Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hanging Bald

Jason says that maybe bald is the new me. After going wig shopping today, I'm pretty convinced that bald is the new me at least for the next eight months or so.

Wig shopping wasn't traumatic so much as just uncomfortable. I did buy a very sassy, very "Young Bonnie Raitt" stawberry blonde number, but I can't imagine where I will wear it. None of the wigs looked like "me." In varying degrees they all struck a very Barbie note; whose hair, in real life, is that shiny, that nuanced of shade, that healthy and swingy?

That's me with the penguin over there. I'm lucky to have been blessed (as someone just said in email) "good cheekbones," big eyes, and a pleasingly shaped head. For the most part, I've been rocking the bald look with a pretty good attitude.

What's unnerved me to a certain extent is the amount of attention that I attract.

Here's something interesting (pardon me for working through this post as I write, I'm suddenly not sure where to go with this): When I started writing this entry, I was working on the assumption that I attracted so much attention because I am bald AND I have/had cancer. I DO, I admit, definitely cut a very "Cancer Girl" figure-- I'm short, my booblessness makes me look a little scrawny, and when my make up wears down I can be pretty pale. But the question remains: if I saw a bald woman walking down the street, would I assume she had cancer?

Honestly, only one person whose attention I've attracted has directly referenced cancer. On Sunday, I went to the movie theater and a good-looking black guy told me to "Hang tough, girl." Twice. Once on the way in. Once on the way out. The first time rattled me, brought tears to my eyes. The second time it made me laugh.

Actually, that's not true. Last weekend at IKEA, an older woman in a wheelchair caught my attention by saying "Excuse me, lady" and then she yanked off her baseball hat to reveal a kindred bald pate. I didn't know what to say. It does seem apt to acknowledge my sisterhood with these women, but what's the appropriate greeting? We should have some sort of Cancer Code. Like witches (or Wiccans if you prefer) say "Blessed be" as a greeting. Maybe I should start a movement. Maybe our code should be "Hang Tough, girl." (I find the whole "Hang Tough" thing immoderately amusing because of the current revival of the New Kids on the Block. Did anyone really miss them?)

Anyway, every other person who has said "You look great" to me, or some variation thereof, may have meant just that. My local Starbucks barrista went so far as to ask me what inspired the "fashion statement." Maybe with more practice, I will come up with a more couth answer than "Uhhhh... cancer? Chemo? Uh, I had to shave it because I had uhhh... cancer." Dude took it totally in stride. "Cancer. Fashion. Fashion. Cancer. Whatever. You look great."

So maybe it's only in my head that I am attracting attention because I am Cancer Girl and that makes me uncomfortable. I'm weirded out in my noggin by the sense that there's pity being whiffed in my general direction. But maybe I should start thinking of it as "I'm attracting attention because I look great, and that's fantastic."

Honestly, once upon a time, on the day here and there when I attracted attention because I was cute and I had a HUGE RACK, I rather appreciated the compliment inherent in the attention. (I know I part ways with most feminists on this, but I guess it never happened enough or in a crude enough way to ever really strike me as "objectification.")

And some of my favorite people have been bald. Sinead O'Connor is a fracking nutcase, but she's always been gorgeous. Until today, I'd somehow forgot that the greatest female action hero in history-- Ripley from Aliens-- was bald in #3. Natalie Portman was bald in V for Vendetta (which I've yet to say). She's not only beautiful, but smart too. She even said at the time that she wished she could keep her bald head. There's a great gallery of "Eight Women Who Look Better Bald Than Britney [Spears]" here.

Truth is, though, I would put Big Money on a bet that the moment I step off the plane in New England to visit my mother, if I am not sporting a wig, she'll offer to take me to a wig store. When I called my mom and told her I shaved my head, she said, "Why on earth would you do that?" Again, not very good with the snappy comebacks: "Uh... started to fall out. Couldn't handle it. Freaked out." Her response: "I bet you look like a dyke."

And that's where so many people are when it comes to hair. If you're bald, you're either Cancer Girl or a lesbian (and not the glamorous kind--the gender bending, threatening kind) or wanting to draw some sort of attention to yourself for a personal or politcal reason. And although my mother would keel over if I were a lesbian (she's not a bigot-- I don't mean to make her sound bad; she's just of a certain age), I think the latter would be the worst for my mother. We're New Englanders. You just don't make a S-P-E-C-T-A-C-L-E out of yourself if you can do anything to help it.

And I can do something to help not make a spectacle out of myself. I could wear a wig. But I don't think I will. Because I look great.

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