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Let’s Talk: Age, Beauty, Alopecia, and Self-Image

April 13, 2023

Thursday Thoughts on Self-Image, Beauty, and Age and Alopecia

As the wild wind blew small strands of my newly grown hair around like tumbleweeds in Nebraska, I was grateful for the feeling. At the turnaround point of my 9-mile bike ride, I took a selfie and noticed my hair was blown in the direction of the wind and stuck in place. I thought to myself, “Who needs a weathervane when one has alopecia?” Humor has always been one of my superpowers.

It was the first mid-seventy-degree, sunny morning in Syracuse, and I didn’t want to wear a hat to cover my freakish-looking hair which had large bald spots surrounded by a mix of grey, white, and black hair only a couple months old. Four years ago, when I went totally bald for the first time, I used to hide my condition under my hats when I biked. My appearance to strangers was that important and my self-image was too fragile. Now looking even more bizarre but more confident in some way, I rode hat free wondering what looks I’d receive.

I feel it is a test of humanity when I bike past strangers wondering what they will do. Some look at me straight on with no expression, some look down as if avoiding me, some give big smiles, most don’t notice, some look bewildered, and a few nice ones wave. I really love the ones who smile and wave at me the most. Who would think someone needs acceptance when they bike? I never knew I did until I became bald at age 54.

This thing called self-image is a delicate issue. It isn’t a popular topic among women who age, go through menopause, lose muscular tone, have hair falling out or greying, have eyesight worsening and have hips getting wider. None of my older female relatives said, “Hey Tracy, when you turn 40 you won’t be able to read the date on a penny,” or “Hey, Tracy your boobs will sag after you have children?” I think older women try to protect younger women from the truth that comes with age or they would talk about it more often.

Almost every woman I know has some self-image issue mostly due to societal norms. The identity we want to portray is found in glossy magazines that use Photoshop on their images or social media where everyone posts their best selfie. I admit I do that all the time posting the perfect image of myself with limited hair to boost my day. It’s sad really.

The main lesson I’ve learned in the past four years as a mostly bald woman is to be more kind to yourself than you are. To not look at anyone else’s beauty as a benchmark for your own. To acknowledge and love the parts of you that are built into your DNA that can’t be changed. Eat healthy, exercise often, take the right vitamins, laugh out loud, and do all you can do to be as beautiful as you can with what you are given.

I will continue my self-image journey with a lack of hair as best I can until the day I do, or don’t get my hair back while remaining healthy and grateful in every other way for what I do have in my life. It’s a choice. What will you choose?

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