Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pretty or Pretty Irrelevant?

My hair is half an inch long now. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but it's a good quarter inch.

One of my new friends, who was diagnosed with APL this year, just completed her second round of outpatient Daunorubicin chemotherapy. Only some of her hair fell out again. Her family says its not noticeable. Great for her! Hopefully I will fare as well.

My hair is almost long enough to look like an intentional haircut. I'd rather not have to start over. Bald during the summer keeps me cool. Bald during the winter would be quite chilly. I'd need one of those shearling lined bomber hats with the ear flaps.

I've been debating whether to post a picture of me without a hat on. I'm comfortable with the look, and so is my family. A compassionate cancer survivor whom I met this year gave me her blond wig, since her hair has grown back. When I put it on and approached Katelyn, she started shrieking. She didn't stop crying until I'd removed the wig. The other week, I asked my husband if he could change one thing about me, what would it be. He said, "I'd want you to have short hair, which you already have, so I'm good."

In general, I've become comfortable not wearing a hat around those people with whom I'm close. But why am I so afraid to post a picture or walk through the grocery store without a hat? It's not that I'm afraid to have strangers realize I had cancer. It's because I'm scared they will think I am ugly.

It's a ridiculous fear. I shouldn't worry what others think of my appearance. My attitude and what I do with it are far more important than how I look. My parents raised me to focus on achievement rather than appearance, and we are doing the same with Katelyn. When she masters a new skill, she yells, "I did it." She has one baby doll, but also a toy airplane, firetruck, motorcycle tricycle, and a basketball hoop. Her favorite library book this week is called, "I Stink," by Kate Mcmullen. It's about a garbage truck. She doesn't know any of the names of the Disney princesses.

We're not intentionally withholding the princesses from her, or anything else girly. We smile when she blows kisses to the garbage truck. If she becomes interested in the princesses, we'll play along. We want Katelyn to use her imagination any way she wants, and to have fun. Throughout her life, however, she will be inundated with the message that pretty is important. Right now, if she'd rather hear a story about a garbage truck than learn Cinderella's tale, than that's what we'll read.

There is so much emphasis in our society on the way girls look instead of what they accomplish. I see evidence of this in the way girls have reacted to the lack of hair my hats signify.
Preteen girls have learned the the value of beauty, and they're trying their best to attain it. At the same time, they are still learning tact.

While grocery shopping, Katelyn and I were stalked by a nine-year-old girl. We were followed through the beverage, cracker, and backing goods aisles before the girl's mother called her off. I assume the child had been fascinated by the lack of hair beneath my hat, yet the totally normal interaction I was having with my daughter ("No, Katelyn, we already have three bags of Goldfish crackers at home.").

Several times, while at the nearby playground with Katelyn, I've been stared at by preteen girls. They notice my lack of hair even though I wear a hat. In some cases, they've scowled at me or turned away. One five-year-old girl approached me and said, "I don't mean to be mean, but why don't you have any hair? It doesn't look good."

These unfiltered reactions to my appearance don't upset me. I too think I looked better with my thick, blond, two feet long hair. They are sweet girls, who are sorting through their own sense of identity. Why not give them an example of a woman who's comfortable with appearing less than beautiful? My hair length has no impact on how much fun Katelyn and I have on the playground.

If I've been taught that my worth isn't based on my appearance, and we're teaching our daughter the same thing, then why don't I want my picture taken without my hat? Have I somehow failed myself? Am I a hypocrite? Am I not strong enough to rebuke the themes hammered into us by the media?

I shouldn't care about whether or not I look ugly. Ugly should be an idea I toss in the garbage. The truck in Katelyn's library book should chomp up Ugly, compact it, and dump it on the barge, along with the "XL T-shirts, year-old yams, and zipped-up ziti with zucchini."

I can't ask Katelyn to stay true to herself if I can't do the same. Some day, she will read this blog. For her, I need to muster up the courage to post a picture of who I am today. I will do it... a week from now, when it's grown just a little bit longer...