Remember that song New Attitude sung by Patti LaBelle in the 80s? Oo oo oo oo – I got a new attitude!
I used to sing these lyrics upon leaving the hair dresser: Oo oo oo oo – I got a new hairdo!
I have a new hairdo!! I had my head shaved two weeks ago to raise money for St. Baldrick’s. Team Sean Martin Kelly raised over $13,500 of which I raised close to $1000, so I feel pretty good about that.
Many of my supporters, most of them women, told me I am brave. My brother said, “Oh well it’s just hair. It will grow back.” And that was pretty much my attitude. But one of my supporters, a survivor herself, wrote to me: “Karen, I admire you. There is no way I could shave my head (especially since my hair has finally started getting long). DO NOT berate yourself for hemming and hawing over shaving your head. Losing my hair was the most devastating part of the cancer.” And she had endured a mastectomy. This demonstrated to me just how important hair is to many people.
I couldn’t wait for them to shave my head. I was past needing a haircut and just couldn’t deal with my hair any more. I was hesitant thinking that there would be some weird birthmark or dents in my head, or that people might see where my antennae go, my connectors to the mother ship.
I admit that right after I was shaved, knowing there was no going back, I had a fleeting “what have I done??!” moment. But so many people at Spyner’s told me I looked good bald. I wasn’t so convinced because the cynical side of me thought “well, what else would they say??” I felt honored to have so many people touching and kissing my head. It almost felt like a rite of passage somehow.
The first new thing my head felt happened as I was walking to my car. A very slight breeze, that I normally would not have noticed, felt so refreshing, like God was blowing a big kiss on my head. I had to stop walking and just feel it. It made me smile and I couldn’t stop smiling or laughing as I drove home. I remember sitting at a stop light getting a thumbs-up from the guy dressed as the Statue of Liberty outside of Liberty Insurance. Great costume, I returned the gesture.
In the following week, I saw friends and family and many people told me I look good bald. I have gone through over 40 years of life and never once heard “You have a nice head.” Until now. It takes some getting used to. My brother actually said something along the lines of “I’m surprised. You really do have a nice head. No dents.” No dents perhaps despite his best efforts during our childhood.
My experience thus far has been beyond liberating. I do not miss the dryer or the spray. It felt great to exfoliate my scalp with salt scrub, and to put lotion on my head for the first time. I can get ready a full 10 minutes earlier now. And who knew that a long-time behavior could be obliterated in a single moment? Normally at the end of my shower, I would run my hands across my head, pushing my hair back and then wring out the excess water from my hair. I laughed the first time I showered bald because there was no hair. I have not tried to wring out my hair since. An “auto-pilot” action is no longer.
But that’s all superficial. The really cool thing is that people have stopped me on the street to ask me if I shaved for St. Baldrick’s and upon hearing the answer, they have told me how proud they are of me. Just last night I took Lulu out for a walk and ran into two women who stopped to admire her. They asked me if I shaved for St. Baldrick’s and when I said yes, they both hugged me and said “Good for you!”
A week ago when I attended church for the first time with a bald head, the usher asked if I was new and if I would like an information packet. I said, “Oh no, I’m a member. I just got a haircut.” And then yesterday at church, I saw two more freshly shaven heads, one of whom said to me, “Peace be with you, I love your haircut!”
I was afraid people would stare at me or give me derisive or dismissive looks. I decided that when I go out places, I have to just be myself and not let apprehension get in the way. I look people in the eye and smile at them more than I used to. I greet strangers more readily on the street than I normally would. Connecting with people has been the absolute best thing about this experience, aside from raising funds to help kids with cancer. And it’s not coming back grey.
I checked in with my pal Amy Kelly, and she said she’s keeping the bald look for now. I’m growing my hair out so I can shave it off next year. If you’ve thought about shaving your head, DO IT! You will be glad you did. If I had known it would feel this good, I’d have done it years ago but can now look forward to doing it for years to come.
And as an aside, I don’t know why my articles start out with song links. I just often have a song in my head when I write about particular topics.
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Karen is a recent escapee of corporate america and was raised in the Chicago area. She is quick-witted, non-political and non-comforming, but an astute observer of everyday life. Loves women.