As part of our Tips and Scripts(tm) for women with alopecia areata we wanted to share another personal story of a strong woman coping with her alopecia. Family? Colleagues? Total strangers? Self-talk? We can all relate!
Below, is a transcript of my talk with Mavis who lives in Houston.
When it comes to re-defining her beauty and taking control of her hair loss, in my mind Mavis is incredibly powerful. She has a determination and a great sense of humor that comes through in her answers, along with personal situations that might sound familiar.
Alopecia and Being Bald in Public
However, strangers do toss compliments when I’m out in public.
For example: “Girl, you’re wearing that because everybody can’t!” or “ You look so-ooo beautiful!” Every once in a while I get the question: “So, cancer?” and I gracefully respond with an explanation. I always throw in “God knew this was going to happen, and that’s why He gave me this perfectly shaped head!”
Thea: How about when you pass a mirror? Do you react differently now?
Mavis: You bet I do! I stop and look into the mirror and say “Hey, gorgeous!”
Thea: Let’s rewind to the beginning of your alopecia. How was it then?
Mavis: I first got patches in April, 2007 and by October of that same year I let the barber shave my head. My daughter came along and it was a very emotional moment. I did shed a few tears. Today I know it was a process of letting go of something I had grown very close to.
Thea: How do your grandchildren react?
Mavis: Mine just accept it as part of who their “Ammaw” is. One of my granddaughters was very proud of a picture in which she had ponytails and I had a bald head with hoop earrings on.
Thea: Had hair styling been important to you and had it defined your sense of yourself?
Mavis: Hair styling had been a huge part of my life, especially when I was working as a licensed cosmetologist. I was someone who enjoyed variety in how I styled it. And my favorite aunt, a stylist herself would always say, “It’s just hair, it will grow back.” But with AA I found out that it would not grow back. Finding your wonderful organization and meeting so many other women who lived with it has made this feel like just another life event.
Thea: What’s your go-to daily look?
Mavis: I mostly wear it bald in warm months, especially summertime. Other cooler months I have a scarf in every color of my wardrobe to tie in different ways. This fall/winter I plan to get into hats.
Every picture I have on Facebook is with my bald head and that’s how everybody knows and identifies me. My liberation came the first day I went out in public without a covering. I felt a little uncomfortable, but this Houston heat was a motivator. It was back in 2008 and I had to attend a training session. The male facilitator commented, “I love your style!”
Alopecia and Work
Thea: In your career as a counselor, did you feel the need to say why you had no hair?
Mavis: It depended on what venue I was working in. If it was a residential treatment center and I had to do lectures, I would volunteer the information. First I asked the question,” OK, who wants to know why I don’t have any hair?” Most times a few hands would fly up. Once at a men’s facility, one of my clients said, “But Ms. Jackson, you have such a beautiful spirit, your not having hair doesn’t even matter.” Yes, I was brought to tears.
Thea: It’s not everyone’s style to have a public ‘coming out’. You said ‘yes’ to being on the TODAY SHOW with Bald Girls Do Lunch. Did you hesitate? What went through your head?
Mavis: There was no hesitation on my part at all! I was a little nervous, but after I was chosen by the other ladies to lead the line into the restaurant, that feeling left right way.
I remember my response to then TODAY correspondant, Amy Robach, when she asked me how I felt about living with AA. I said “I feel just great about living with it, because if I hadn’t had it I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be on the show!” I sometimes look back at those photos and still tell people. It was a proud moment for me. I am ever so grateful to you for organizing Bald Girls Do Lunch, because when I went to the internet looking for a support group for my new life event, I had no idea that I would strike gold!
Thea: :-)) Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us again. Final thoughts?
Mavis: I just want to be able to share with anyone newer to AA than myself. I believe that’s part of the journey.
We hope that Mavis' story has sparked some ways to get your conversations started. And, if you have a memorable story about a time you decided to talk about alopecia, please share your comments below.