Posts Tagged ‘Baldness’

My hair is nearly gone now but I’ve still got hair on the brain. I was seeking salvation in music and for some reason I got stuck on songs about hair so I started putting together a little farewell compilation, my coiffure concerto. More on that later.

Bad Hair Days

Since losing my hair I’ve realised it’s significance, or lack of it, is more than skin deep.

This really hit me with the headscarf experiment. I was reluctant to wear a headscarf, because for me they identify you as someone who is sick. You might as well have a big light on your head saying ‘I HAVE CANCER‘. My not very scientific research, which involved wearing a headscarf for around a week, verified this. People give you ‘the pity look’ and children eye you suspiciously. Women look odd with no hair and a headscarf does nothing to disguise this.

I should add that my brief dalliance with headscarves was heavily influenced by the fact that they just don’t suit me. I look like a sausage in a blanket.

Losing my hair has made me painfully aware how inextricably linked our hair is with our identity, in particular our femininity. From the moment we pop out, our fuzzy little heads are filled with myths, legends and fairy-tales of beautiful long-haired maidens overcoming adversity and inevitably being saved by a valiant prince: you never hear about short-haired princesses being rescued in fairy-tales. From lady Godiva & Rapunzel to modern-day hair royalty such as Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker, having good hair gets you places. They’d all be nothing without their glorious manes.

Historically a shaven head has always had meaning, and in the case of women this is largely negative. From biblical times head shaving has been used as a tool of female oppression and has been used in countless wars as a punishment against women in the form of humiliation and de-sexualisation. Women who choose to shave their heads, or who lose their hair through illness are often deemed as mad, bad or dangerous. Britney Spears, Sinead O’Connor and Gail Porter have all been labelled as such.

Whilst fairy-tales are full of long-haired maidens waiting to be rescued or saved, Ellen Ripley‘s character in Alien turns this on its shaven head. As well as being one of the coolest film characters of all  time she’s the ultimate feminist icon. She’s gutsy, strong and maternal and doesn’t rely on men to rescue or save her. She kicks ass, the perfect role model for women of all hair lengths.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Baldness is something many men have to contend with in their lifetime but, when men go bald, they usually have a few years to get used to the idea: I had less than two weeks. I underestimated both the speed and impact hair loss would have on me. When doctors told me I would definitely lose my hair I didn’t believe them: what do they know? A lot more than me it would seem.

For women, head shaving or going short is viewed as symbolic and liberating. I definitely felt lighter after having my hair cropped but this was borne out of necessity and practicality rather than empowerment. I didn’t mind the crop and think it actually quite suited me, however the difference between having a crop and being bald is HUGE.

People try to make light of it. The common retort is ‘oh it’ll grow back’. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier. Looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing a bald, patchy mess where once you had tumbling tresses isn’t easy. Having no hair makes you feel naked, vulnerable and unfeminine. My head gets cold now, so for both my sanity and comfort it’s always covered, even in bed. I’ve had to make peace with my head but I’m counting the days until my hair grows back.

My laissez-faire attitude to hair loss means I’ve had little time to sort out wigs and hats. I thought it’d be really easy to buy some cotton beanies but these were on the slow boat from China. I’m all beanied up now, however I still carry a scarf for emergencies & gold-card moments.

There are of course a few bonuses with hair loss. Not having to fork out for hairdressers & hair products means I will save money. Deforestation is also no longer part of my routine. Thankfully I still have my eyebrows and lashes, although washing my face has become a delicate operation. I’m waiting for the day when I look down and find my eyebrows staring back at me from the towel.

Back to music: I thought I would struggle to find any hair-loss-tunes, however there are surprisingly more than you’d expect. I was shocked to discover India Arie singing about Breast Cancer and Chemotherapy in ‘I Am Not My Hair‘. The last verse is a tribute to Melissa Etheridge who sang bald at the Grammies after treatment for breast cancer; surely the only time Breast Cancer and Chemotherapy have been name-checked in R & B, if not in music.

I’ve been on a nostalgia trip recently, listening to lots of stuff from my youth, probably something to do with living with my parents, so my swan song to split ends is Pavement’s ‘Cut Your Hair’. Like I said, I’ve got hair on the brain and this is just a great song about hair.

Here are a few more hair harmonies I discovered along the way.

PJ Harvey – Hair

Hank Ballard – How You Gonna Get Respect

India Arie – I Am Not My Hair

Gomo – Proud to Be Bald

The Beach Boys – She’s Goin Bald

Wishbone Ash – Blowin Free

The Lovin’ Spoonful – Baldheaded Lena

Rush – I’m Think I’m Going Bald

Lightnin Hopkins – Bald Headed Woman

Nina Simone – Four Women