has been writing some really lovely stuff about her lovely buzzed head, and hair, and gender, and it made me realize that maybe I wanted to write a little about the aesthetics of my hair too.
I don't have good hair, and never really have. I wore the standard issue girly medium-long with heavy bangs, center part as a kid. Looking back at pictures of it, it always looks a little scraggly. Around puberty, I lost a lot of hair around the midline. Whether it was too much brushing at the center, or weird hormones, or making a lot of tight and sloppy braids, or what, I'm not sure, but it never came back. I pulled at breaking bits nervously probably more than I should have, which didn't help.
I started wearing my hair in a side part glued to my head with way too much hairspray, which too a lot of time and really looked way too synthetic for what was really a very poorly composed, non-makeup wearing high schooler. At one point around then I got my one and only perm, and I looked distinctly like a poodle for a few months and wore it with stringy little shoelace bows that didn't really look good but I guess I thought looked at least intentional.
My father was bald, partially from illness as a child, though I am guessing the genetics would have caused baldness eventually. He wore a hairpiece for most of his life, a deep dark secret of our family. After my parents got divorced, sometimes he would take us into the hair studio in New Jersey, where the guy he trusted still worked even though he lived in the city now, and we'd wait for twenty million hours, or at least 45 minutes, while he got it cleaned and styled. A few years before his death, he finally gave in and went bald to the world. It suited him.
My sister tried to get me to wear a hairpiece to my wedding. I declined.
It's especially noticeable, of course, because most people are taller than me, so the majority of the adult population is looking at the top of my head when they approach me. The second year I went to the wonderful Transcending Boundaries conference, where many, but certainly not all, of the participants are trans, I was surprised and kind of amused to discover that several people had tagged me as MtF, because of my thinning and slightly patchy hair. It's just such a bizarrely powerful male cue for people, and in that context, it was the most likely read. Passing except for the hair.
It got worse during my pregnancy, enough that I had some testing done, and it pretty much came back that I have alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness, and also slightly high testosterone. I tried Rogaine, the female formula and the stronger male formula, and it just made everything horrible and greasy without doing anything helpful. Sometimes I use Nexxus conditioner, which as far as I can tell does nothing except maybe make me feel like I threw money at the issue.
Soon after Rhys was born, knowing that I wasn't going to try to go back to work for a bit, I bleached the tips of my mid-back hair and dyed them bright green. I looked like a suburban peacock with a baby in tow, and I loved it. It marked me as different in a way I really needed right then. In recent years, I've frequently but not meticulously had my hair colored in near-natural shades of red and orange, and once a tigery gold with black stripes that suited me for the 3 weeks before it started to grow out. I stay with the salon folks that don't bug me about the hair loss more than once, don't offer solutions when I say I'm not interested.
I keep saying that once the loss got bad enough, I'd shave my head, but in reading Rose, it reminds me I'd need to do true bald, which takes a lot of maintenance, and since I barely ever get organized to shave my legs, I'd never do it. A buzz cut would not work for me -- it would look patchy. Also, I kind of think I'm too fat to get away with showing my face without a frame. For a while two winters ago, I was rocking the hats, but it didn't really stick.
And right now, I've got a weird pink and orange and brown and gold mess that was supposed to be lavender highlights by a friend who didn't really have this kind of thing as down pat as she thought. It looks really unusual, and not quite good enough to pull it off, but some mornings I wake up liking it enough that I haven't done something else yet. But it's a bizarre elephant in the room, or maybe a case of "if you can't say anything nice" syndrome, but almost no one has mentioned it to me unless I explicitly bring it up. Except the kids at my son's school, where I volunteer, who exclaimed "Mrs. Bloom! You have pink hair!" the moment they saw me. This is how I know it's not just a matter of it not being as bold as I think.
It makes me wonder how many more of the weirdnesses about how I present myself make people uncomfortable but unwilling to say anything. I don't much care, in the grand scheme of things, but I'm pretty sure I'm not passing as a suburban grownup very well, even on the days when I don't have sorta-pink hair.