The Shaving Ritual: Induction into the Cult of Bald

I've noticed that the dominant narrative on AW is one of all or nothing. Whether one has bald spots all over and only a few strands of hair holding on, or one just has a couple of spots that can easily be concealed, she is admonished to just shave it all off rather than worrying or obsessing about it all falling out. This is usually done with the rationale of "taking back control", control being an inherently illusory concept. Once one does the ritual shaving they are a de facto initiate into "The Cult of Bald" and are met with accolades and acceptance from the group. The newly smooth inductee expresses some variation of feeling free, no longer worrying about hair loss, being able to be their true self, with the idea of reclaiming "control" always at the fore of her assertions.

While this scenario is true for some alopecians, it is clearly not the experience of all in the community (it is not my experience). I have never shaved my head and choose to bond over my remaining hair. All I ask is that we continue to remain open to counter-narratives, in the alopecian community, that diverge from the shave-control-embrace paradigm, which seems to be celebrated as the alopecian ideal, on this forum. This limited coping model can be completely alienating to many for whom this is seen as not only personally unattainable, but wholly undesirable as well.

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Comment by Bridgid Weber on June 13, 2015 at 11:04am

I read your post with interest because I am one of those newly bald individuals. Until very recently I was bonding, using a topper hairpiece about 6" x 7" from Hair Direct. They are great to work with and bonding was the ideal option for me for many years.  I did shave my remaining hair not because I felt any pressure and not because I was taking control.  My decision was personal.  I was developing sensitivity to the different adhesives I was using.  I switched to tape but that didn't secure my piece comfortably enough for my taste.  Then I tried using clips but my remaining bio hair was so thin and baby fine that it wouldn't anchor the piece properly.  I wanted to have the option to have times and activities in which I was not wearing any hair.  But I personally like the look of my totally bald head to totally bald on top with wispy hair on back and sides. See pic. Finally, even my remaining hair was becoming so baby fine it was becoming a challenge to integrate my hair with the hair direct.  But that's just me.  I have found this site to be very helpful to me.  And I feel bad that you feel alienated.  I think society as a whole makes us feel alientated.  This should be a place where should be embraced and accepted-whatever and however you respond to your alopecia.  I say bond away for as long as you choose.  Some of us don't have a choice about whether to shave what's left of our hair.  Some of us don't have eyebrows and eyelashes.  Frankly, my alopecia is something I've had to deal with one way or another for 20 years now every single day.  That's something we all have in common-we all face our alopecia every day.  And we need to embrace and lift one another up. 

Comment by GardenJess on June 13, 2015 at 11:37am

I haven't had the same impression. As someone who did opt to shave off the remaining useless white bits, it was nice to find support and community here, but I never felt that baldness was being advocated. I have been puzzled by individual examples of people shaving their heads when they still have quite a bit of hair, but we all react in our own ways. I didn't shave until it was really kind of a non-issue on the outside because I had so little hair left. Now what hair I have has been growing in, and I once again contemplate shaving and the implications of being totally bald vs. having freakish patches of hair. It is nice to see here that going bald is an option since it is something we so rarely encounter in our own surroundings.

If someone is thinking about shaving her head (just not the same issue for guys), then I think supporting that choice as an empowering option is just fine. (And if someone is crazy enough to shave her mostly full head of hair because she doesn't want to see loose hairs in the shower, then she's helping normalize baldness in women--yay!)

Comment by Gilli on June 13, 2015 at 5:16pm
My hair is still plentiful but with FFA it isn't going to stay that way. Can't predict if it will all fall out but the stressing and clipping hair to hide patches us causing me as much distress as the itch and pain. Really thinking of jumping in and pre-empting what is coming. I'm 60, I can't entertain more misery. I'm looking at henna crowns, great scarves, hats and jewellery, lightly tattooing darker eyebrows and adding eyelash pieces. Sounds good ? Might have to loose my husband as the shock will possibly kill us all. I will have to face that, the inner soul is taking strain and I need some sort of peace.
Comment by Tallgirl on June 13, 2015 at 7:14pm

I just decide that I have to do whatever keeps me working without taunts or side looks (I am a teacher), so I opt for being wigged in public. At home, in 103 degree heat? Nada. Errands in hot or cold weather? Hat. Having to answer the door or garden where neighbors can see me? Hat or scarf. Being over 60 and single, I do not have the whole issue of being expected to resemble some long-haired 20-something babe for a judgmental man in this redneck town, so I feel free in that respect, and do not have to shave to feel free. Besides, my wig colors add YOUTH to a me that most likely would already have gone gray by now with hair. Rock on, Dominique!

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