Contributions by other people

Laurie Shapiro, USA

I was 12 years old and becoming a woman. Men were looking at me, staring at my flat chest with the swollen nipples. My body was stretching at the mind-blowing rate of 6" that year. Everything seemed to hurt.

I began pulling my hair out then. I would pull a strand out, one by one, concentrating on a certain area. I would examine the root, sometimes brushing it across my lips, feeling its sticky coolness drag across my skin. I would bite off the root and toss away the strand itself. I would feel around again and get just the right one, always in the same spot, on top of my head. One day I realized I could feel the smoothness of my scalp. I would rub it with the pad of my finger like a worry-stone.

Of course my mother was horrified when she finally noticed. Perhaps that was what I wanted although I don't remember. I lied to her, the doctor, to everyone, perhaps even to myself. No one could figure out why this little girl was becoming bald. We cut my hair short to try and cover up. Of course the kids at school were merciless. I don't remember how that made me feel. One must be numb to take such action against oneself.

The eyelashes were next. It was only when all of them were gone that I became vain. It was this particular nakedness that shocked me. I had laid myself bare to the world when all I wanted to do was hide. Only then did I feel out of control.

My hair grew back. I don't remember fighting the urge to pull back then, although I struggle occasionally now. The hair grew back thick and gorgeous. It was a mane and I became a lioness of sorts. I inadvertently transformed myself into something beautiful. Shedding that hair was like shedding my skin.

I have spent the better part of my life with this hair being pivotal to my identity. Old ladies would stop me on the street to touch it. Women have told me they'd kill for it. Men never said much, they didn't have to. My hair and I have a love/hate relationship. It is unruly with a mind of its own so I keep it short which I find liberating. It is still sensual and strong and female. It is less overt though and I like it that way.

I read a book recently in which a woman died and huge bald spots were discovered beneath a precarious use of barrettes. It was mentioned that she had trichotillomania. It is a result of a felt lack of control, a desperate attempt at perfectionism. This gives me pause when I am tempted to root for that perfect strand. No one is perfect.