No Ordinary Day
There aren’t that many bald women on the Israeli street. A week ago, I was wearing a black business suit while waiting for my husband on a regular road in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Two religious guys walked by, spit at me and called out “lesbian!” It is hard to avoid being hurt and I can’t pretend I wasn’t. But I was only hurt for a second and then I chose to let the hurt go and instead feel sorry for them --- for their stupidity. Their reaction does not reflect the Israeli street as a whole, but does represent one aspect of it.
I face many reactions – some negative, some amusing, and some of the “wow, cool!” variety.
My Job Interview Style
At the beginning of my career as a statistician in the banking industry, I used to interview wearing a wig. After I would get the job and after several months – basically once people got to know me as “Keren” --- only then would I allow myself to take the wig off.
The first job I applied for without a wig was for a statistician position at Gstat after I heard many good things about the company’s CEO. Knowing that the first few seconds of an interview are always the most critical, as soon as I walked into his office I started in rapid fire mode:
“I am bald as a result of an autoimmune disease that affects nothing but my hair. My head is perfectly fine.”
He smiled and said that he really doesn’t care. I worked at the company for eleven years, and am still friends with Ephraim, the CEO.
I used this monologue when interviewing for my current job, too. I emphasized that the baldness is a symptom of a disease and that it doesn’t really bother me that I have it. I have learned that it is important to be open and to share information. People are curious, and a lack of information leads to rumors and gossip. I very much appreciate it when people stop me and ask me about my baldness.
"The Gull Sees Farthest ..."
I had a wish, a dream – even before I served in the army – to get a tattoo of a seagull. I was very worried about what people would think, so I postponed making a decision for almost 20 years! About a year ago, I got a tattoo of three seagulls; there is one for each of my three kids. I chose the seagull in honor of Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and his famous quote which has inspired me for my whole life:
“The gull sees farthest who flies highest.”
I was somewhat worried about the impact a tattoo on my head might have in the banking world. However, I went to work with my head held high and a big smile – as is my habit – and they accepted me tattoo and all. Behind the tattoo is also my desire that people stop feeling sorry for me.
Baldness Helps Me in Business
When I set up a meeting with someone, I just tell them to look for the bald woman. It definitely breaks the ice!
The baldness helps me because people remember me. I stick out, and I’ve learned to enjoy it. From a mousy child who was afraid of her own shadow, to a gorgeous woman who is self-confident and proud of herself – I owe it all to my baldness. I simply don’t know where I would have been without this disease.
I don’t believe I would have had the self confidence or the love that I have for everyone including the strange, for the awareness I have of others, for my thick skin, and more.
"Your Mom is Bald!"
I have taught my children to love themselves and to choose not to get hurt. I explained to them that when people laugh at me on the street, I choose not to be hurt. Instead, I feel sorry for them and for the fact that they are not very smart.
I taught my children about alopecia areata and when some of the kids made fun of my six-year-old son, saying “Your mom is bald!” he simply replied “Yep. She is.” And that was that. He wasn’t hurt or anything. I was so proud of him! When I was walking in the mall with my ten-year-old daughter she asked why people were staring at me. I told her “Don’t you know it’s because I am so gorgeous?” She laughed and said “That’s true, you ARE gorgeous!” She understood what I meant. My kids are sensitive to others. They don’t stare and they are not afraid to approach people who are different or disabled.
My Life with Benefits
I always see the glass as half full and only take the best that my life has to offer. For me, the baldness is a huge advantage. I have been married for 13 years, have three fabulous kids and a fantastic job. I get up every morning with a smile on my face and go to work happily. I am grateful for that.
(Keren's interview with Thea Chassin was translated from Hebrew.)