This past weekend, I attended the NAAF Conference in Washington, DC. It was my first conference as an ‘adult.’ I have been to about 10 other conferences since 1994, but I was always in the kids’ camp. I loved every minute of that camp: I met a ton of people and was able to hang out with all of the friends I have made over the years. This year was different, though. I was able to go to meetings and talk about how having alopecia affects me. That was a rude awakening in itself. It was so nice to be reminded that “I’m not the only one.” Everyone has their own struggles that they are dealing with. It was amazing to listen to everyone’s stories and share some of my own. Many people had great advice to share, and I appreciated everyone’s input.

Although that was all fabulous, I heard the most impactful statement as I was getting ready to get in my car and go home. I was standing in front of the hotel with my luggage, waiting for the valet to bring my car around. I was caught up in trying to make sure I repacked everything and worrying about all of the traffic I was probably going to be sitting in for the next few hours. (If anyone is unfamiliar, the traffic on I-95 on a Sunday can be brutal!!!) Then an adorable little bald girl, probably about 4 or 5 years old, walked past me with her parents. I didn’t pay too much attention to them since I was so preoccupied. Right as they walked past me, I heard her say, “I’m gonna miss this place.” My heart sank. All of a sudden, I found myself standing in front of this hotel with my hands full crying uncontrollably. I still am not sure why. A part of me was thinking that she must have had an awesome weekend at the camp and didn’t want to go home, like many children who were at a camp with their friends. On the other hand, I was so upset. Although I’m sure she was not feeling like this, I thought that it is so sad that she is leaving a place where everyone else looked like her to go back home, where she is probably the only girl without hair. It broke my heart into a million pieces.

I can honestly say that I felt the exact same way. I’m going to miss that place, too! It’s amazing there! I can walk around without a wig (which I normally do anyway) and not have people stare at me because I am different. They know that I have alopecia and that’s it. I don’t have to deal with people assuming that I’m sick, and I don’t have to explain my situation to everyone I meet.
I guess the point of this story is that it’s so amazing how I tried to talk to people my own age all weekend to get some empathy, when all I had to do was listen to her five simple words. “I’m gonna miss this place.” It’s amazing how kids can sometimes say exactly what you’re feeling.

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Comment by carol on July 23, 2012 at 9:04pm

funny I met 3 women at the last conference and we all cried on the way home,,It is lovely to be somewhere where everyone gets you and looks like you.

Comment by Ms Green on July 23, 2012 at 9:27pm

Hi, I am new to this site. Where have ya'll been all my life? Just found about it over the weekend. I have really enjoyed reading the blogs and comments. They make me realize that I am not alone. I wish I could give that little girl a big hug! I will say a prayer for her and hope that she will learn early on how to deal with the hand she has been dealt. I keep trying to tell myself that no one is perfect. Everyone has some flaw that they don't like about themselves. But that is easier said than done. I hope that she has lots of good friends that will stand behind her and give her the support she needs.

Comment by paula on July 23, 2012 at 10:07pm

what a beautiful post. i lost my hair at age 28 right when i met my husband.....and he was very into a good way.....but i feared that he would not want to be with me because i was losing my hair. i was scared....had low self esteem....and there was not internet way back no support......someone actually had me go to a therapist and they tried to link my alopecia to the relationship i had with my mother. what?
i'm going to miss this place.....what a poignant sentence that really embraces a place where we can go.....for whatever we need....and be accepted and loved. why do we live in the best country in the world and still accept bullying...and not embracing our differences? guys....we have to keep trying to get this out there...the message.....and hey guys....if i didn't have access to this site..... i would miss this place!

Comment by Nicole on July 23, 2012 at 10:40pm

Wow this is a beautiful post. I was all set to attend until a death occurred in the family. I will try to attend the next event.

Comment by Kim Karacz on July 23, 2012 at 11:28pm

Beautiful post. I am always in awe at how kids can sum up something incredibly complicated so succinctly. The NAAF conference is such a special place. My first conference was in DC when I was 9 and there was just a small group of us "kids." Now, adults and kids alike, fill a hotel and become the majority for three glorious days. Just awesome...thanks for sharing.

Comment by BrendaW on July 23, 2012 at 11:50pm

Love this post, Alex. I've never been to a conference, but as I read this and how you felt, I was feeling the same way. It makes all the difference in the world when you're amongst people who can totally relate to how you feel or what you're going through. Personally, I'd rather be in a place like that. Sometimes, having people sympathize is not always comforting, but just makes me feel even more awkward and alone when they do. I'd rather not have people think that I have some illness or have to explain what I have which is the reason I still wear wigs out in public. Maybe if I had the opportunity to attend such an event I would feel better about going bald once and for all.

Comment by Corrine on July 24, 2012 at 1:40am
I would love to attend a conference one day . I lost my hair this past march. Wow it's a lot to take in. I have started going in public bald...everyone stares but I just feel that I need to do it. Besides wearing a wig all the time is so hot that I cannot wear them all the time. I have 3 great wigs but just not meant for summer
Comment by Latina Sethman-Benthall on July 24, 2012 at 7:06am
Wow I never been at a conference before let alone a support group,I was diagnosed with AU wen I was 14 becuz at 10 I was losing my in patches and at 12 everything was all gone and the doctors couldn't understand at all until I was 12 finally I was told what I had but I would love to go to one of conference one day.well I finally came out with my story in the daily press last week in my hometown hpt VA and it has help me a Alot by doing this to.
Comment by Alex on July 24, 2012 at 7:30am

Thanks for sharing, everyone! I hope all of you are able to make it to a conference one day! It's an experience that shouldn't be passed up!!

Comment by Jane on July 24, 2012 at 9:09am
I loved this post..and hope that zi can attend one year. Does anyone know when and where the conference will be in 2013?


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