Show me your scarf.

This is not a “clap for me” post. Oh, please, don’t clap for me.

Today, I wore a scarf on my head to stand in solidarity with a friend of a friend who has alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that has caused her to lose her hair increasingly over her life. She’s had to go through the hair loss process not once but twice in her life, so far.

I can only imagine the heartache.

No, I’m not being sarcastic. Hair is more central to our identity than we realize. Watching your hair fall out is like losing a part of you. What do people say when they describe you to other people? “Oh, yeah, she’s tall, has blonde, curly hair…” If it’s not the number one descriptor, it’s number two.

And for me? I’m a healthy, happy, natural hair fiend. I take so much pride in treating my hair well and even more so when it results in a good hair day. I actually love my hair, though over the past few days it’s been all flyways because it’s hot and I sit in front of a lot of high-powered fans.

So though wearing a scarf on your head is a simple enough request, it seemed like it would be better to not do it. I can still support people without covering up my hair. I can still do that. Yay for you. You are courageously going bald. Woohoo. I’m so with you… except I’m not.

I don’t know why, but it struck a chord within me, maybe because I don’t think I could ever give up my hair for good. Shave my head? I’ve considered it. I would need a good reason, but I could do it, because it’ll grow out again. But watching it fall out, bit by bit, and knowing that I’m going to struggle to have enough hair even for a thin ponytail for the rest of my life?

Call me shallow, but that makes me want to cry.

You know I have an identity crisis every year when my hair stops being blonde in the winter. My identity, though this isn’t good, is so wrapped up in my appearance – particularly in my hair. Who am I? I’m a writer who looks like this.

So that little, stubborn, unsupportive resistance was my hint that I needed to do this. I needed to understand what it felt like, in a small way. I needed to take a small step in courage as she takes a big one. Yay for you, Katie. And yay for me, too. I think we’re both learning something here.

There it is. That picture makes me think of how my ears stick out, and well, at least I’ve got a nice smile. My roommate (in a loving manner) told me that I looked like a mystic.

Good grief, Ashley. Haven’t you been told time and time again that it doesn’t matter what you look like? So why did you feel so conspicuous and unusual and not yourself? It’s just hair. You don’t have this crisis when you shave your legs. (though you might when you don’t)

Who are you?

I’m Ashley. I’m a writer. I’m learning that my identity has little to nothing to do with what I look like and more than everything to do with who I am.

I’m 20, and I’m just now putting this into practice.

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