A picture was splashed all over social media recently — a celebrity flaunting her bald head. Reason? She is fighting cancer. Baldness and the Big C — always going together like sisters in crime.
What makes this picture gnaw me from the inside? It is so very hard to tell — maybe because, I hid my baldness, maybe because I know what goes inside the baldness, maybe because, in all the crazy baldness — I see a bit of myself, maybe I am just so very scared for her, for me and every one who is bald or in all likelihood I am just plain crazy.
It is true — baldness drives me crazy. In my youth, I had beautiful long hair. On the days I washed it, I would let it flow to my knees. I knew people envied it and I strangely rejoiced in the knowledge that I had something others didn’t. When people don’t have something they admire — jealousy is the obvious reaction. But, then, who knew, like they say in this part of the world — it caught the evil eye.
Big C happened. I had to go through the harrowing shower when lumps just fall off the head and clog the drain. Hair strands drench your body except where you would love to see them. The cold scalp that reflects the light stares at you and it takes every ounce of energy inside you to just smile and acknowledge your existence.
It was hard to face people around me. I reminded them of everything sad, everything they were afraid of, everything they thought would happen only to others because, one of the questions I was asked was — how could it happen to you? The same question I ask to this day at times, when I am low — why me?
I went for a shave, and the best answer I had for everyone was a wig. I flaunted long straight hair — though false but just very beautiful. They were mine. I took care of it like how I took care of my very own — washed it, rinsed it, conditioned it, brushed it and at times, I ran my hand over it just to remind myself of the touch of my hair. Of course, it felt different, but I didn’t let that come in the way — I gave it my love anyway. I wanted to love it, I needed to love it and I had to love it. I didn’t know any other way.
Then, when the strength did seem to creep back — bit by bit, I discarded it. Little Sid, my son, all of 11, walked up to me one evening and told me that I didn’t have to wear the wig if I didn’t like it. That minute, I was so grateful for all the words that, one fine October afternoon, I let go.
No. I never fell out of love with my wig. I still have it — carefully hidden. I can’t hate my wig because, hate begets more hate. I don’t want to love it either. So, as a quiet agreement I have simply folded the false hair in a neat bag and have stashed it away in a corner — because, it is scary to see it every day and equally scary to say out openly — I don’t need it anymore.
Given my history, I am awfully and unusually afraid of baldness. When I see a bald head, my eyes invariably travel towards their eyebrows. No eyebrows either — then, I know. I feel an urgent need to hug them and send them hope.
Hair is crazy — it has taught me a lot. Never be too proud of what you have because, even hair — that has the power to regrow — can gnaw your inside.
Naturally, when I see celebrities fighting diseases, posing for pictures with all their baldness, I wonder — it may take a lot of courage to do it. I was probably not as brave but then, each of us have a different journey. A journey with lows and highs, laughs and cries, hairy days and bald days! I guess, there are some things in life that can have the deepest impact. I will never forget the day in the shower when I lost hair and I will also never forget the day when I decided to break free. That was the best hair day of my life!
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman