For appearances’ sake, we do crazy things to our bodies. Women may have the most pressure to conform to an ideal. We squeeze our bodies into confining clothing. We apply colour to our faces and hair. Some have cosmetic surgery and other invasive procedures. Men may also feel pressure for things like baldness, over which they have no control.
There is always something, isn’t there? We can have too much hair or not enough. I have been blessed with too much. When I was a teenager, my mother told me that in Europe, women didn’t shave their legs. That seemed good enough for me, until one of my friends commented. I was so embarrassed.
I used to get my legs waxed. A strip of fairly hot wax is applied to the skin. Then a cloth strip is placed on the wax. When the cloth is pulled away, the wax comes with it, tearing the hair out en bloc. Rip, repeat, until complete. The results lasted longer than shaving and never felt prickly. Unfortunately, when the hair grew back, many would get stuck under the skin.
I liked the Hungarian-Canadian woman who provided that service at the Hudson's Bay Company in downtown Vancouver, and missed seeing her after I had laser hair removal. That procedure was a game changer. It was painful, but it worked. I didn't go for the full recommended number of treatments, as the clinic's new "pain free" equipment didn't seem to have any effect, and I was already satisfied.
Then there’s electrolysis. A needle is inserted and an electric current is applied, one hair at a time. The hair follicle, the surrounding skin and the muscle tissue it sits on, receive an electric shock. The results are said to be permanent. Do not believe this. Those hair follicles want to live. They weaken over time, and the hair becomes thinner and sparser, but it takes a long time and many treatments. It hurts too. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t working. If it hurts too much, you will never go back. They have a meter that sets the level of current, ie. the level of pain.
Reflecting on the painful things we do for appearances, I remembered my father telling me how he once tried to get his hair to grow back.
I never knew my father with a full head of hair, but my mother remembered him that way. She heard of a Dr. Thomas who claimed that he could get hair to grow back.
Dr. Thomas’ office was on Granville St. near the Hudson’s Bay Company in downtown Vancouver. Dad paid $360 for a package of medication and ointments over three feet (one meter) long. That was a lot of money in the 1950s or 1960s, but he had his own business with employees then and could afford to try it. He used the ointments on his scalp every day.
He also had to see Dr. Thomas for treatments every two weeks.
“The treatments were electric shocks!” he told me. “My head was so sore after that. I had such a headache, I could barely make it home. I went for two treatments. Then I told Ursula I wasn’t going back! I threw all the ointments in the garbage.”
Dad had a wealthy friend who got a doctor to transplant individual hairs onto his scalp. It was very expensive. He said it was so painful that he stopped doing it.
“Once Ursula got me to try on a wig. When I saw myself in the mirror, I said, ‘No.' I didn’t want to look like that. It wasn’t the cost. And how could I work with one of those things? It was good just to be myself.
“I used to grow the left side a bit long and lay it across my scalp to look as if I had hair there. But when we went to Crescent Beach swimming with the children, the long hair would fall over my face when I got out of the water. That’s when I told Ursula I was shaving it off.
“‘No!’ she said.
“‘Yes!’ I said.
“Now Nola shaves my hair. I actually feel colder after she shaves it.” (Nola is my father's wife of 19 years. He outlived my mother and his second wife.)
Isn’t it great to be accepted just as we are? Maybe we can offer that acceptance to others too. It might save a lot of money, and avoid invasive procedures and even electric shock therapy.
- Irene Plett
Topics: self-acceptance, body image, hair removal, hair loss