35. The Beauty in The Bald...aka there ain't nowhere to hide
When I was a sophomore in college, pre-fitness career, I worked the front desk at CRUNCH on 13th and University place. It was there that I first met one of the most gently charasmatic souls I have ever encountered, the somewhat infamous Robert Mapplethorpe model : Ken Moody.
He felt somewhat before his time in a class taught called “Strength and Alignment.” It was a fusion of traditional strength training with the grace and symmetry of pilates and dance, all bound together with the warmth of Kenny’s infectious spirit. I didn’t see him much, but once you met him, you never forgot him.
Three years later, as an aspiring actress, I ended up with a part-time job at a new boutique fitness studio on West 14th Street called “Revolution.” It was owned and operated by a group of Ex-Crunch fitness instructors, one of them was Ken Moody. My duties at “Revolution” were pretty standard, checking people in and cleaning the studios and the change rooms. I was paid a decent wage and could take classes, but more importantly, I got to hang out with Ken and hear this story: (Note it’s been a couple of decades so this is my best recollection)
“When I was a little boy, they sent me to a support group for folks with Alopecia . I was about seven, and I remember looking around at all the people who were so sad they were bald and not knowing really why I was there. As a little black boy, I saw lots of other little black boys who were bald or who had very short hair because that was the style. SO I didn’t go back, because I was never really sad about it, because I didn’t feel different. I just felt like me. “
Since I had my husband shave my head a week ago, Kenny has consistently popped into my mind. I’ve had longish hair for most of my life except a brief stint when I was 12 and prior to going on a family trip to Disney World my father insisted I should get my hair cut short because it would be “easier” ( little did he understand the ease of sleeping in braids). So I acquiesced, and ended up with a super unfortunate short , layered, haircut that was impossible for a girl with no blowdryer skill and naturally wavy hair to style. and again in college when I cut my hair chin length but the the stylist added short “Rachel” layers which had me looking like a poodle in NYC humidity. To say my success with “short hair” was dismal is a bit of an understatement.
But, despite all this, there has been a part of me thrilled all along at the prospect of shaving my head. While a terrible haircut, I remember distinctly the feeling of “exposure” when I had shorn my long hair in college. And the thought of “well, this is ME take it or leave it”.
I had many a female friend much braver than I who had fully shaved their heads and spoke of how it was “liberating”. My mother when she was bald, made fun of it. Decorating her head with butterfly tattoos, but also stated once in confidence “ i look terrible, so when I look in the mirror, I don’t look at myself.” Namely when she looked in the mirror, she chose out of a sort of embarassment to not actually SEE herself, because the sight was too hard. Yet, to me at that time, she taught me more of beauty than I could ever recount and shined all the brighter.
So armed with all this “knowledge” how could I possibly be afraid? I mean, i’ve longed for a reason to have to cut it, and this is definitely one of the better ones, and I am ready to own it. The doubts can’t help but creep in, cause it’s one thing to THINK and another to ACT.
What if I have a really ugly head?
What if I just look like boy, will I even feel like a woman?
What if I can’t get acting work?
Everyone will definitely know I am being treated for cancer now, what will that mean?
Will they not come to my classes cause I gross them out?
It’s fine, it’ll grow back . What if it doesn’t?
And most importantly:
What if I do what my mom did and look in the mirror and try NOT to SEE ME?
All these things went through my mind when Collin raised the vibrating clippers to my forehead. I taped a video for IG but mostly for myself, so I could see the finality of it. Two minutes later it was done and I walked over to the mirror to take a look.
Staring, I rubbed my head, thankful for it’s good shape. My eyes which I have always liked, looked ginormous. As I looked I felt myself fall a bit into my own eyes, taking in the pain, the sorrow, the loss and shining brighter than all, the LOVE.
“Namaste’”, I thought, “The divine in me, sees the divine in you.”
Welcome to all that is you Stephanie, I think you’re hear to stay.