Three bald women in New York City share some secrets, self-consciousness, and an obsession with other people’s reactions. All three women try refraining from referring to their condition, called alopecia, as a disease.
Each woman agrees that calling their situation a disease is too strong of a term for a problem that is not life-threatening, has no reliable cure, and affects one in 200,000.
When Rachel Fleit was a child, her father explained to her about why she was going bald. He said that her body was attacking its own hair follicles.
Rachel recalled that she took that to mean that she had an extraordinarily energetic immune system. Rachel began to think of herself as a “Superhuman Alopecia.”
Ms. Fleit is currently working on a screenplay about a girl growing up with alopecia.
The 34-year-old briefly explained her thoughts about being bald to the New York Times.
“I hate when people say that I ‘suffer’ from alopecia. And I don’t even like it when it’s called a disease or a disorder. I say ‘situation.'”
Branding specialist, Brittany Myers, 30, shares her thoughts.
“I always hesitate when people are like, ‘Wait, what’s alopecia?’ And then I’m, like, ‘It’s an autoimmune thing that happens,’ because I don’t want to say disorder, I don’t want to say disease.”
Brittany Myers says, “I’m, like, ‘It’s an autoimmune thing that happens,’ because I don’t want to say disorder, I don’t want to say disease.” (Photo courtesy of Yana Paskova/The New York Times)
All three women have a few things in common. For instance, they don’t spend too much time taking showers.
In addition, most people who observe them assume they are cancer patients.
The most common reaction to seeing the bald women within city limits is, “Nice haircut,” followed by, “You go, girl!”
Other comments include “Are you famous?” and “You must listen to music I’ve never heard of.”
Brittany and Megan Sanders lost their hair when they were 25. They both experienced dark feelings. Brittany thought she had to come to terms with the idea that “beauty is not a part of my life now that I’m bald.”
Brittany remembers forgetting to put a bandana in her gym bag.
“I had to go out into the gym without anything on my head, and I just couldn’t do it. I just had a nervous breakdown in the changing room.”
Rachel recalls what she did when she became bald after losing her hair as a child.
“My daily task was to keep a young child from asking me if I wore a wig. I would say ‘no.'”
But Rachel confesses she held onto her wig tightly—she had a complex codependent relationship with her wig. In fact, she says she slept in a wig her entire freshman year of college because she was too nervous to tell her roommate she was bald.
There came a time when all three women released the chains that held them down—they empowered themselves.
Thirty-year-old costume supervisor, Megan recalls her moment of empowerment.
“The day I decided I was ready to let it go and shave it all off was maybe the most empowering day of my life.”
According to Megan Sanders, “Everyone has their insecurities, and ours are just more out there and obvious.” (Photo courtesy of Yana Paskova/The New York Times)
Rachel’s moment came while attending college. She was studying theater and she says, “My friends were coming out as gay, and I was like, I’m bald.”
Brittany found that many things she loved doing, like rock climbing and marathons, couldn’t be done while wearing a wig. She consciously decided she was not going to let being bald stop her from doing the things she loved.
Everyone has insecurities. Some are not so obvious. However, the appearance and attitude of these three bald women help in bonding with other people who are likely to have their vulnerabilities hidden.
[Featured image via Yana Paskova/The New York Times]