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Pass Me A Fucking Pandemic Pinot, My Hair Is Falling Out.

Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 12.51.16
Art by subliming.jp

We’re living in a global pandemic, and I’ve never felt so insular in my life. 

I found out three days ago that I have a very, very minor, but very distressing mode of alopecia areata. It sounds like a Harry Potter spell but is substantially less fun. 

I have this coin-sized patch of missing hair on the left-hand side of the crown of my head. My hairdresser (months ago, oops) was the first person to say the word ‘alopecia’ to me as I got my hair zhuzhed up for a night on the town (remember those?). A little worry crept in, so naturally, I thwarted it and forgot this exchange ever happened. I did mention it once to my mother and a couple of friends, but we collectively agreed this woman was a crazy catastrophist and dismissed her wildly outrageous call.

Then, I went to a glorious launch event for a new hair product at a ritzy blow bar in Melbourne, a month or so later. The hairdresser there also mentioned that the top of my head was looking a little angry and red. I shrugged that off with a “Well, I don’t really get up there often,” and we agreed I’d probably burnt my head with a hair straightener sans noticing (this was tenuous), or the Australian sun had ravaged my scalp as per usual.

“Alopecia varies drastically. And I am no expert, nor are many people, really. With COVID-19, cancer and a whole ecosystem of horrific diseases and plagues out there, something life-changing but not life-threatening doesn’t receive much airtime in the labs. And rightly so.”

It’s only in isolation that I’ve let my hair go unwashed for an ungodly number of days and had time to really assess myself in the bathroom mirror while rehearsing Dua Lipa’s Physical music video pre-shower. I started to take some head selfies and immediately booked a doctor’s appointment for the very next AM. 

Alopecia varies drastically. And I am no expert, nor are many people, really. With COVID-19, cancer and a whole ecosystem of horrific diseases and plagues out there, something life-changing but not life-threatening doesn’t receive much airtime in the labs. And rightly so.

It’s usually auto-immune related, or stress-related, or iron-deficiency related, but it’s typically hard to pinpoint the ‘how’. Turns out, when your body or mind is in distress and you choose to keep on keeping on to the verge of burnout, it will alert you –  like a red light saying ‘slow the fuck down, eat more veggies and maybe you should try inhaling and exhaling more often’.

All the quasi healthy stuff aside, what’s startled me most is the way I’ve reacted to this news. That is, not well. When nothing at all has actually changed in my life, the notion of alopecia has had the most prolific effect on my state of mind. 

While people are dying, the streets are barren and our economies are crumbling, I am so intensely consumed by this new diagnosis. I’ve been hysterically crying, panic-reading, googling (bad!!) and just generally spiraling. I nearly bought a Paleo Autoimmune Diet cookbook the other day and I DON’T EVEN COOK. I’ve watched SATC, gone for some walks and tried to push through. But I just started looking at the crowns of people’s heads more in the wild to assess their hair follicle density. (Wtf?)

I am seriously struggling to grapple with this. I’ve been thinking a lot about how a broken bone, a ruptured eardrum or a nice bout of tonsilitis wouldn’t have had anywhere near this sort of impact on me. The fact of the matter is, I am a 21-year-old, superficial, image-obsessed female. 

“I’ve realised just how intrinsically hair connects us to our femininity, and ultimately, our desirability. That’s because, historically, long, lush locks of hair denote health, wealth and all-round hotness.”

It occurred to me that maybe, this is some sort of weird karmic punishment for my obsessive superficiality. Or it’s my body punishing me for dragging it through a proverbial hedge most days with a rigorously self-inflicted pressure to constantly ‘do’ more. There’s a strong possibility that it is a cautionary combo of the two.

After reading so many stories about alopecia (and trust me, every single one is so different), I’ve realised just how intrinsically hair connects us to our femininity, and ultimately, our desirability. That’s because, historically, long, lush locks of hair denote health, wealth and all-round hotness. 

I’m taking iron tablets, rubbing cream in, doing virtual derm appointments and will get some steroid needles in the noggin next week. Everything should return back to normal in a few months if I maintain these new routines and press pause on all the life-optimisation schemes, workouts, banana bread baking, and other BS that social media is touting as essential right now. 

I know this sounds extreme. And it is. But even if this tiny bout of hair distress comes and goes in the space of a month or so, I think it has totally revolutionised the way I would like to lead my life. I no longer want to sweat the small stuff. I don’t want to ever compromise my health for a job or a night out. I never want to complain about tiny insecurities and superficialities that punctuate my everyday. 

Maybe the moral of this introverted story is that in the throes of solitude and self-reflection, we should spend more time thinking about the lives we want to emerge from all of this leading. Maybe it’s the people we should surround ourselves with, the ways we divvy up our precious time, the stuff we take for granted and the things that truly do matter (insert ‘health’ here). Perspective is really hard to practise until you’re forced to. But if there’s ever been a time to do it, I think that time is now.

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