Letters from Lockdown 46: Meg Haskins

To the disappearing bald patch on my head,

At 10 years of age I stood teetering on the edge of the deep end being instructed to jump in. I had witnessed friend after friend leap in, unafraid, unflinching. My feet had remained bolted to the floor. My palms sweating, my brain awash with every possible reason a 10 year old could conjure up as to why jumping into a swimming pool may result in their demise. But I did not want to relinquish control.

In recent years, I have explained with a matter of extreme urgency to close friends that I would like to be more spontaneous. I would love to seize moments and take risks and jump into the deep end. I would love to walk across bridges and jump out of the sky and eat street food unafraid of the consequences. But I still do not like to relinquish control.

I have spent lifetimes battling with this notion of control and you, my dear disappearing bald patch, were one of my greatest tests. 

Whilst standing on a street corner in January of this year I was quietly informed by my alarmed, disquieted mum that my head was not quite so full of hair as we might have hoped. I was to remain calm, but there should be no mistake: a perfectly circular patch of hair had, seemingly overnight, gone completely missing. Some time last winter, a patch of my unremarkable – though greatly admired for its ability to cover my scalp – hair had been lost silently to the bathroom plug hole (and presumably many other places). In fairness to my hair, a few strands had been not so silent: with clumps of hair quickly grabbed from within tousles and shoved into pockets. Denial can be bliss. You can also think you’re going mad. 

I was now a woman with a gloriously smooth bald patch on her glistening white head. If you had seen me in a shop you almost certainly wouldn’t have known. Lord knows a windy day was not what I wished to be met with, but it was nothing a low pony couldn’t solve. For potentially the first (and probably last) time in my life, I was described as “chic”. I had to laugh. 

You, my bald patch on my head, have not dramatically changed my relationship with control. After the initial shock and tears and frustration, I pulled myself together and sought out a plan. I sought out control over a condition that cannot be controlled. Does that make me ridiculous? Does it make me the long sought after woman-with-a-plan? Does it make me only human?

It’s a fine line you are treading when something like this happens. You are in good health (besides that fact your hair follicles are attacking themselves). You are one of the lucky ones. You haven’t lost it all – though the voice in your head likes to remind you that you can never really know what this condition will do (it’s exciting like that!). You are reminded and reminded and reminded that it’s just hair. And it is. But it’s also how you know yourself. It’s how you see yourself. It’s how you would like to be seen by others. It’s a very fine line to be treading. It’s an even finer line to be treading when feeling in control is as important to you as food and water. 

Last week I went to touch you. Ready for the smoothness that I’ve grown accustomed to I braced myself for nothingness. Instead I was met with a soft fuzz. A soft fuzz that I know I have no control over; just like every other follicle of hair that lines my head. But boy would I like to.

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