About a month ago my friend, Marjorie, told me about her most recent haircut experience. She went to a new shop and the woman who owned the shop had alopecia; she has no hair at all. Marjorie is definitely the kind of person to strike up conversation about such things, so the woman talked about the challenges of owning a hair salon while being bald. She talked about the support groups she’s in, but how it can still be a struggle.
My heart goes out to this woman, and to all women (and men) who have had their identity altered by this disease at no fault of their own. Shaving my head has been on my bucket list for a long time, but hearing this story of someone in my own town made me finally set the date: New Years 2019. This is the year.
Back in 2004 I met a girl my age with almost the same name as me, and she had no hair. We were both freshmen in college and she was the sweetest most sunny and confident girl in our class. I admired her greatly because I knew how insecure and self-conscious I would have been if I had no hair; I’d be afraid that people would stare at me, talk about me, be mean to me, exclude me, but she seemed like she hadn’t a care in the world, and her lack of self-focus made everyone adore her. I resolved that one day I would be brave enough to be (what others might consider) ugly and yet focus on others more than myself.
In high school I was on the bottom of the totem pole, and I never knew why. I was teased, bullied, whispered about, despised, made a spectacle of, excluded (even in my church’s youth group). It got bad enough that I would debate every day on my way to school which door would be the safest entrance. I eventually learned to just try to be invisible, to not do anything that would ever draw attention, but even that didn’t work. It was apparently just too fun to make fun of me.
So adding “shave my head” to the bucket list was a big deal at the time. For someone as scared as me to resolve something so “make-fun-able” as that…it mattered. It took guts.
Now nearly 15 years have passed, and a lot has changed for me. I’ve found a community that loves me and enjoys my sense of style. I’ve found an identity in being a voice for the voiceless, in standing against injustice, and being brave for those who need a champion. And I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness and joy and compassion.
And now the time has come. I just turned 33. Jesus was 33 when he died, so this is what my seminarian friends call my “Jesus Year.” And in the spirit of Christ, it is time. Time to stand up for the outcasts. Time to challenge the social norms of accepted beauty. Time to remind people that women are more than their physical appearance. Time to be brave and full of love. It is time.
Happy New Year, everyone!