We’ve heard a lot about life for women with alopecia from their own perspective. But what is it like to be on the other side? To be a partner of a woman with alopecia?
We recently heard from Adrienne, a woman who was diagnosed with alopecia at a very young age. After going through various treatments as a child, she learned to accept her alopecia and face life head on as a adult. Adrienne now has a wonderful boyfriend, Nick, who has been extremely supportive of her alopecia. Adrienne and Nick were part of our discussion on when to tell your significant other about your alopecia.
Nick was kind enough, in his own words, to tell us a bit about dating a woman with alopecia. We think you will find what he has to say pretty interesting.
First Learning About Alopecia
My first reaction, obviously, was surprise. Adrienne does her make up so well that I had absolutely no clue! But I had already recognized that she was something special and I would have to be an idiot to let something like hair change my opinion of her. So once the fact that she had me totally bamboozled wore off, I could only see how much her lack of hair affected her life. She was not facing me directly when she told me, but I can imagine the fear and pain she must have been feeling in a moment of such intense vulnerability. I truly admire strength like that.
I was familiar with several autoimmune disorders such as vitiligo and others, but alopecia was new to me. So naturally, I spent some time researching it and understanding what it is, why it happens, and its different forms. I was very shocked by the lack of public knowledge about such a life changing disease. (Which is a very large part of why I agreed to write this).
Don't Pretend to Completely Understand ... Just Be There.
As for advice for other guys who are lucky enough to have one of these beautiful women in their life? I have to emphasize that there is no way you can truly understand what it's like for them not to have hair in such a vanity-oriented society. So don't pretend to! Ignore that inner voice that tells you as a man it's your job to fix things. When your girlfriend, wife, or maybe even sister, mother or friend, starts to feel sad about their alopecia, don't try to heal the pain or remedy it. That hurt that you see in that one moment comes from a well so deep that it could never truly be understood by anyone not afflicted.
Instead, just be there, hold their hand, hug them, hold them. You can't take the pain away but you can brave the storm with them. It may not sound like a lot, but it will make a world of difference to her.
Other than that, it's all pretty common sense. Always give them extra time to do their makeup, and if there's a spot they miss, tell them or you'll pay for it later. Keep spare sunglasses, tissues, and eye drops around. In general, just treat them like the amazing, beautiful woman they can't always see in the mirror, and never let them forget what they mean to you.
When To Tell Your Partner About Your Alopecia
Adrienne told me about her condition on our third date, and by then I was smitten. I don't believe it would have made a difference if she told me upfront. But I'm a very open minded person who was raised in a family where intolerance was the only thing not tolerated. I'm not sure if I would say one way or the other if I would recommend her approach or not. I say the only taboo would be lying about it. If you take an upfront approach to life, make it known early on. But there is no shame in getting to know someone first either. It may turn out that who you just met isn't worth the emotional investment involved in such a personal revelation.
I would like to thank all of you at Bald Girls Do Lunch for being out there to help support women like my special girl Adrienne and spreading awareness.