Observations from two weeks as a (sort-of) bald woman

It’s been seven hours and fifteen days since I took my hair away.

It’s not a clever joke; it’s literally true. Fifteen days ago, I shaved my head as part of a fundraising effort for a breast cancer support group in Antalya. It’s been a fascinating experience so far; here are a few things I’ve noted over the past couple of weeks.

  • I was only bald for about a day. This one should have been obvious, but for some reason I pictured myself looking bald for at least a week, maybe longer. By the afternoon of the second day, though, the stubble was clearly visible. By the following morning, I felt like I was someone with really short hair rather than a bald person. Perhaps others would look at me even now and still describe me as bald, but maybe that’s just because people don’t expect a woman to have hair this short. If I saw a man with hair the length mine is today, I certainly wouldn’t think of him as bald. It’s given me a newfound respect for people who are perpetually bald by choice— you really have to keep up with it.

  • The stubble phase is basically velcro. For the first week or so after the stubble appeared, everything stuck to my head. Lint, clothing, bedsheets… everything. If I wanted to wear a knit hat, I had to get it positioned exactly right on the first try, because once it was on, there was no adjusting it, it was stuck there. If I wanted to turn over in bed in the middle of the night, I had to lift my head all the way off the pillow first.

  • The first couple of days, people I encountered in my daily life were ridiculously nice to me. People constantly tried to do things for me, carry my bag, and offer me a seat. I’m guessing this was because they put two and two together and got fifty-seven.

  • People I encountered on the internet, however… More accurately, I should say men on the internet. Rule 34? Yeah, apparently bald fetish is a thing. Guys wanted to know if I was down. Some were quite explicit about their fantasies. I even had a couple of creepy encounters in person, but most of it was online. That particular variety of attention seems to have died down as more recent photos have been uploaded— I guess I have too much hair now to be of any real interest to people who are turned on by bald women.

  • I felt differently about personal space than I thought I would. Before I shaved my hair off, I imagined that everyone was going to want to touch my bald head, and that it was going to get old really quickly. Exactly the opposite has happened— people have been really respectful about keeping their hands to themselves, and it’s disappointing because my head feels so cool. The smooth skin thing was a trip in its own right, but the buzz-cut furry animal texture is pretty great, as well.

  • I felt exactly the way I thought I would about the dumb jokes. I predicted ahead of time that despite Sinéad references being boring, unoriginal, and twenty-five years too late, people still weren’t going to be able to help themselves. I even mentioned on social media that I was bracing myself for the amount of sighing and eyerolling I was going to have to do. Now that I’ve seen just how intent people are on trying to demonstrate that they can make a Sinéad joke cute and clever, I’ve escalated to making my own dumb Sinéad joke first (see above) to take the wind out of their sails. It kind of makes me want to punch myself in the teeth, but something had to be done to save people from their own lack of comedic sensibility, and to protect my sanity.

  • Earrings have become a thing. I have two holes in each earlobe, and normally I wear the same two pairs of earrings day in and day out. Now that I have no hair, though, I’ve broken out the stash of Really Cool Earrings and have been experimenting a lot with the bald-plus-cool-earrings combo.

  • Facial expressions have become a thing. It’s remarkable how easily the perception of me can be swayed from ‘sweet auntie who might be a cancer patient’ to ‘menacing skinhead who may or may not have killed people’. It’s all in the eyebrows, and the piercing stare or lack thereof.

  • Shaving my head was a good way to experiment with hairstyles. Since I was getting rid of all my hair anyway, I took full advantage and gave myself several different haircuts on the way out, just for fun. I surprised myself by really liking some haircuts I never considered before, like the buzzed-on-the-sides look. I’m going to play around with that some more as my hair grows back.

  • I have a lot more hair than I thought. I tend to think of myself as someone who has a low-to-moderate amount of relatively fine hair, but I was astonished when I saw the size of the pile of hair on the floor, and it was surprising how long it took to cut it all off with the clippers. Before I shaved my head, I watched a YouTube video of a bald woman who said that she never appreciated how much hair she had until she cut it all off. At the time I thought that was a weird thing to say; now, though, I totally get it. It’s ridiculous how much hair is on a human head.

  • I expected to be more emotional about having no hair. The gravity of why I did this is not lost on me, and I’ve had some overwhelm about the issues surrounding the project, but honestly I’ve been having a lot of fun as a bald woman, and cutting all my hair off has been the least emotional aspect of the whole thing. I guess I like experimenting, no matter what the situation, and in the end… it’s true, I am not my hair. It feels good to have that confirmed.

A photo I took of myself in a mirror.

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