Dear Mark

Today I responded to a comment in a public forum from a man who has has alopecia universalis – no body hair at all – since he was thirteen.

He is in my Baby Boomer generation, and there was little help available to cope with alopecia when he was a child. This wonderful man shared his hurt and his pain over the bullying he experienced both as a child and an adult. It took courage to share. My heart was full of empathy and compassion for him, and I could not leave without responding. Here’s what I wrote:

You are so right about growing up and the rest of the world staying immature and ignorant in areas in which they have no experience. I too have experienced the negativity, but I didn’t have to deal with it as an adolescent like you did.

There was no understanding of alopecia then and zero help for kids to cope. And that sucks. Today things are changing – way too slowly to be sure, but changing. And a lot of that has to do with bald men and women stepping out of the shadows, openly accepting their hair loss, reclaiming their joy and sharing it with others.

I’m 64, bald as an egg and loving every minute of it. It was wigs I hated. And the feeling I was no longer worthy to be seen by society. It was worrying more about taking care of other people’s feelings than my own feelings, comfort and personal freedom that left bitterness in my heart.

I’ve only seen one other woman in Grand Rapids with a bald head and that was as she sat in the passenger seat of a car next to me on the road.

But everywhere I go, people know who I am. And if they don’t, they soon learn. I’m the confident smiling fat baby boomer who listens to the stories others share about hair loss – their own or people they love. I’m the only female shining head under the low overhead lights of a restaurant in the evening. I’m the one who answers questions, gives hugs and shares the blessings of au.

Okay. Having no nose hair is no blessing. Cold air hitting the lungs in winter and unwanted protein snacks on the back of my throat from bugs flying unhampered up my nasal canal. But that’s the only negative for me.

I’m an ovarian cancer survivor too, so I can relate to folks who’ve lost their hair through chemo or radiation treatments.

Mark, I like my bald, hairless self. No, I love her. I refuse to allow anyone to take away my joy in the blessings of my life. I could have. It would have been easy. But it’s a hell of a lot more fun to see my au as one more blessing that enables me to help others who struggle with the emotional and social effects of hair loss in a hair obsessed society.

That’s why I wrote Boldly Bald Women, an Amazon Best Seller that incorporates the stories of 25 women members of Alopecia World into a survival guide / font of wisdom for women facing hair loss. That’s why I talk in school assemblies to educate children and their teachers to help stop bullying and change perspectives about baldness.That’s why I respond to posts and have a website offering a free download of “Getting Past the Pain – 3 Things You Need to Know. That’s why I am in the process of developing programs to help women reclaim their joy.

I understand why you would want to snap your fingers and give the nay-sayers a mile in our shoes. It makes complete sense.

I have chosen to be a positive force in a negative world and impact people one at a time. I have chosen to bloom where I am planted and do what I can where I am with what I have.

After all, I ask you… what’s not to love?”

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Yes, I Have No Hair Today…Maybe

Over the past few days I have received a couple of replies from a query I posted in AlopeciaWorld.com. The query was about the most difficult things women newly diagnosed with hair loss have to work through.

These women focused on the anxiety of not knowing how much hair would be lost and whether or not their hair would regrow and stay put.

I addressed their concerns with the following registered copyright excerpt from Boldly Bald Women:

Chapter 10

Yes, I Have No Hair Today…Maybe

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.                                           – Eleanor Roosevelt

“This morning I made a cup of coffee, padded to the bathroom to shower, and sang happily as the water bounced off my bald head. When I’d finished showering, while brushing my teeth, I noticed a few blemishes on my face.

Looking closer, the front lighting of the mirror and the back lighting of the sun through the outside window merger, catching patches of colorless strands on my face where the breakouts were. HAIR! Not the fine, short downy hair that used to cover my face, but straggly goat beard hairs – the ones that had you grabbing for the tweezers back when hair was not a novelty. But these hairs looked confused. They were the non-color of clear fishing line and had no sense of uniformity at all!

The more I looked the more astounded I became. Nope, no nose hair, but there were ridges growing along the outside edges of my ears like transparent pine trees storming the heights of a barren mountainside. No eyebrows, but a patch of hair wannabes at the nape of my neck.

This has happened before. In the past all the new hair quickly fell out again leaving me once more smooth as a baby’s but and blemish free. What will happen this time?

Alopecia is fickle. If you let it, it will indifferently drive you crazy. Just when you’ve given up all hope, hair will grow back, stay for a while, or maybe forever, and fall out someplace else – or not. And when you’ve finally dared to breathe a sigh of relief because it’s all grown back and taken up permanent residence, whole communities just disappear, leaving bare patches of scalp behind like abandoned campsites. Or it may all leave en mass, and you stand looking in the mirror as a totally new personal landscape, trying to see if you are still in there somewhere.

One of the difficult aspects of alopecia is that you don’t get to grieve a loss, adjust to a change in you self-concept and physical appearance, and then move on with your life. It keeps you off balance and feeds both false hope and unfounded despair again, and again, and again, until the only thing you know for sure is nothing is for sure. And that certainty of uncertainty is called acceptance. It’s a good place to be, and it’s a hard place to remain centered.

For today, I feel okay about this new development, although honestly, I hope the little buggers decide to leave sooner rather than later. I’ve grown fond of my smooth skin and shining head.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The chapter continues with more from the twenty five women from Alopecia World who shared their stories to help women struggling with the emotional and social impacts of hair loss. But this small sample provides a taste of the unpredictability of alopecia and why it is so important to get beyond the anxiety to reclaim joy.

Pam

Happy Bald And Free Day Everybody!

In case  you didn’t know, today is National Bald and Free Day

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A day for baldies of both genders and all walks of life to take off the wigs and hats, head covers of all kinds and stride boldly into the world of bald.

Whatever the season, for whatever reason,

bald is gaining in notoriety and popularity.

 

Huffington Post wrote an article about National Bald and Free Day in which they highlighted the pictures of thirteen famous bald folks. Only three of them were women. But, ahhhhh my dears, that’s three more than there would have been ten years ago. Still women face a disproportionate amount of obstacles to live life Boldly Bald.

Are you new to hair loss? What are the top three challenges you face as a woman coping with hair loss? What would help you the most to become comfortable in your own skin?

Bald Pain Image

Sign in to the form on the top right to download a free copy of:

Getting Past the Pain – Three Things You Need to Know.

Be True to Your Personal Brand…And, Ladies, That Includes Bald!

Guest Post by Rahna Barthelmess

Rahna Barthelmess

Rahna Barthelmess

Rahna is an expert on personal branding. What is personal branding? It is putting into practice the concept that by marketing ourselves in a way that leads to a uniquely distinguishable, and memorable impression, we increase our prospects for success in our lives and careers. Personal branding is an ongoing process. The goal of personal branding is to establish a particular image and impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization. In this case, Rahna’s advice is geared to women struggling with hair loss.

Who says we have to hide in the shadows under hot itchy wigs? Why can’t bald women as a group develop a brand as smart, savvy, sexy and successful in all our shining glory?

I am so pleased to have Rahna share her knowledge and insight about personal branding today. And I hope you enjoy reading her blog and learning her tips as much as I have.

 

Like it or not, your personal brand is partly conveyed by what you look like… But what if you don’t like what you look like?

Then it’s time to rethink how you view yourself.

Continue Reading

We’re Here, We’re Bald and We’re Beautiful

When I first lost all my hair to alopecia universalis, I tried a wig…but not for long. The heat, the itching, the constant worry about who was wearing what that might snag it when I gave or received a hug—it was just all too taxing of energy I could have been spending accepting my baldness and getting on with the joy of living.

Look at us now!

Look at us now!

There weren’t many examples of how to live as a bald women in a hair obsessed society. In fact, everywhere I looked it turned out I was the only openly bald woman in the city. The day I saw another openly bald woman in the passenger seat of the car next to me was a day of celebration. It was so uplifting to know I was not terminally unique.

Now, there is a growing movement of women who are throwing off their wigs and reclaiming their joy. Women are talking about their problems and their pain and are looking for solutions. Some are looking for ways to improve wigs. More and more, however, are tossing the camouflage and frolicking in the freedom of being comfortable in their own skins.

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Mary Marshall

 

The first Bald Mannequin Project is the perfect example of the growing confidence of bald women. Mary Marshall, founder of International Alopecia Day (IAD) saw an opportunity to put real bald women next to bald mannequins. Here is the beautiful resulting video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACmSfUNdFNQ

The Dash

 

 

Recently I received the book form of the poem titled: The Dash, by Linda Ellis. The poem speaks of the importance not of the date of a person’s birth, nor of the date of death, but the importance of the little dash in between those dates. That dash represents a person’s time on earth. The poem invites us to look at how we spend our dash, our time on earth.

My sister’s first son lived only two hours. She never got to see or hold her baby. He would have been fifty-two years old now, and she has never missed  putting flowers on his grave each Memorial Day. At the other end of the spectrum, our grandmother lived to be ninety-six.

I’ve lived more than two-thirds of my dash. Or, maybe it will end before the day is out. None of us really know, do we? I’ve had a good run in my life so far, but I’m not done. I have be given another opportunity to hide behind shame and fear and live my remaining days doing nothing, or, to rise above adversity and use my time to facilitate change in society’s perception of bald women.  I’ve chosen to put the rest of my dash into rising above and facilitating change.

So, these days I spend long hours in front of my computer learning how to create a platform from which I can reach women to educate, facilitate acceptance and encourage. I want to create a strong network of women helping women cope with hair loss.

Aesop wrote a story about a crow, half-dead with thirst, that came upon a pitcher that had just a little water at the very bottom. He could not reach far enough down to get a drink. He tried, and tried, but finally gave up in despair. Then a thought came to him.  He picked up a pebble in his beak and dropped it into the pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the pitcher. And another, and another. Pebble by pebble at last he saw the water rise high enough to quench his thirst and save his life.

Each woman who chooses to face the world boldly bald, without apology, without embarrassment or  shame, and then reaches out to help another woman, is a pebble in the pitcher of change. When there are enough of us, perceptions of bald women will change. Instead of a source of bullying in school and evoking negativity in society, a bald head will simply become unremarkable. People will no longer ask if we are undergoing chemo, or attempting to make a rebellious statement.

When my eulogy is read, I want to be remembered as a woman who always did what she could, where she was, with what she had to make a positive difference in her lifetime.

What about you? What will you do to make the most of your dash? How do you want to be remembered? Please add your comments below.

D’vorah Lansky’s 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge – A Literary Antipasto

0_0_0_0_112_112_csupload_64686596When I finished writing Boldly Bald Women, my publisher, Valerie Connelly of Nightengale Press, told me the easy part was over. Easy? Really? All the research and interviews and writing and rewriting and rewriting and rethinking and rewriting until it was as good as I could make it was the easy part? That couldn’t possibly be true. Ahhhhh, dear reader, but it is. Getting a good book into the hands of the people it was intended to serve falls squarely on the shoulders of the author. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that when I started or the overwhelm factor would have scared me off.Continue Reading

From Baby Steps to Flying Time to Warp Speed

In my last post (October of 2013 -sheesh it’s May of 2014 already – how did that happen?) I remarked on how fast time is going by. Well…now it just shifted into warp speed!

0_0_0_0_189_126_library_4607Boldly Bald Women. It’s written. It’s published. It’s an Amazon Best Seller. It has five star reviews. But none of that is worth anything if I can’t figure out a way to connect with more of the people who would benefit from reading it. Who are they? Women struggling with the emotional and social impacts of hair loss. Women with alopecia areata. Women with cancer undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Women and little girls with tricotillomania. Hormonal imbalances from malfunctioning thyroid glands and pregnancy. The families, friends, church members,teachers, classmates, employers, co-workers, doctors, therapists, anyone who knows a woman in any stage of hair loss for any reason or knows someone who knows of one.Continue Reading

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

Today I put the copy up on the website. That’s another milestone for this mission to get Boldly Bald Women into the hands of every person, female or male, adult or teen, who is or knows someone facing hair loss. Whether a woman loses her hair from alopecia, cancer chemotherapy, trichotillia, hormones or genetics, the emotional fallout is the same.

I’ve linked everything to every other thing it should go to…I think. But if you check out the site and end up in Timbuktu, pleeeeease let me know!

Inch by inch, row by row, I’m gonna make this website grow!

 

Boldly Bald Women Website Up And Taking Its First Baby Steps

Well, here we are, taking our first tentative steps through a new site. It is really a lot of fun to learn how to do this website building gig. Okay, I confess, it’s a bit scary as well, but whoever says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks never met The Dog Whisperer.

This old dog is having a blast. You won’t find perfection here, but you will find a warm welcome, a place to buy an autographed copy of Boldly Bald Women, and some very cool and kicky earrings especially made for bald women and their supporters.

So…welcome everyone. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or the beverage of choice, pull up a chair and sit a spell. Let’s visit. Please take time to leave comments and let us know if there is something specific you’d like to see on our site. We are so glad you’ve come!

Comments from Previous Website

Janet on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 9:48 PM

Just finished reading your book. It was just what I needed to give me the courage to go out bald…something I have done a few times now. Although I suffered with recurring bouts of Alopecia Areata for 20 years, I wasn’t at all prepared for AU which happened last year. The websites for NAAF and Alopecia World as well as your book have been a wealth of information and great source of strength. Thank you, sign me “bald and blessed!”

Pam on Thursday, May 16, 2013 9:53 AM

Janet,
I was delighted to read your comment. I apologize for the delay in responding. It took me a while to learn what to do to enable me to access my own blog comments. While technology flies through cyberspace I am hitching my way through the net with program manuals and help buttons. I’ll get it, though and things will begin to move smoothly.

It really is a shock to look in the mirror at a totally new hairless landscape, isn’t it. And having NAAF and Alopecia World as well as all the stories of all the women in Boldly Bald Women does help so much. I am so glad you found the book helpful. Feedback like yours makes all the time and effort worthwhile.

Boldly Bald Women earrings will be coming soon to add pizazz to your bald and I am still working on getting the site right. Please keep visiting to see all the updates!