts and our hair. Right or wrong, in this culture, it defines us as women.
    Thanks for your awesome braveness to post this.
    I hate wearing wigs, btw. When I’ve had to for the stage, it just messes me up; I want to rip them off my head.

  37. This post is all kinds of win. Claps for Meowser.

    On a barely related note on the whole Racism and Hair thing – Hair was the cause of the first time I realised that racism is still around and very big (little white girl me growing up in a town where you could count the black kids in school on your fingers). My mom always took us to this one local hairdresser, and every time we went I had to wait the longest, because all the women there would look at my hair (and occasionally touch it) and then back off. I eventually realised this was because none of them knew what to do with it, with it being so thick and so curly. It intimidated them.

    It wasn’t until I was 13 or so that I started to notice this, that no matter how many times we went to the same salon, I always got the same woman doing my hair. And it was then that I realised that it was because all of the other women were totally intimidated by my hair and didn’t know how to manage it.

    It didn’t click with me right away that the woman who always did my hair was black, and that might have something to do with why she was more capable/experienced for handling outrageously curly and thick hair. But when she sat me down that time when I was thirteen and asked me what I wanted, I started to talk about what I’d like and what is difficult. And at some point, the conversation went like this:

    “I wish I could cut it short, but every time I try that it just sticks up everywhere. It would be cool if it was a bit curlier and then I could have, like, a ‘fro. But the way it is, it just looks like a yield sign when I cut it.”

    Laughter, “Tell me about it. But you’d really want a ‘fro? I’ve never heard of a white kid wanting a ‘fro before.”

    “Why wouldn’t I want a ‘fro?”

    “When was the last time you saw a person on TV with a ‘fro? Or a black person with curly hair at all?”

    The woman was laughing when she said it, but it was the first time I ever realised how black people on TV have “white” hair. And it was first time it occurred to me that our beauty standards are racial. In one moment all of our beauty standards, and the fact that they are all prevalently white traits, became really obvious. So obvious I was shocked I’d never noticed before. It made me feel a bit sick.

    The woman was still laughing when she whispered in my ear, “You know, if you were a black girl, when I was growing up I would have called your hair ‘good hair’. I think your hair is stunning.”

    I felt like crying.

    As a postscript, I also want that bathing cap.

    WE SHOULD START A FAT SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING TEAM AND WEAR THOSE CAPS!

    We could totally make it to the Olympics. Our team would be the best. Ever.

  38. Another PCOSer here. I haven’t yet had hair loss, but I’m dreading it, because my hair has thusfar been one of the (very) few conventionally attractive (i.e. socially acceptable) things about me. It’s been relatively effortless to care for, and until recently, I dyed it all sorts of semi-natural colors just for fun.

    Now, however, my genes are catching up with me, and I’m getting shot through with silver. I’m not agonizing about it the way some women might, but I am starting to wonder whether my usual shade of red is going to be feasible (and whether it’s going to be percieved as an attempt to cover grey.)

    I’m having mental wrestling matches with myself over whether I should just let it all grow out and go natural, or whether I should keep dyeing, and maintain the illusion that I have good hair. I never thought this issue would be as hard for me as it has been, given that I’ve readily given up all sorts of other attempts at making myself “pretty.” It just seems like such an easy way to have at least some acceptable street cred that I’m loathe to give it up. It’s not like it takes months (years, in my case) of sweating and starving. It doesn’t take painful, continuous shaving or waxing. It doesn’t take expensive skin treatments or itchy, gloppy makeup. It’s just a bottle of chemicals every few months.

    Meh. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do, really. I’m otherwise so “ugly” that I really am slightly afraid of giving up this one thing I have. But I also know that as my periodical dances with the bottle become less a matter of screwing around and more a matter of hiding reality, the more guilt I’ll feel.

  39. Ooh, thank you for posting this, meowser!

    Last spring, my hair started falling out – at first I thought it was because I’d been really sick and had multiple surgeries. But let me tell you, I was SO DEPRESSED ABOUT MY HAIR. My hair was my crowning glory. Stick straight, thick, shiny, soft….my friends joke about my “hair vanity.” In fact, my hair falling out was what prompted me to go to the gyno and wind up with the PCOS diagnosis – I never had most of the other problems like acne, hirsuitism, etc., though I’ve got the fat thing down – I think I didn’t want the docs to look at my weight first and make an instant diagnosis. But yeah, PCOS it is.

    I’ve been on metformin (glucophage) since I got diagnosed. My hair has been growing back in amazingly. (As a side effect, I’ve been losing a lot of weight – like my hair, it’s hard not to care.) It’s still kind of weird – it’s thin at the ends and thicker near the root where it’s coming back, plus it’s coming in all WAVY. I no longer know what to do with it, but I’m so grateful it’s coming back in. I’m lucky that I’ve had a really good relationship with a hair stylist for years, so she kept me going, probably better than a therapist could have!

    The gyno says I take the metformin till menopause, and then I will probably start experiencing some hair loss again. This scares the shit out of me. So even though that’s about 8 – 10 years away, maybe I needed this post to help me get ready…..

  40. Go for the swim cap ! It’s so awesome!

    I’ve often wondered what I would do If i began to get the hair loss that my mother’s mother had- my own mother did not live long enough for me to really know if it was likely to come down to me, along with the chub, great tits, fuzzy chin and smartassery. I’ll ride that bronco if I have to, I guess. Maybe I’ll set aside my next locks of love contribution for my own hairpiece instead.

  41. I’ve chosen to have short hair since high school, and I cannot count the number of people who have tried to cajole, harass and pressure me to grow it out because my hair was “pretty” .

    I can only imagine what it’d be like to be going bald.. cause I get enough “dyke” comments on my snazzy Vidal Sasson cut at least three times a week.

    I can only sympathize with the amount of stress you go through.. but I have to say I like that swim cap. Looks like my grandmothers!

  42. Meowser, is that a tuxedo cat under your chair? I have two of my own (of course, they would never be so polite to stay under the chairs. They are on the kitchen table as we speak).

    Thanks for this great post. You are so lovely, and as someone else said, great glasses.

    I have horrible facial hair, too. It just keeps getting worse and worse. I wax. Someone else up there recommended it, too. Waxing gets rid of my stache and chin hairs for up to a month (never made it to 6 weeks), but it isn’t too expensive to get done. Usually a few chin hairs will grow back quickly, but they are easy to tweeze. I wish I could just not care, but if I haven’t waxed in a while and I am outside in the sunlight, I can see people looking at the hair, and I get really self-concious.

  43. But even if my original line of thinking was somewhat shit-lubed, the basic premise of it — that I needn’t consider myself a failure as a woman if my hair never grew back again — is an idea that I need to hang on to even when it keeps wriggling through my fingers like a greased eel, which it does, again and again and again.

    Yes, this. I know intellectually that having hair is not a prerequisite to being a female person, but try telling me that on a day when someone snickers at my head, or asks me if I’m sick (does PCOS count?) or I have to get it cut. In fact, I’m about two weeks overdue for a cut but I just don’t have the emotional reserves to face that right now.

    Uh-huh. I have to psyche myself up for days to get a damned haircut. I know it’s ridiculous, but that doesn’t change anything.

  44. Good eye, Kristin! And thanks! Yeah, that is Binkley under the chair, same cat as my avatar. I didn’t even know he was there until you pointed it out, heehee! (C. is adamant about no cats on the dining table, and I can’t say I love cat hair in my dinner either, so they get tossed off and/or squirted the minute they jump up there.)

    Sniper, if it makes you feel any better, it took me FOURTEEN MONTHS between my last two haircuts. Psych myself up, you bet.

  45. Meowser, yeah, if I actually ever did anything at the kitchen table besides work, it would probably be pretty gross.

    I forgot to say this: Thank you also for pointing out to me the utterly ridiculous amount of suffering that African Americans (women, in particular) go through to have socially acceptable hair. I guess I have always noticed that it was a lot of work without really thinking about it. I appreciate having my awareness raised, though I often feel stupid for having been so thoughtless in the first place.

  46. What a great post, Meowser! Congrats. Yes, it’s amazing what society thinks makes a woman a woman. And one of the conditions is that we have to worry all the time about our appearance. Men are simply not constructed that way. My husband is bald, has been bald for at least 20 years now, and never once worried about being bald. His attitude towards himself helped me accept myself as I am – fat. I finally stopped to think: if he doesn’t care about being bald, why should I about being fat? Just because I’m a woman? Yes, I’m a woman, but also a feminist. If I demand equal treatment from society, I shouldn’t be discriminating myself. (of course, it helps that I don’t care my hubby is bald, and he doesn’t care I’m fat).

  47. Meower, this is an outstanding post. Thank you for sharing it with us here at SP!

    I am getting my hair chopped on Saturday and feel I might have a post on going gray boiling in me… We haven’t talked about hair that much here, but clearly, it touches a nerve for a lot of Shapelings.

  48. Meowser, thank you so much for that story. It is also nice to have a face now to the great comments you always leave here.

    I don’t have hair, I have … wisps. My hair is over my shoulders now, and if I put it in a pony tail, the whole thing is about as thick as my thumb. I have very very slim fingers.
    I also avoid going to the hairdresser. Most annoying are the comments “you have really really fine hair”. “No, REALLY? I had never noticed!”

    In the past years I have come to realise though that my “flaws” in appearance will never be as striking as a heartfelt smile and a good dose of confidence. Now when I look into the mirror and am not satisfied with what I see, I am more relaxed. When I think “shit, this hair/outfit/make-up doesn’t work”, on bad days I’ll think “aw, fuck it, nobody cares”. On good days I I’ll think “aw fuck it, I’ll *make* it work”

  49. “And the idea of “good” hair – as though some hair is morally bad ‘

    Heh. You really have been sneaking around those WOC hair boards, haven’t you? Have you worked out what you’re going to say if you get busted?

    It’s kind of amazing when you stop to think about how many nooks and crannies and miniscule details of our bodies, especially as women, are totally on the block for public judgment, and for determining our level of womanhood.

    Shamed if we don’t concern ourselves with them, ridiculed if we are. I think there’s some sort of masochisitic chromosomal anomaly attached to the estrogen, in addition to being exacerbated by the culture.

    “I have a job where I do not have to have any public interaction whatsoever.”

    I can haz?

    Thanks for this.

  50. I decided…maybe 6 months ago to let my gray grow in, as well as my natural hair colour, which I hadn’t seen in so long I wasn’t really sure about the colour. I’ve been going gray since I was 20, and only dyed my hair because I was bored by my medium brown colour-I’ve always wished there was a way to keep the gray while dying the rest the colour of dark chocolate. Possibly dark cherry chocolate. Last time I saw my mum, she said to me, in surprise ‘You have gray hair!’ since it’s recently become quite noticable. Then she said “Don’t you dare go gray!” She has vowed never to stop dying, no matter how old she gets.

    I think I’ll just rely on my hairdresser to notice any serious thinning, since I see her every 8 to 12 weeks.

    So, Dorianne, did the metformin make you lose weight, or is that an independant thing? When we were looking into whether I had PCOS, my doctor said that being overweight was a symptom so I asked her if I would lose weight if the PCOS was, treated. She said sadly, no, it was the olther way around-losing weight was a way of treating it/alleviating the symptoms. My response was something along the lines of “Crap! That’s just not fair.” I’ve been getting fit and losing weight to get the pre-diabetes under control-I’ll be having another glucose test in a few months to see if it’s working.

  51. I can haz?

    Littlem, if you can spell, you can type, and you can listen to staticky doctor drone for 7 or 8 hours a day without wanting to gauge your eardrums out with a Q-tip — and you can afford to pay for some training — yeah, you can haz. Email me if you want to know more.

  52. Meowser, thank you for this. I also think that hairpiece rocks.

    Hair has always been a huge issue for me. Mine is very fine but there’s lots of it, and when I was small it was waist-length. My mother would do anything, regardless of how much pain or discomfort it caused me, to get it looking ‘perfect’. Then at age 11, just when I’d started to be aware of having great hair and be proud of it, she took me and got it all hacked off. It was an issue between me and her for years, and yes, it was about choice: was I going to be a ‘proper’ woman and spend hours on maintenance, or was I going to have more time to do the stuff I wanted? (Which was why, on her advice, I stuck for years with tight perms which did need a heck of a lot of maintenance to not leave my hair feeling like straw.)

    A few years back I had it razor-cut back to shoulder-length and dyed three shades of red, and it just requires washing and leaving between re-colors, and now, for the first time in years, I’m actually pretty happy with it. There are grey hairs somewhere under there, but the aim wasn’t to hide anything, just to have a funky color.

    Then again…at puberty I sprouted thick dark hair in lots of other places, and that’s more of an issue for me still. I shave legs and pits at times of year when they’re going to be exposed, and use a cream remover on the upper lip, although that’s been getting resistant to anything, I think. Like kristin, I wish I could not care, but I had serious crap from school and one of my workplaces about the mustache – worse than anything anyone’s ever said about my weight – and it’s just one more thing I don’t want to have to deal with.

  53. Wow, thanks for talking about this Meowzer!

    In addition to being fat, I am also bald. Have been bald ever since birth (lovely genetic condition called monilethrix which prevents my hair from growing). I know you are astonished to hear someone would consider suicide over hair, but all during my teens and 20s and most of my 30s, I wanted to kill myself too (never got past just wishing I was dead; i.e., I never made an actual plan, but there were many times where I really wished I had the “courage” to kill myself). Even more so than being socially ostracized because I was fat, I was hated by my peers because I was bald. School was a nightmare. Unfortunately, I had no good role models, and my parents were lousy at teaching me how to love myself. So I grew up hating myself because others hated me, and it took me until I got into my frickin’ 40s (i.e., just in the last few years) to realize that that way of thinking sucks! I’ve learned a lot about self-love and self-acceptance from the fatosphere …. I’m so glad I found it, and am so glad for younger girls that this is around so that they don’t have to wait till they’re middle aged to realize they’re valuable and lovable for who they are, exactly as they are.

    Which is to say … gah, I don’t know what my point is. I’m just so grateful to hear you talk about baldness. Perhaps I can add a more articulate comment later. Thanks Meowzer.

  54. Second what Nicole said about PCOS. I had symptoms way before I was ever “obese,” which makes me strongly believe that PCOS is the “chicken” in this situation rather than the “egg.”

  55. Oh, hair.
    I’m black, and I’ve had my hair chemically processed and straightened since my freshman year of high school (I’m 22 now). My mom and aunt initiated me into the world of straightening (my aunt took care of my hair the entire time I was in high school). Now that I’ve found a straightening product I like, I like straightening my hair because it allows me to do lots of different things with my hair.

    Last summer I cut my hair for the first time in several years; I had to cut it extremely short because it was so fried and damaged from years of neglect (and simply not knowing how to care for my own hair). It was very freeing and fun, and I’ll probably do it again someday (Right now I’m growing it out). Until I cut my hair, I didn’t realize how important my hair was to me; I almost cried when I saw my hair all over my friend’s bathroom. Now I’m growing it out and enjoying watching the progress; it’s also a lot healthier now because I’m learning more about proper hair care.

    Great post Meowser! I’m so glad I can finally put a face to the name.

  56. First off, thanks for this wonderful and thought-provoking post, Meowser.

    Secondly, reading the post, the link, and all the comments, it’s interesting to me to see just how consistent a message we all get about what hair is attractive. If you are a woman in the US right now, the messages you get about your hair are that it should be long, thick, shiny, and straight – perhaps a very slight, long wave. Definitely not curly, thin, or short. Blonde is best – especially near-platinum – but another dramatic color is okay too.

    It’s enforced everywhere, too – from the street to our homes, to tv to our stylists. All those Pantene ads and movie stars have the hair – okay, perhaps not every movie star, but a whooole bunch of them do. And even in the comments, it seems like the women who get the compliments have at least two of those “good hair” attributes, if not more. And as for stylists, since I have naturally curly/wavy, thick, coarse hair, it is blessedly hard to find one who doesn’t immediately want to straighten it when I walk in to the building. I have had stylists ask me “What do you mean you don’t want a blow-out? You want your hair curly? WHY?!” Uh, because I like my hair and don’t see the point in frying it for an hour when I can wash it, ruffle my fingers through it, and them I’m DONE?

    It’s a whole bunch of bullshit. Hopefully one day we can all accept that people come in different shapes and sizes, and that hair comes like that too. And that they are ALL GOOD.

    I’m not holding my breath, but I think it’s a good goal :)

  57. My grandmother had four sisters, all of whom were largely bald and wore wigs – she was happy that she had just enough very fine hair to not wear one, and when she finally did lose it to cancer, she just wore a turban. It did grow back in, but snow white.

    I must have taken after my birth father, because I have an insane amount of hair, and it’s crazy-thick. When I was sick for so long it thinned a lot, and *I* could see my scalp, but there was so much to begin with no one noticed it. Only afterwards, when it grew back in and they cut off about 1 1/2 feet, it was painfully obvious that I’d lost about half my hair in that time. It was the bane of my childhood, growing straight out in tight corkscrews, only calming down after I became an adult. Not sure where I’d be without mousse.

    Thanks for being brave enough to post about that and the pictures – I know women who have balding, and I know they’re self-conscious about it, but they look good to me. It’s awful how people act about it, especially as concerns women.

  58. Charlotte – I spent my early life fighting my hair – it’s a wonder I have any left between the chemical and temperature burns that often left me covered in scalp sores. Just brushing was a nightmare. And the end result of fried hair like a bale of straw – oh boy! Now except for a blowout once every few years, I don’t fight it. People sometimes ask if it’s natural. In fact recently when I had it cut one of the women asked, and before I even got to them the woman I was going to see said “Oh yeah” as I nodded vigorously. I always wondered who would do this to their hair on purpose lol. They always told me when I was a kid that people do, but I still don’t believe it.

  59. What a wonderful and brave post. Thank you a million times for this, meowser. It’s one of those things that will be read by someone, somewhere, right when they need it and inspire them and empower them!

  60. Yeah, I kind of meant the phrase “good hair” to be ironic, but I’d probably put it in quotes if I had it to do all over again, just to make sure it was obvious.

  61. sorry. I was saying that we identify so much with having hair that w
    that when it starts to go, it’s like a shock to the system.
    Sadly, it is more acceptable for men and African-American
    women to sport the shaved look. I’m lucky. I still have my
    hair. But it’s a battle. I use both Rogaine and Propecia to
    prevent baldness. so far so good. Meowser, why don’t you
    just shave what’s left and buy a whole wig? Just wondering.

  62. Meowser, this brave, honest, hilarious post just makes my day.

    Just the other day I was talking with a young woman about the “tyranny of hair”. One of my earliest memories is the look on my dad’s face when he saw me after I hacked my hair off when I was about 4.

    I’m one of those who got fed up and shaved the whole mess off. My mother-in-law told me I looked like a cancer patient, while others used the word “lesbian” in a perjorative fashion. Of course, they’re all tools. Letting go of my hair was really liberating for me, and as a friend said, “So what if you look lesbian? Lesbians are hot!”

    But I also appreciate the difference that The Rotund articulated about having a choice in the matter. So I think, Meowser, that whatever you choose to do, whether it be hats, scarves, hairpiece, or wacky swim cap, or none of the above…as long as it’s an expression of you, it will be beautiful and fabulous.

  63. Meowser, your tale of your mother in your posting really hit home for me, because I also have curly, unruly hair – and I am literally the only person in my family on both sides who has non-straight hair. My mother did not know what to do with it and let me know how it frustrated her. It sent me a strong message that my hair was Not OK which I internalized until only a few years ago, when I finally realized that my hair was Curly, not Not Straight. I’m a lot happier with it now.

    And gads, you have gorgeous eyes. They remind me of Sophia Loren.

  64. Meowser is made of win. :)

    sweetmachine, I’m looking forward to you posting on gray, because I’ve started dealing with that myself in the last year or so. Can’t wait to see what everyone has to say on that, too.

    I think everybody hates something about their hair. It’s part of our nature to criticize ourselves, fostered by impossible cultural standards. Meh to it all!

  65. Meowser as others have said you fucking rock, and I admire you more than ever.

    That swim cap rules and chucky dunk ? OMG I want one near me so bad! I was unaware of that site thanks so much for the linkage.

  66. Great post!! Thank you.

    The hairpiece is fabulous, and you rock it. The swimcap is all sorts of kitschy awesome.

  67. Oh Meowser, I fucking love love love you. This post must have been written for me because we could be twins.

    You even have my dream job (I am assuming you are a medical transcriber), and I hope to find one when I am well again and have my Aspie family more settled. I can even type 100wpm!!

    My hair used to look like yours and then last year I lost the whole lot to psoriasis. That was pretty hard for me to accept even though I had major PCOS loss anyway. I guess it was the sores and bleeding scalp and stuff!!! I now wear a bandana around the top and have a pony clipped to the back. I like it and isn’t as hot and itchy as a full wig.

    I do get the suicidal part (not personally) because, just like fat, we are conditioned to believe there is physically only one acceptable way to be. I’m no less worthy or moral because I have no hair, a beard and not neurologically typical. My husband straightfaced tells me he would love me even I were bald and had a beard and then we crack up.

    You hairpiece is full of style :)

  68. *grin* Good hair? Man, that takes me back.

    As a Black woman on the lighter side, outside of random questions like “what are you mixed with” (grr), I’d get compliments on my long, wavy hair, compounded with, “Girl, you got that GOOD hair!”

    One day, when I was about seven or so, I remember asking the umpteenth person who gave me that “compliment”, “Ma’am? What exactly is bad hair? As long as it’s styled, it’s good!”

    No response. And then I was shooed away to go read.

    My hair is chemically straightened now, and has been since I was 9. And I still get told how “good” my hair is..and asked what I’m “mixed with.” *sigh*

    Meowser, your rawk, yo.

  69. So, this is the post that brings me out of lurkdom!

    I’ve never really thought much about my hair; I knew that I didn’t really like it, though it’s nice enough when “fixed”, and that’s about it. I never really thought deeply about the effects of racism on how we view our hair, but I knew it was there.

    I’m a black Hispanic. My family is of mixed color. When I was seven my mother took me to a salon and I had my hair chemically relaxed for the first time. I’m nineteen now, and I’ve had this done 2-3 times a year every year since.

    What’s interesting is that I can remember right away the conflict; on the one hand, it burned ridiculously (still does) and you spend like four hours washing/applying/blow-drying/blow-drying-more, you can’t get a single little drop of water anywhere (I watched water games sadly from a safe distance), it was expensive and I hated the process immediately. On the other hand, I went to school and girls were stroking my hair and saying “Oh, how soft! how nice! I wish I had hair like that” and I was getting compliments from adults/people-in-general for the first time ever on my hair…now that it was whiter. It still works this way. I still haven’t decided yet what to do about my poor, tired, chemically altered hair, because I still feel as though it’s “prettier” when straight and thin (though when asked, I totally cop out and say “oh, it’s easier to *manage* this way”).

    My point is (didn’t mean for my post to get so long and rambly!), like most people have already said, I wish we could collectively just let go of the idea that there’s a “right” kind of hair, or body, or lips, or nose. A lot of the comments here have really inspired me, because it’s only through people like you (who say, yes, this is my hair (or not) and I like it this way no matter what you say) that we’re ever going to achieve that.

    Oh, and also I lovelovelove hats and scarfs and anything else that goes on one’s head. I always have, and whenever I see anyone on the street wearing one they’re instantly “so cool!” (I don’t really have the confidence to actually wear hats/scarfs myself, yet, working on it). For the record, that would also be my reaction to anyone at the pool/beach wearing an awesome, loud, pretty, retro (to me, because I see them in those movies, you know?) swim cap.

  70. Meowser, thanks so much for your post. I agree with everyone else that it’s so nice to have a face to put with the name! And thank you for sharing your story, too. I am crying a little, because I identify with so much of what you say.

    I always had very thick hair, and throughout puberty and as I got older I consoled myself with the fact that it, at least, was nice, even if I had to start waxing my mustache when I was fifteen and gained weight straight on till morning. I understood Jo March’s sadness when she sells her hair and Amy wails, “Oh Jo, your one beauty!”

    When I went off birth control a couple of years ago in order to try to get pregnant and that’s when my PCOS symptoms went out of control. I was in denial, pretty much, about my hair, even though I have to dig big wads of it out of the shower drain every morning. I took a picture of the back of my head a few weeks ago (What? I was trying to see if my hairstyle looked okay) and I saw how much I’ve lost. It’s really, really fucking demoralizing.

    I’ve gone back on birth control and I’ve also started taking evening primrose oil — I’ve heard that it might help alleviate my symptoms and help my hair grow back. I am crossing my fingers. I was using the Nizorin but it strips the color I have dyed in my hair so I gave up on it.

    The hairpiece looks lovely on you, by the way. My mom has thin hair — not PCOS related — and she often bemoans the fact that she can’t wear a different hairstyle every day. I wish she would!

  71. omg you look so cute with those glasses!
    (yes, i know that is a silly comment but everyone else already said all the smart stuff… :) )

  72. Everyone else has already said how wonderful Meowser’s post was, so I’ll second that and then go on to say:

    Time-Machine, I was touched by your comment. It struck me as a very poignant scenario, and it brought up memories of when I first became truly aware of the gritty underbelly of our world. My eyes teared up a bit from reading your comment. Thank you for sharing.

  73. Meowser,
    Wow — I can relate so much.
    I do love my hair now, and it’s falling out from PCOS, too. I don’t really care to know how it looks from the top (which is what most people see because I’m just over five feet tall) because I still think it looks good most of the time.
    I have totally Jewish curly-frizzy hair — very dark brown and with quite a bit of gray — some days it’s so Rosanne Rosannadanna I just have to laugh.
    I do love your glasses and you look like someone I would want to be friends with if I met you in real life.

  74. Tuesday, I love scarves too. I know it would be like a What Not to Wear no-no, or to many a sign that you had “let yourself go” because you weren’t styling your hair, but I wear bandannas on my head on purpose because I actually think they look good. They sort of are my “hairstyle.” :)

    I’m sure most people who would be interested already know about this, but I wanted to mention naturallycurly.com to anyone with kinky, curly, or wavy hair. You get people on the “CurlTalk” forums who have thought a LOT about their hair and think very critically/scientifically about the products and techniques they use, and I have picked up some great tips there. There is often good political and social discussion about hair too.

  75. I should mention, I am white and of northern European descent and have mostly just wavy hair (kind of coarse with a few curls). I see this as a pretty low-hassle type since you can wear it straight or curly with relative ease–although I personally find it boring and wish it was curlier–so that is the perspective I am coming from.

  76. Meowser, why don’t you
    just shave what’s left and buy a whole wig? Just wondering.

    See “Stubble, Razor.” Also, see “Full Wigs, Itchy.” Am I right, Lindsay, that wigs itch like mad even when you’re shaved totally bald?

    You guys, I can’t tell you how gratified I am to read all these wonderful responses! All of you are made of rule!

  77. Tuesday, I love scarves too. I know it would be like a What Not to Wear no-no, or to many a sign that you had “let yourself go” because you weren’t styling your hair, but I wear bandannas on my head on purpose because I actually think they look good.

    Does anyone else have fantasies of going on WNTW and when Clinton and Stacey begin to snark on the ‘drobe, telling them WHY you LIKE what you’re wearing and busting out some dialectitude about cubist shapes and complementary colors for your particular skin tone and how you’re therefore not about to change a (*&^%$ thing unless they work with YOUR suggestions and watching them stand there open-mouthed and resisting until they obey?

    Anyone? Bueller?? No, just me?
    *quietly puts away wardrobe control freaky*

    FN, are you me? I was also told to “go read”. Frequently.

    Meowser, I forgot to say that your glasses are the coolest of the cool. Somehow, I always thought that’s what you looked like. Are they new?

    P.S. I will email you.

  78. I also have PCOS. I’m in my 20’s and haven’t experienced hair loss yet, but my mom is mostly bald and so is my grandma, so chances are I’m in for it in a decade or so. I’m slightly terrified. I love my hair. I’ve dyed it all sorts of interesting colors. It’s wavy and behaves most of the time. But I think that I’ve decided if I do lose my hair, I’m just gonna shave it all off. Fuck conventional beauty standards. I’m hot as a fat woman with a full head of hair, and I’ll be hot as a fat bald woman. And then I will play with fun wigs and scarves and stuff. It will be glorious.

  79. Wonderful post Meowser thank you.

    I was treated for ovarian cancer and lost all my hair by way of chemotherapy. What always amzed me was when I told female friends and aquaintances about my upcoming cancer treatment almost always their first response was “Oh no, you’re going to lose all your hair!” Well, yes, because I have CANCER. The whole experience really brought home how much emphasis is placed on a woman’s hair, or lack thereof. I discovered I really liked being bald though. I think I have an attractive skull – lol!

  80. What always amzed me was when I told female friends and aquaintances about my upcoming cancer treatment almost always their first response was “Oh no, you’re going to lose all your hair!” Well, yes, because I have CANCER.

    *facepalm* Well, that might be a form of distancing, I guess. As in, you don’t want to think about the big problem, so your mind goes right to the (relatively) little ones. I hope you’re doing better now!

  81. Littlem: Thanks! I got the glasses about 10 months ago. The screws already fell out a few times but the optician was nice enough to fix them for me at no charge, even though it was probably my fault.

  82. JPlum, I think the metformin has caused my weight loss, becauase I don’t believe in dieting and I eat what I want, and because the metformin works essentially by changing how your body processes food and how it uses food fuel. However, I do notice that I have a smaller appetite since I started taking it, plus I notice I am always hungry if I have to go for a few days without it (usually b/c I ran out and can’t make it to the drugstore), and I have to be honest about that.

    That being said, I don’t think eating less food is necessarily the cause (or sole cause) of my weight loss, because I dieted for years and years (before I started to accept my size), and those diets didn’t work. And as I said, I still eat the kinds of foods I want to eat.

    Hopefully I’m not leading the discussion into weight loss talk…I don’t mean to, I’m just trying to relate what I think the medication is doing to me.

  83. Oh, hair. It’s not just long hair = chix0r!, it’s the right kind of long hair = chix0r.

    I have hip-length straight brown hair. It’s my only physical that I truly think is beautiful; it’s thick and gorgeous and shot through with the most ridiculous highlights ever. I don’t just have lighter patches and darker patches; there are strands of my hair that are black, and some that are flat-out platinum. It’s never been dyed or permed or treated with chemicals ever, and I love my hair to bits.

    And yet, despite the pure delicious awesome that is my hair, every stylist I’ve ever had has tried to convince me to cut it short. (But not short short; just shoulder length! And get it layered! And of course you want bangs, honey, they’d frame your face so well! It’d look so feminine!)

    Because apparently nearly being able to Lady Godiva it up is just not girly enough. Who knew?

    (PS: Wicked awesome post.)
    (PPS: Wicked awesome glasses.)
    (PPPS: Those are some truly glorious swim caps.)

  84. looking at the number of ‘me too’ posts (including mine)… obviously, I should start that fat-friendly PCOS website I’ve been thinking about… just need to think of a name…

  85. My hair is one of the few things about my appearance that I DO like – losing it would be really hard. But I think your post illustrates very well how much we define ourselves (and are defined by others) by our looks – particularly the Hairline International survey quote. I have high testorone levels (although I don’t think I have PCOS – no ovarian cysts, no unexplained weight gain or lack of weight loss when I restrict calories – something I try to stop for good – and a period as regular as clockwork). Due to my testosterone levels I have quite a bit of facial hair. And yes, I have thought that this somehow makes me “less of a woman”. And I have thought the same about my weight, the general shape of my body (very small breasts, etc.) and even my loud voice. I know how ridiculous this is: I FEEL like a woman and I never wanted to be something else, and hell, I try to fight so many of the other stereotypes how a woman is supposed to be like (sometimes in vain, because although I am pretty sure that I am a fairly logical person, I am also extremely emotional).

  86. Oh, scarves and bandannas… I’ve never been able to figure out how to wear them, actually. Is this a good place to ask? I think the problem is that I have an excessively round head (or, rather, my head is perfectly shaped for my head, but in terms of compatibility with manufactured scarves/bandannas, it exhibits more roundness than manufacturers are planning on).

    If I try to wear scarves in a headband-ish way, they always just slip back off my head after like five minutes. And if I do the square-folded-into-triangle method, the triangle sticks straight off the back of my head like a motorboard or something. Anyone have any advice? I love the look, and am always tempted to ask when I see someone rocking it, but then I get shy and embarrassed and can’t bring myself to do it.

  87. Also, Meowser, I adore your glasses. F’love, seriously. I’m always kind of astounded at how damn awesome my favorite bloggers look.

  88. Geez, rhiain, read all the comments before posting or you’re going to look like an idiot posting three times in a row.

    My aunt (who had chemo last winter and lost all her hair) said the full wigs were impossibly itchy. She refused to wear them except when she was picking up her already-socially-marginalized son at school. I knit/crocheted her bunches of caps, which kept her head warm without causing a rash. Not that that’s a viable option for times that aren’t the dead of winter, but still.

  89. Excellent post. I’ve always been very attached to my hair, but I never really thought about how much of a cultural component there is to that. The idea that over half of the women in that survey considered suicide over their hair is frightening, but sadly, not that surprising. I find it nearly as scary that so many said their marriage had suffered; there are plenty of bald men in the world, and I highly doubt 40% of them have marital problems because of their baldness.

    Also, woohoo – another Aspie Shapeling!

    And I must know – how did you manage to find a job that requires no public interaction?

  90. What’s interesting is that I can remember right away the conflict; on the one hand, it burned ridiculously (still does) and you spend like four hours washing/applying/blow-drying/blow-drying-more, you can’t get a single little drop of water anywhere (I watched water games sadly from a safe distance), it was expensive and I hated the process immediately. On the other hand, I went to school and girls were stroking my hair and saying “Oh, how soft! how nice! I wish I had hair like that” and I was getting compliments from adults/people-in-general for the first time ever on my hair…now that it was whiter.

    You know, this is not the first time I’ve had the thought that what African-American women go through over their hair is parallel to what we all go through over our weight. Your body naturally wants to do one thing, you have to fucking torture it to make it do another thing–but A) you’re expected to endure that torture, or else you’re just not “taking care of yourself” (or trying hard enough to look professional, say), and B) if you do endure it, people can’t stop telling you how great you look, reinforcing the message that you were unacceptable when you weren’t torturing yourself.

    Sigh.

  91. I have PCOS too, and I have chosen to shave my head in the (dim and distant and 120lbs lighter) past. I have naturally very thick hair, so the only person who can really tell that I have lost a third of it is me. I have always said that if I lose enough of it that it becomes really obvious, I’m shaving the lot off (except maybe the front) and getting my head tattooed. I am not joking. I have to admit that if I did lose enough of my hair to have to shave it off, I would be devastated – I spent five years with short hair because my devotion to having rainbow-coloured hair meant I kept frying it and having to cut and shave it off, and as I have gained and gained and gained weight, I have been more and more miserable about having really slow-growing hair. It’s finally got to a length I consider long and feminine enough (ridiculous, I know, but it’s not as if I have any other markers of femininity) and I would be very upset to lose it. I always explain to people “I’m a big girl, I need big hair!” If I were still a size 16, I’d have way less problem with the idea of having no hair. As it is, I’m a 26 and growing. I am sure I’ll be able to rock the hair-free look if it comes to it but I won’t be completely happy about it.
    Hell, even my husband gets upset at the thought of having to cut off all his lovely long hair, and if truth be told he is a few years past the time for it. We keep putting it off despite the fact that his hairline is waaaaay far back and the front of his hair is almost an island.
    Meowser, this is an amazing post (fantastic how many more of us fat frizzy-haired Jewish PCOSers have turned up in response!). Thank you.

  92. This post really had me thinking on the way home from work. I work in downtown Atlanta, and as i sat in my car at the stoplights, i consciously looked at the people all around me. Beautiful dark skinned women… all with straightened and/or extremely coiffed hair. Not a one of them with natural hair.

  93. rhiain, for scarves or fabric headbands I have to pin them to my head with something like these or they do slip off the back. I put one clip sort of directly in front of/above each ear. If I am putting my hair up to work out or do yard work or whatever, vs. just to look good, I will then gather the rest of my hair and the point of the scarf into a ponytail and secure with a holder. Voila–absorbs sweat, protects my head from dirt and sun, keeps my bangs and stray hairs out of my eyes, and stays secure for a long time.

    littlem, most of the time I think WNTW is more positive than some other makeover shows, and I do like that Nick will more often than not NOT straighten curly hair (you are rarely going to get out of How Do I Look or lower-budget shows without extensions or straightening, I assume b/c they want a “dramatic” change and finding a good curly hair stylist is hard). But I do have issues with the makeover-ee being categorically told that their wardrobe is “bad.” What happened to the validity of personal taste? (I am thinking of some posts I read by The Rotund and others on Fatshionista, arguing that “fitted” is not automatically the most flattering and people shouldn’t be made to feel frumpy if they prefer a less fitted look; it is just that, a preference. But S & C would never agree to that–except maybe for a size 0 makeover-ee–unfortunately.)

    Anyway, I would love to see someone execute the kind of takedown you refer to. :)

  94. This may be an ignorant question, but Shira’s comment made me wonder–does anyone know if there is a correlation where Jewish women are more likely to have PCOS? (I mean based on ethnic background, not just from practicing Judaism, of course.) :) Again, sorry if I am being a dumbass with this one.

  95. Thank you Meowser for telling us your story. My mom’s hair looks just like yours, and has since she was in her early ’30’s. I’ve always been somewhat dismissive of the issue, for a few reasons: first, it’s not a big deal to *me*, she’s just my mom and I could care less how she looks, second, minimizing it makes it feel to *me* like it’s helping her to not feel self-conscious about it, third, it gets tiresome to be around her always fooling with and worrying about her hair. Even though I’d be distraught if I lost my hair, and even when I went through a different vanity challenge of having developed severe esotropia and had a little breakdown and had to do some serious soul-searching, I was still able to have a selfish attitude about her personal challenge. Hearing your story has made her situation much more real to me, and I feel like calling her now and apologizing, although she’d probably think I was nuts.

    this really is serious shit, this making women feel like they are total failures and would be better off dead for not fitting a mold for what they are supposed to look like. It really has to stop. I just wish I knew what the hell to do about it, when I don’t feel so hot about the state of my own scalp.

    I know, I know, I know. Body size is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve gotten past having to use the more obvious tools of the patriarchy to feel good about myself, things like makeup, shaving, being skinny, etc. And yet, when I go out I worry about my breasts, even though I think bras are evil, I don’t want anyone to see the outline of my droopy mis-matched nippled breasts and that’s because they’ll disapprove and think it ugly. So really, how far have I come? I won’t go out without my hair looking “decent” which for me means recently washed and with my bangs hanging in such a way that my natural cowlick is not too much in evidence. If I thought about it a bit I could probably come up with plenty more examples. It makes me mad. But goddammit, I don’t know how to get past it.

  96. I don’t know about the jewish thing (I’m only jewish on my father’s side –which means that yes, my mother has straight-ish very fine hair and failed to understand how much it hurt to brush, although she did try.), and my mother has PCOS, and we think my grandmother may have it, too, although not diagnosed (but she told me a few years ago that she never ever had a reliable period, and she’s diabetic now. Although she’s always been thin, unlike my mother and I who each ballooned in weight in our twenties). My grandmother on the other side (from whom I got the hair) may have had it as well, but I can’t exactly ask her, since she’s been dead for years.

    On my mother’s father’s side, we’ve got some Native American ancestry, complete with lots of diabetes, but no-one else diagnosed with PCOS, as far as I know –but in our part of the world, even when I started having symptoms, ten years ago, the doctors had never heard of PCOS. My first diagnosis was “elevated androgens and ovarian cysts” –even though I didn’t actually have any cysts, and never have.

  97. Barbie’s hair just gets bigger.
    No doubt, millions of little girls in Mattel focus groups say
    My favorite part is her hair.
    Yes, I like playing with her hair the best…

    So the hair keeps getting bigger
    and curlier and blonder.

    Pretty soon, you’ll just buy boxes of Barbie hair
    with no Barbie at all.

    – Excerpt from “Liberation Barbie,” Nicole Blackman.

  98. Zoe: I do medical transcription.

    SCG: Yes, I do think I remember reading in a book ages ago that a strikingly high percentage of PCOS-ers were (ethnically) Jewish. At one time it was called “Stein-Leventhal syndrome.”

  99. SCG: Yes, I do think I remember reading in a book ages ago that a strikingly high percentage of PCOS-ers were (ethnically) Jewish. At one time it was called “Stein-Leventhal syndrome.”

    I had not heard this! There is a theory that PCOS has a strong genetic component so it would make sense.

    I’m not Jewish and my hair was always baby-fine -so no ‘fro issues. When it started to thin I was devastated. Being short doesn’t help. I quite often see (or maybe imagine) people looking down at my scalp in a weird way.

  100. Thank you for this post, Meowser. You are one cool chick!

    I had to go through a bout of chemo when I was a teenager and lost all of my hair. After that, I swore never to put any chemicals in it/on it again. Over the course of 10 years I grew this huge Angela Davis ‘fro. My hair is VERY thick and tightly coiled (a hairstylist one called it “true African” hair) So the ‘fro thing, while looking cool, was a total pain in the ass. African-American hair is rather fragile, so this was no wash-n-wear style. Finally I decided to cut it all off and get a twa ( teeny-weeny afro) less than a 1/4” high. The day before the “big chop” my husband (now ex) and I had a screaming match on 42nd street about how he was going to hate it and I’d look like a lesbian (so?!). I went anyway to the salon with my sister (for moral support) and when the stylist started to shave off my hair, the whole salon got into a TOTAL uproar! One lady said I should be “ashamed” of myself for cutting my hair off, and every time someone came into the salon, everyone would point to me in the chair and say ,” LOOK at how she’s RUINING HER HAAAAIIIIIRRR!!” Only my sister kept saying quietly, “it’s fine, you look good.” Once I was done, everyone in the salon was looking at me like I killed someone. But you know what? I felt great! I was so free! I didn’t have to think about my hair anymore, and the twa DID look cute on me too. Some folks just couldn’t deal–a woman woke me up out of a dead sleep on a plane ride once just so she could ask me if I was able to get any dates with men with my haircut! But other people thought it totally rocked.
    Now I have been growing wild locks for about 2 years and that is a whole other experience altogether, but the whole experience with having a shaved head made me really look at how I defined myself as a woman and what beauty meant to me. It certainly made me learn to define for MYSELF what I thought was beautiful, and I am a stronger woman for it.

  101. I lost my hair by the handful for two years thanks to undiagnosed hypothyroidism. That did number on my 16 year old self-confidence.

    Wigs these days are absolutely amazing. They have multi-directional parts, awesome colors and styles and look considerable more real than they used to. I really like your hairpiece. I have a couple of friends who are Orthodox Jews. After marriage, many Orthodox women cover their hair full-time with either a scarf or a wig. And the wigs I’ve seen…are amazing. If you ever have a few hundred or even thousand dollars to spare, the Orthodox community is the place to go for kickass wigs.

  102. a woman woke me up out of a dead sleep on a plane ride once just so she could ask me if I was able to get any dates with men with my haircut!

    This actually made me snorf. Thanks, mizbig!

    Meg, thanks for the wig tip. I’m not sure if PDX has a big enough Orthodox community to have a dedicated wig shop, but I’m sure there’s one in New York, maybe I’ll check it out when I go there.

  103. Online, I’ve heard good things about these people, but most wig dealers which cater to the Orthodox community work with people in person, few have websites. If you’re interested in trying stuff on in person, I’d suggest calling your local Orthodox synagogue and asking if there are any “sheitel machers” in the area. They would know.

    http://www.savvysheitels.com/

    If the weight and heat of full wigs bother you, you might like band falls in particular. They’re a layer of hair on a comb which you stick in the front of your hairline. Then you put a headband on to cover the comb. Like this, though they can usually be had for cheaper.

    http://savvysheitels.com/zcart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=17&products_id=774

  104. Meowser, you are a good egg. I don’t have hair issues, but I have eczema. Well, not exactly. I get an eczema outbreak when I’m stressed, like have an important meeting or place I need to make an impression. So my self esteem is fine until I need it. You write well, girlie. How we all relate.

  105. Meowser, thank you for this wonderful post. I can’t tell you how much I identified with your story. It’s also great to read the stories of women in the comments- when I went through hair loss I was pretty isolated. A thread like this would have been pretty terrific to read then, let me tell you.

    I have suffered from Alopecia since I was five. it comes and goes, and it’s pretty clear to me that this is something that I will just have to deal with, maybe for the rest of my life (I’m 24 now). The amount of hair loss also changes. Luckily, I can usually cover up bald patches since I have very Jewish thick and curly hair. When I was 19 though, I had a severe episode and it ALL fell out for about two years. I went around wigless for most of that time, because if people had a problem with it I figured they could go screw themselves, but it did open me up to all sorts of comments and aggravations. I think my very favorite was a comment by a religious lady sitting next to me on a bus- that all I needed was to find religion and get married, because it was my ungodly state that was being punished by hair loss. And do not even get me started on baldy fetishists.

    Eventually I got a wig (although I never really liked it- it was too hot!), mainly because I was tired from always being engaged by unsympathetic people in public. And my hair did (mostly) grow back, although there’s no guarantee that it’ll stay. I just need to take really good care of myself (Alopecia can be triggered by stress), and hope for the best. And keep telling myself over and over, “it’s just hair. you can still do everything you would have, regardless.”

  106. SCG: Yes, I do think I remember reading in a book ages ago that a strikingly high percentage of PCOS-ers were (ethnically) Jewish. At one time it was called “Stein-Leventhal syndrome.”

    Wow–I had not heard that before. Thanks for the info.

  107. Thank you for writing this – I lost much of my hair and your picture looks so familiar to me. Wearing my hairpiece has felt like such a silent shame to me for so long. Now I feel like its a much better secret shared. Thanks.

  108. The day before the “big chop” my husband (now ex) and I had a screaming match on 42nd street about how he was going to hate it and I’d look like a lesbian (so?!). I went anyway to the salon with my sister (for moral support) and when the stylist started to shave off my hair, the whole salon got into a TOTAL uproar! One lady said I should be “ashamed” of myself for cutting my hair off, and every time someone came into the salon, everyone would point to me in the chair and say ,” LOOK at how she’s RUINING HER HAAAAIIIIIRRR!!”

    Interesting, isn’t it, that a woman’s hair doesn’t actually belong to the woman? Funny how often things like that happen.

    And your hair sounds really cool.

  109. I hate how even our hair is considered pubilc property that’s open to ridicule and shame. We should be able to do whatever we want with our hair without having people pass judgement. [/end rant]

  110. Thanks so much for this post. I have androgenetic alopecia and have a huge bald spot on the front of my scalp (it grows with time). At 26, this has been a very difficult loss for me as I – similar to others – have always felt my hair to be the only consistently attractive thing about me (thick, curly, etc). While I have declined treatment (there are few options anyway, and most are ineffectual) due to concerns about side effects, I know that my current system of scarves and headbands will only last so long. I want very much to become the kind of person who does not care about hair, but am finding it very difficult for all the reasons everyone has already mentioned.

    Thanks again for telling your story!

  111. chark, if you want to talk about dealing with alopecia or different kinds of treatments- I’ve tried pretty much all there is to try, and have had side effects galore, yippee- my email address is tootsadeh@gmail.com.
    good luck.

  112. Thank you for writing this.

    I’m white; a few years ago, I was an assistant to a gay white male HR manager who thought a black female worker’s dreads were unprofessional and wanted to ban that style. Earlier, she had explained to me why she had a little burn mark on her forehead (from lye), and when she got the dreads, she told me what a relief it was not to have to process. I got very upset at my boss and asked him how he would feel if he were told he’d have to alter his natural hair texture in order to keep his job. The dress code remained unchanged. All this to say, I feel you on what you said about racism. All a white person needs to do is look at the “ethnic” products, really look.

    I am married to a beautiful woman whose head I shave almost every morning. It’s an accident from home haircutting that became a trademark, mostly ’cause she’s very active and hates having hair get in her face. People tell her she’s brave. She says women who don’t choose that look, have it chosen for them, are much braver. She was talking about friends of ours who’ve gone through cancer, but I believe she could be talking about you and other women with alopecia as well.

    I don’t know what to say except that society sucks, and the only thing that can change it is more of us letting it out about what women *really* look like and *really* are. To take control and not let others control how we feel. I guess that’s what I’m thanking you for–the reminder that most of us don’t look like the women on the covers of the magazines–hell, not even *they* do, do they?–and we don’t fucking HAVE TO!

  113. This might be a bit of a tangent from the commets above, but I think it applies. First, it was great to have someone talk about hair loss. A very honest version of what losing hair really means. I cried.

    I don’t have PCOS. However, I have been losing my hair because I’ve been pulling it out. It hurts to say this, and I wish I had no hair because I decided to be badass and go bald. It always hurts to take a psych class and realize that when the lectures on OCD start, that the lecturer is partly talking about something that is very akin to what I have. (Trichotillomania, although never diagnosed, because my pulling is very mild in the range of what the name of this disorder entails.)

    So yeah, I understand what it means to feel inadequate and overall crappy because of your hair. It also sucks because I used to have a lot of curly, thick hair. I mean, I had a ton of hair, and it was difficult to deal with when I was a kid and in my tweenaged years. I do feel fortunate though, because I went to therapy and got tools to help me stop pulling. It’s not that way with PCOS, I know, but I came to the point where I realized I would need to stop or buy a wig. Looking on line for wings/hair growth treatment made me have a break down and cry for hours. I never talked about what I was doing with my family/my roommate or anyone, even though I know they all noticed. Hair loss is not something people like to talk about. It’s a downer conversation.

    Going to a therapist and talking about what was happening was probably the best thing I ever did. I know, it might not be the ultimate solution for someone with PCOS, but a good therapist that you’re comfortable with helps with the drastic life changes thing.

    So, I would like to thank you for the dose of empowerment in the not conforming to society department. :)

  114. I’ll use the Nizoral until the bottle runs out, which should be in about a month, and then reevaluate whether it’s really worth the money or not.

  115. Pingback: Deconstructing our crowning glories » The-F-Word.org

  116. I almost bought that very swim cap myself!
    I love that the ChunkyDunk is such a safe space in which to challenge ourselves. And I love that people are brave enough to do exactly that. I look forward to the huge smile your swim cap will bring to my face — 4 chunkydunks in august — just added the new dates to the calendar. See you then!

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