Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pride and Passive Prejudices

I am going through a little bit of a struggle these days, and working hard to be positive and cheerful. But one of the issues is confidence, and another is focus. When I look terrible I get a bad return-vibe from people; and under good circumstances people usually feed me with positive energy. And when I feel really sick I tend to wind down and want to do nothing; so my writing is negatively impacted.

But the crux of the coming dread is hair. As in, I've already started to loose mine again and will most likely be bald by the end of the month.

I'm not vain. I've never been beautiful, but can pull off cute. I actually like being scruffy, boyish, and average-gal most of the time. While we all fall victim to occasional bouts of "man I look like poop," I actually think most of my life I was very nearly immune to that syndrome. But I have to say... the first time I lost all my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes I noticed how terribly the general public treats people who show signs of severe illness.

Ironically, I can't think of any medical condition that would require the kind of treatments with these results that is contagious or economically specific. Yet every time my hair has gone away I was treated as if I were poor, dirty, and contagious. Rationally I know this is a knee-jerk reaction based in fear: she has something that terrifies me on a visceral, primal level-- I must run from it. But the degree to which it really does change my mode of moving through the world is a little scary.

For instance, last baldy-round I was in a jewelry store with the money I'd been given for my birthday, wanting to purchase a bracelet I saw. I was in immaculately clean jeans, with a nice knit top, and a Red Sox cap covering what was obviously a very bald dome. After fifteen minutes of clearing my throat, standing ignored, and even being told to wait after vocalizing a request for help, I left. The only other customers in the store were a couple. There were three people behind the glass counters. I finally just left. I also noticed that cashiers who saw me on a regular basis around town became careful about touching me when returning change or receipts. Many stopped making eye-contact, though I think this is probably more based in pity than anything else. It's not easy to know somebody is sick but not want to offend them with questions or stares.

Still, the prejudice is always there and always baffling. And if anything, my normal, instinctual reaction-- which is to be determinedly cheerful and joking about the whole mess-- doesn't seem to work.

Anyway, I'm considering getting a tattoo on the back of my head just to have some decoration. And maybe I'll dress kind of tough and bikery. Like it's on purpose. Because frankly, if I'm going to scare you, I'd rather it be that kind of fear.

That's right-- I'm bald, I'm bad, and I'm brooding. You wanna make somethin' of it?

*crickets chirping*

Well... maybe not so much bad as... err... cranky? *sigh*


  1. I just don't understand people reacting that way, fearing you, not trusting you? I don't get it, but then, I rarely get people.

    I'm the opposite way. I have an aquaintance who is going through chemo right now, and when I see her, I think I get too gentle and sympathetic. Though she doesn't look or act it, she is very sick. I'm sure she'd like a (mostly) regular hug, and to be treated like normal, and I'm always afraid my fear for (not of!) her is going to show and upset her. But it's something I'm aware of and work on, so hopefully it doesn't show enough to bother her.

  2. I have always had a sense of sympathy and curiosity about people who are 'different' for whatever reason, and now that I'm a nurse, my curiosity only deepens as I usually suspect something. But I never know how I'd be received and would never want to offend. There exist ones such as you, Crissy, who would welcome a dialog, but others might not, and rather risk being insulting, I know I usually opt to not broach the subject in case I would offend. But let me give you an example of how I am.
    I was a phlebotomist before I was a nurse. And I went to draw blood on a woman in the ER who was HIV+ . She looked forlorn and lonely and sad. After I drew her blood and talked for a short minute, I just leaned forward and gave her a small kiss on her forehead. She started crying. She said that noone wanted to touch her anymore. It broke my heart. But I understand that reaction. Like you said, it's fear. But with that lady, I knew what I was dealing with, and I knew that barring any bleeding on her face, I'd be fine.

    I'd lean over and give you a great big hug too if I could. We could go and try on hats together. I love hats, but look ridiculous in them. But I would be right there with you.

  3. Contessica4:49 PM

    Ugh, stuff like this gets my goat. I have never avoided people who was going something noticeable like chemo or any other illness. I have seen it alot though even as a kid when kids freak out or anything different. I was the only one willing to play with a terminal ill child in the hospital, her own mother was too upset to even hug her. At least that is what I hope.
    Fear and disgust is so common now a days at some places it is like a plague. I don't have cancer or any terminal illness but I do walk with canes. Just being young and with canes freaks people out, I have gone to a crowded nightclub where the crowd spread not to be polite but because they were afraid to touch me. Things like that hurt, I can relate on a small level. People can cruel, sadly it is in our nature. React first, think later.

    Mind you I do have something against people who don't know how to bathe. Now those freak me out seriously anyone over the age of ten should know what soap is and how to use it.

    Ps - The biker look would be interesting. I could picture that and Max with a studded collar or something.

  4. Oh, contessica, Max with a studded collar, adorable.

  5. I think you should get a pink wig. You could totally rock that look.

  6. Amanda Brice6:54 PM

    OK, people suck, Chrissy. I'm so sorry. *hugs*

  7. I think it's them not wanting to act weird and so by thinking of not acting weird, they're over compensating and acting totally weird. It's like when you don't want to stare at somebody and so you end up obviously looking away. On a deeper level, I think you're right about the fear. Huge hugs.

    All I can think of right now that might be hopeful is Ahmed's blog that you showed us about how he discovered a different beauty in you when looking at you without hair. Hopefully you can read that again and see the truth in his thoughts.

  8. I'm sorry you're experiencing that (cancer, chemo, ignorant people). Too many people have lost the ability or desire to imagine themselves in your shoes. It's a combination of fear and ignorance. Most people don't know enough about illness to be sure the illness isn't contagious, and there's always the mass fear of HIV - due to ignorance, people just avoid HIV patients altogether. I used to volunteer at an HIV group home, and like Leigh said, a common complaint was that no one touched them anymore. All humans need touch - it's healing.

    I'm a kidney patient, and other than losing some of my hair, I don't even look different right now, but some people whom I thought were friends avoid me now. They don't know what to say and they don't want to deal with life-altering illness at all. Heaven forbid it to happen to them! Being around me makes them feel closer to it, and that's frightening. It's as if people write you off when you're sick. Where is the faith and hope?

    I think despite the hardships illness imposes on our lives, it gives us a rare viewpoint. We're forced to stop, look, and accept what is most important in our lives. Once we figure that out, it's important to put the energy we have left into doing as much of the thing(s) we love as possible. I pity people who are so limited. You're on a different plane, now.

  9. Thanks everyone (gotta go shopping for a pink wig).

    Pen-- I can totally relate, and I know how you feel. I have several family members who not only pulled away, but seem to panic and get angry if anyone else mentions my situation. So I ask everyone close to keep health concerns out of converstations.

    And Jeannie, I think the overcompensation thing is dead-on.

  10. This is interesting to read. I wouldn't touch a stranger even if they were clearly sick because I'd think they wouldn't want my pity. Because I wouldn't touch a healthy stranger, either. So I wouldn't want to treat the sick person differently than the non-sick. If that makes any sense.

    Watching my kids and others at school though, I do think things are better than they used to be when I was at school. Not perfect, but better. I can't recall ever hearing kids make fun of the seriously handicapped kids at school. It is just not done. The parents do disability programs where the kids wear blindfolds etc. It's small, but it's something.

    I'm sure there's a long way to go when you see it from your side.

  11. It is natural to shrink away from things that are scary--what people forget is that it isn't the person who is sick that is scary, it's the sickness.

    I still think your tat should say "swamp witch".

  12. ROFL I soooooo agree with what Gwen said. "swamp witch" would be hilarious!!


  13. I got that when I spent a few months in a wheelchair. People stare and then look away because they don't want to be caught staring. My mom gets the same treatment when she takes her best friend out in public because of her friend's Alzheimers. Sometimes people are just stupid.

    Get the tat, Chrissy. Better yet, get a t-shirt that says 'I have :whatever your malady is: - what's your excuse?'