Getting wiggy with it...
These aren’t my words, you understand. Rather, it’s an insult flung at a grumpy old patient’s nurse this week, in response to the colorful wigs she favored to cover her patchy alopecia.
In this great article on Bored Panda – featuring comments by yours truly! – they include the original Reddit thread about the story, in which the nurse is given the pseudonym of Susie.
Apparently, “Susie” is a vivacious and joyful character who loves matching her colorful wigs to her outfits. (As a fan of color therapy and also matching my headscarves to my clothes, I think we’d get on pretty well!)
Anyway, Susie’s style was grating on the nerves on one of her patients, who blurted out the above phrase one day and went on to demand: “Stop wearing all these different crazy wigs!”
I know I would have been, back in the day. I probably would’ve apologized for making her feel uncomfortable (I say this because that’s exactly what I did to a former colleague of mine, who told me my bald head made him sick).
But now? I hope, with a little more acceptance about my condition and kindness towards myself, I would’ve had a similar reaction to Susie’s. Which was to take off her wig on the spot, unveiling the bald patches covering a large part of her head. And to respond to the lady’s question with another question: “Is this professional enough for you?!”
YES! Yes, Susie. That’s how it’s done.
No need for explanations, or apologies, or even defensiveness. Just showing the situation exactly as it is – and leaving it up to the person making the comments to decide what they’ll do with it.
(Apparently, the grumpy lady gave a snarled lip “classic” reaction – but has never said anything mean to Susie again, and even attempted a smile the last time she saw her. Soooo…progress, I guess?!)
That doesn’t mean everyone needs to go whipping their hair back and forth, a là Willow Smith (ironic, really, considering her mum’s revelation after that song). Or that we all need to bear our baldness, else we risk being judged one day.
It’s what I personally needed to do, to liberate myself from the anxieties of wearing a wig and cover-ups…but not everyone is in that place. (And I didn’t get to that place for over 15 years, so it wasn’t exactly a quick ‘n’ easy process).
Still, the more people like Susie there are in the world, acting as ambassadors for alopecia – even if she didn’t mean to become one, it looks like she has – the better. Famous people are doing their bit to bring hair loss into the spotlight but we can all do the same, in our day to day lives.
You shouldn’t feel pressurized to educate everyone you meet about alopecia – but it can be helpful to share with the people who are genuinely curious, or who ask for your help because maybe someone they know is losing their hair, too.
Since setting up Lady Alopecia, I’ve also found sharing my own experiences to be pretty therapeutic – so it’s a win-win!
You don’t need to get into a conversation about your hair loss if you don’t want to. And frankly, some people may not deserve an explanation, so why bother wasting your energy?!
What I love about Susie’s story though, and what many of the comments beneath it touch upon, is the importance of treating others with kindness. We can NEVER imagine what another person is going through (no matter how well they hide it, or how confident they appear!) so to stay on the safe side, make kindness and compassion your default setting.
(That compassion expands to the patient in question, by the way. We also don’t know what she was going through, needing ‘continuous care’ – so maybe she had every right to be grumpy. But not, I believe, to take that out on the people looking after her.)
We may not make the same choices in clothes, partners, careers or wigs – but that’s not our call to make.
As Amy Johnson from Alopecia UK reminds us in the article: “Regardless of the reason someone is choosing to wear a wig, they should feel able to do that without feeling like somebody is going to pass judgment or comment”.
So whether the person rubbing us up the wrong way because of their ‘wildly different’ beliefs is a friend or a stranger…how are we going to react? Are we going to judge them, internally or aloud?
Or can we pause, reflect, accept that ok, they may look and act differently to how we would – but that’s their choice (although of course, alopecia isn’t a choice; I’m referring to cover-up options here!)
And the great thing is, we get to make our own choices, too. And that’s the beauty of freedom.
I’d love to hear about any encounters you’ve had as a result of your hair loss. Have people been kind, curious or cruel…or a mix of all three?
And what lessons have you learned from how people have treated you? Does it affect how you might look at others, now?
Share your comments and experiences below, if you feel able. Let’s all take some strength and inspiration from Susie’s story and remember, if in doubt: Just. Be. Kind.
Love & hugs,
Get free, semi-regular alopecia-related news things and musings.
Psst… If no welcome email shows up, check your spam.
Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!
Join the gang and receive semi-regular news and joy from someone with very irregular hair.