For more than 27 years, I lived undiagnosed with Pure O, a form of OCD that is associated with horrible intrusive thoughts.
When you get older, a lot of stuff happens to your body. Your bits degenerate, you transform from a lithe, desirous plum, to a dessicated clementine your roommate refuses to throw out, left to rot by the coffee pot.
Age spots, wrinkles, sagging of things, fresh skin tags - where did it come from? Is it cancer? I AM PRETTY SURE IT’S CANCER. No, says your dermatologist, it’s not cancer, you are just disgusting in new and interesting ways, welcome to your great decline.
There are so many physical signs of aging and we are taught to battle each one. Foremost of all, your hair. As you age, your hair starts to thin. But before that actually happens, you get the added joy of worrying about it all falling out - and you are not alone.
I started worrying about my hair falling out before I hit double digits. My hair is fine (like, delicate, not “Hey Becca’s hair, can we take you out for coffee AND GET TO YOU KNOW YOU BETTER” fine) , but there is a lot of it, which means - using the transitive property, because math* - I shed an inordinate amount.
As a pre-teen with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, I actively sought things to worry over. The seemingly excessive amounts of my shaggy mane clogging the shower stall? That shit fit perfectly into my rota of worry-over-able obsessions, right alongside side all of my teeths would fall out and that one day my parents would die.
I worked myself into such a state, that I found my not-yet developed self weeping Glenn-Close-in-the-'Big-Chill' style in the shower one day, positive that I was on the road to baldness by the time I was, I don’t know, fourteen. I was so absolutely positive that my imminent hair loss had already damned me to ownership of a Forever-Hymen. I would be a bald, teenaged nightmare, my virtue thoroughly un-plundered because everyone had to bear daily witness to my mammoth, misshapen, bald dome.
I am also pretty sure I shared this fear with a friend with alopecia, who, in a testimony to her saintliness, did not punch me in the vagina for being a monster. LOL - youth!
One visit to my judgmental pediatrician was enough to convince me that while I had many, many other problems, hair loss was not one of them. That said, the fear of losing all of my head-hairs has not vanished**, rather it lies dormant. Just like my ringworm (JK, JK, I only had that once, and I was four, so it basically doesn’t count - LOVE ME.)
Every so often the inching panic that all of my hair is falling out crops up. It’s usually when I should be worrying about something else, something more pertinent like you know, figuring how I am going to pay for my cat’s dental surgery, or my rent, or whether or not I, in a favorite late-night imagined scenario where I am an abandoned astronaut on Mars, could survive an attack by dinosaurs who have adapted to the environment of space.
My rational mind knows this is insane (not the dinosaur thing, the hair thing). My rational mind knows that buying placenta hair masks aren’t going to keep my follicles in place, and that sleeping with olive oil massaged into my scalp is going to just make my bed smell like focaccia and give me head zits.
But my rational mind isn’t the one that’s taken over. Instead I’m left contending with the hive-mind component of psyche, the part that has been taught true beauty does not lie within, that wit and kindness are not above all else but instead associates shit like bananas thick and wavy hair with eternal youth and desirability.
Weirdly I haven’t thought about hair loss AT ALL since I cut off all my hair. I mean, sure, now I’ll probs be all up in the bathroom mirror during my lunch break demanding strangers, “Is that like, a normal amount of my scalp to see, or just slightly too much?!” as they shrug apologetically, just wishing I would leave so they can take their afternoon BM free of the censure of the insane.
What’s the craziest stuff you’ve put in your hair? What beauty myth do you still buy into? I fully believe bald to be beautiful now, and cringe at my shallow little kid self - do you have shameful memories like that? I HAVE ASKED TOO MANY QUESTIONS.
*I don’t know math. I rely on my dining companions in order to figure out basic percentages. Or apps if I’m trying to impress someone.
** all of my bush hair falling out is actually kind of a dream of mine...while we’re being honest, I guess?