The journey to the bald woman

A couple of months ago, I did the unthinkable. Well, it is technically not the unthinkable, then I would not have thought about it which led to me doing it. But just to maintain the flow, I did the unthinkable and shaved my head, entirely.

Many months and years before that day, on a sudden day, I thought why shouldn’t I donate my hair to cancer? Why don’t we all donate our hair to cancer because women are so concerned about losing their hair due to chemotherapy? And that thought eventually went to why are people even growing hair? What s the point? But if it has been there since evolution, then there must be a reason for it.

So 2 years ago in Nov 2019, when I could not cut my hair for 3 months as a bet that I lost to my friend, I figured maybe I should go to 6 months and then donate it all to cancer. Some bigger worthy cause. I had a pixie cut for 3 years before that. And so when I had to grow my hair for three months, it was a big deal. However, I was also ambitious, thinking that in 3 months I will have tresses long enough to toss my hair in a bun. Hardly. By end of 3 months, I just had hair which now had a mind and a schedule of its own. I couldn’t put it in a hairband, I couldn’t put it in clips. It had no specific hairstyle to control it or correct it. It just grew ever so slightly, enough to frustrate me that I couldn’t control it. I had to endure a 3-month journey looking like someone who had just come out of their bed always. Then I had no idea of how long did it have to be. I just presumed anyone with hair can donate. I had no idea what I was signing up for.

By the 4th month, the first lockdown was declared. All shops shut making it even easier for me to stick by my decision cos I had no one to go to get a haircut. 4 became 5 became 7 and soon it was the month of Jun. By this time, my hair had grown to length until my ears to make for a bob cut. Or slightly lesser. I decided to colour my hair blue or green after confirming that coloured hair is ok for a donation. With strict protocols around, I experienced being pampered in a PPE kit. I was the only one in that salon. Green and blue were not around, hence I decided to settle for red over my black hair. 3 hours later, I now had the hair of a brunette, which reminded me of the black widow.

In Dec 2021, a year after I had lost the bet, my hair was a little above my shoulders now and was curly and wavy. I decided to travel the country for 2 months. I thought it was an opportune moment because as long as I lived in the familiar zone amongst family and friends, I wouldn’t have been able to donate it to cancer. Every state I travelled to, I enquired if they collected hair for cancer. But all salons denied knowing something like this existed. It was a pity. Ignorance and so much hair going to waste. My hair continued to grow.

I returned in Jan 2021 and the second lockdown happened again in a few months in 2021. Work piled on so much and I forgot about this one of mine. It was just work, and the art of not going insane in the second lockdown.

In June of 2021, my hair was well hitting the shoulders, my company organised a wellness month. Where every day you had to do a task. One of the days, the task was to do a charitable thing to encourage people to reach out deliberately to make a difference in someone’s life. And I thought that was prompt for me to donate my hair. Not having found anyone in my circle who would prepare hair for cancer donation, I scrolled on Instagram and there I found this place, blrhairdonation. They looked professional and that they knew what was expected. I reached out to them about donating my hair to cancer. I was excited. This was it. This was what I was waiting for for close to a year and a half. It was a long time, but I was nowhere near Rapunzel but I was excited that in a few hours I would be donating my hair to cancer and back to my pixie cut. When they asked for a pic, they saw the length and since it was wavy, they said they would have to shave from the scalp to get enough length to be wig ready. I did not understand. The hair from the scalp was only less. But they had to take the hair from the scalp to make it long enough given the length I had now. So it was no longer just donating my hair. It was shaving my head. Should I do that too now? How would I look? Is it professional enough? What will everyone say? Given my living circumstances, I knew it would be catastrophic at the time. I did not have the courage. I couldn’t take the decision in time, and the day’s task in the wellness month crossed and I had not done this task.

A few more weeks passed, and this thought kept coming back. My hair continued to grow at its own pace and this time my relationship with it was also better. There were times when I would look at the mirror or feel it and say oh how soft it was or how amazing it looked. Especially after hair wash days. It was like I was starting to like it and did not want to give up on it. I kept pushing the thought back. But it would always come in again. It seemed like I was a different person now.

But things you are truly invested in are this way, they always find one way or the other to rise. On one certain Sunday, I decided it was time. I decided I was going to take it from the roots and I messaged blrhairdonation again. They were more than happy to accommodate my request. So there I was on a Sunday morning two weeks later, nervous, excited, anxious, alone in my apartment waiting for someone to come by.

We discussed the procedure in length before. It was not to be done in a salon mainly because it was something very personal and both parties had to be comfortable. He was more than happy to come to anyone’s place of my comfort across the city. I chose to be in my apartment. At the stipulated time, there was a call and the very professional Yuvan called me to say he was downstairs. I buzzed him to come up. We sat talking about why it was needed, how do we miss the usual opportunities, a lot about the stigma of bald women, and how they are not comfortable or welcomed in society, politics, sports, movies. We sat there talking until it was time. He set all his tools and started prepping my hair. I remember having teased him about how he is one of the very few men I know who knew how to plait longer hair. I sat there on my rolling chair, knowing that I had only a few minutes before this would become irreversible. Irreversible for a very long time. I am doing this. And just like that, a soft blade went over my head. Time to think of unicorns now.

The entire process lasted about 45 minutes. Yuvan was very gentle, patient and thorough.

He handed over my long plaited hair now but separated from my head. It felt like a limb had been separated. I had still not seen how I look. All I could see were two different plaits. A bid a tearful farewell. We wanted to record the reaction when I saw myself for the first time. As though watching a horror movie, I moved one finger after the other as Yuvan held the front camera to my face. And OMG, it was all done now.

It was shiny, egg-shaped, and very smooth. You may want to know how I felt from within. Did I feel beautiful? Adequate? As though something was wrong, amiss? I felt beautiful. As beautiful as I have always felt. The amazing thing was this dint change the way I looked at myself. I was just like ‘ oh a new look, ok’. But that was about it. I still looked beautiful and I still had my flaws. Was something amiss? Yes, I had just taken away a lot of hair that had been with me for such a long time. But I had replaced it with the satisfaction that it someday will go to someone and will make them happy and complete. And was I inadequate? Are you kidding me? I just voluntarily stepped into a zone that a lot of people hesitate from. I just stepped into something knowing that what changed is very temporary and that in no time, my hair will be back. If anything I was oozing pride. What topped it was Yuvan’s comment. ‘A lot of people do this. A lot of folks regret it. But this one falls on you amazingly, I think you should keep this hairstyle. Not a lot of women think they can carry it off and I think you will do a fab job.

And just like that after 2 years of growing my hair out, and after 25 years of always having hair on my head, I was now a bald woman.

We had a quick photoshoot after that. Reels and images of what you will see. I was super excited to show off my new hairstyle or rather my lack of it. I had a blast with Yuvan and I don’t think my experience would have been as comforting had it been anyone else.

The last time I shaved my head was when I was 10 years old. I was in class 5 and I remember I was very uncomfortable because I thought I would be ousted by all my friends for not having any hair. But this time it was different. This time I was anxious but excited to show it around. Worried about what others will think but was proud that I was able to do this. I realised that I wasn’t made of any different mettle. I was the same. If I could do it, others can. It is very less of what others will think and a lot of not being too worried about what others will think, resonating with the real reason of why you want to do this and of course knowing that it WILL grow back.

At the end of that experience after Yuvan left my apartment and I sat there wondering what had changed, had I really done this, I realised that I was no different now. I was the same personality I was before. If anything this was the first time in my life when I experienced that looks are exterior and don’t impact your personality in any way. It is a journey and a destination I will cherish.

P.S. I did go out to celebrate after that. To show off my new shiny head in a redshirt. It was both playfully sad and amazing that no one stared at me. Turns out I had thought it wasn't that big a deal after all.

To all those who want to try this, I strongly recommend blrhairdonation. They are amazing in this.

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‘There are only two ways to live a life. As though everything is magic, or as though nothing is.’ Albert Einstein modified.

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Dhivya Raj

‘There are only two ways to live a life. As though everything is magic, or as though nothing is.’ Albert Einstein modified.