For so many years, I spent a whole lot of time and effort avoiding drawing attention to/talking about, hiding, and even burying thoughts about my hair loss. I would go as far as avoiding talking about anything hair related even if it didn’t involve my hair woes.
I’ve shared before that I used to go to great lengths to conceal my hair loss with dry shampoo, hairline powder, fibres, back combing, short hair cuts, hats and headbands before I dove into alternative hair wearing. I did these things with the hope that I would blend in and never have to face the question I dreaded most: “Why is your hair so thin?”
It may sound like an intrusive question, and it is. Also one that would have turned my face red as a beet. We can rationalize that it’s natural and normal for others to be curious about a visible difference. In some contexts, questions may even be welcome. But most often, questions about hair loss are more painful than the person asking can imagine! And I speak from experience. I’ve been asked or have faced comments about my thinning hair on numerous occasions. While I had spent so much time avoiding the subject, I did myself a disservice by being wholly unprepared to respond effectively.
Preparing a tentative script ahead of time can help prevent an emotionally driven response. Although it might feel good to respond with anger, it probably won’t leave you feeling good about the conversation. A script can also help you be more in control of the narrative around your hair loss and your attitude can make a huge difference! It can help ease the dread you might feel about this type of question.
Here are some potential responses depending on the outcome you’re hoping for:
If your goal is to let the person know their question is unwelcome, you might say:
“People don’t normally ask me that. It seems like you might be curious, which I understand and that question was upsetting to me.”
“This isn’t the time or place to discuss something so personal.”
If your intention is to share with someone at a later time, you might say:
“That’s really something difficult for me to discuss. I would be willing to share more when I’m ready.”
If you’re looking to raise awareness about Alopecia, it might sound like:
“I have a condition called (type of) Alopecia. It means my hair loss is caused by hormones and genetics. There isn’t much I can do about it and I’m working on accepting that.”
“This is something I wish more women would talk about. Your question makes me wonder if people know just how common hair loss is.”
This isn’t the only question I’ve dreaded. The other biggie being: “Is that a WIG?”
This one is equally likely to invoke an emotional response. For me personally, this bothers me less, not because of the question, but because I’m in a better place where I feel less ashamed overall. I did get this question in late 2021 from someone important to me. It wasn’t the question itself that gave me a twinge of anxiety, but the air of judgment I perceived. Even though I wasn’t impacted all that much, I found it helpful to be prepared with a response and you might too!
If the question is too sensitive, or perhaps poorly timed, you might say:
“Maybe consider the setting the next time you ask about something so personal.”
If you wish to avoid a direct answer:
“I’ve spent a fair bit of money on my hair” followed by a swift topic change!
If your goal is to normalize hair wearing:
“Everybody’s wearing hair these days!”
When responding to these triggering questions, it does help to be prepared so that you’re not caught off-guard. Consider your own communication style. Are you passive/shy? Do you avoid conflict or directness? Give yourself permission to let someone know that their question has impacted you. Give yourself permission to shut it down if the time and place is not appropriate for the conversation. Humour (inclusive of sarcasm) are also reasonable given that hair loss is hard enough!
May you bear these intense conversations with the self-compassion we all deserve!