Bald by Choice: My Experience as a Bald Woman
By Milly Hailstone
I suppose many things are attached to a woman's hair. Sexuality and femininity are themes that I thought I could challenge, to dress down the notion that to be sexy, a woman must have long rippling hair. I needed to shed this gender role - but instead, it was so deeply ingrained inside me that my lack of hair made me feel like a little boy.
My Long-Gone Hair
Shaving my head was supposed to be a freeing experience. I wanted to shed society's expectations and protest the crippling pressure I felt to look a certain way. I wanted to liberate myself. At first, it was great. I felt all of these things and more.
My hair was clipped - a decision that took 2 years to make. But negative thoughts were planted inside of me. All my friends told me I looked amazing bald and I would often get quite an odd compliment - “wow, your head is perfectly-shaped!" My parents liked my head, and apparently, my Dad used to have a crush on Sinead O'Connor.
But, I was soon to discover that my long-gone hair was worth much more to me than I thought. It was the ingredient that held me together. I didn't even consider that by shaving my head I would lose my confidence. In retrospect, I thought it would make me even fiercer. Instead, I lost what it felt like to be myself, the image of myself that I had created in my head over many years.
Did the stigma come from within or from the outside? That’s a question I’m still trying to find the answer to. Though there have been many occasions where I've been looked down upon, and sometimes even threatened. There was a time, in particular, that I will never forget. I was chased through the streets of Brighton for the way I looked by three fully-grown men, who were hurling abuse. On top of that, I’ve received hundreds of side-long glances from people who look at me with horror in their eyes. I've got to say, it's very upsetting to be treated as a 'lesser' person just because you don't want to follow the crowd.
For daring to challenge the status-quo, I was stared at daily, thought of as a thug, and avoided in the street by older women and yet, I’m one of the nicest people around. This only irked me more, it wasn’t until I became a ‘freakshow’ that I really discovered how closed-minded society can be. Some people couldn’t even hide their disgust.
I thought my bald head would make me look like the rebel that I feel like inside. But, instead of awakening power, my mental health took a hard hit. So, what have I learnt from my year or so, as a bald girl? That self love comes from within, and not from what you see in the mirror. And that, other people’s opinions are none of my business.
I'm always wondering if any other bald girls feel the same, and if anyone of them have faced the same treatment from others. If you're reading this as a bald woman, know that you are brave, amazing and a force to be reckoned with. Hey, maybe I should tell myself that a little more often. For now, I've chosen to grow back my hair, but, it's been one hell of a ride.