Being bald is at the very top of my mother’s lamentation list. By age sixty, her crown was completely naked, hugged at the base of her skull by a Franciscan-like ring of thinning wisps.
Within an hour of meeting someone, my mother will invariably pull off her wig and say “Isn’t this sad? Look at what happened to me, and at such an early age, too.” Annoyed, I promptly respond, “Stop it! Your circumstance could be far worse.” Her face falls from the pain of being misunderstood, though she does mutter a weak “I know.”
At the onset of my fortieth year, however, I’ve become more sympathetic to my mother’s plight. My hair is starting to follow the same ebbing path hers took. My locks are losing weight, becoming anorexic, exposing a bed of bright white skin. I can clearly see where my follicle future is heading, and it is all down-scalp.
I’ve begun to understand that it is more than just about diminishing hair. The loss speaks of waning beauty, growing old, and about losing a tool in the feminine wiles arsenal. It is a sign that I am on the “other side” of my life. There is a breadth of emotion packed in those dwindling strands. What else is going to thin and eventually disappear?
Now, I no longer get annoyed or frustrated when my mother sits with a sad look in her eyes, head bent so my husband can shave the remaining and tired tufts that poke through her wig. I feel sad too. And I wonder why my response to her has been insensitive when she raised me to be kind of heart, empathetic, and generous in relationships. Perhaps I am putting up hard words to shield me from unpleasant realities, my mother’s aging and her inability to view it as anything other than a heavy burden.
Luckily, I have the aptitude to view my own aging differently, and I will have a say in how I let the mutiny of my mane affect me. When the time comes I won’t whip off my wig to near strangers. Instead, I’ll discover if blondes really do have more fun and if red-heads are fierier. Brightly patterned turbans will adorn my head, accompanied by large hoop earrings, sweeping bohemian skirts and sandals. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a tattoo that says "Bald is Beautiful" and just go commando.
Lisa Gurney quit her Fortune 500 job in 2007 to pursue her dream of writing full time. Since then, her fiction and essays have been published both in print and online in the U.S. and Canada. She is the recipient of the 2007 National PRNDI Award for Commentary for her essay "A Witness to Violence." She resides in Worcester, MA and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.