I used to have fabulous hair and could successfully emulate the Princess Diana flick without the need for a demi-wave perm. It was thick, blonde, wavy and gorgeous.
My parents always warned me not to treat my hair badly or else I would go bald like my Nana did. Except she wasn’t bald and just had fine hair. I swerved hot gadgets, never mistreated my locks and did my best to keep my tresses in tip-top condition.
Then one day in my early 40s, under the glare of a bathroom light I noticed something. I could see my scalp through my hair! I’m sure it wasn’t like that before? Maybe I’d used a product that was making my hair sit differently? That must be it. I couldn’t be getting a bit thin on top – that’s something that happens to men, not us women and certainly not me.
As a women, we rarely worry or think about hair loss. It’s not something we really talked about either. Our hair is our mane, our crowning glory, yet we take it totally for granted.
I absolutely took my hair for granted so it came as a horrible shock when perimenopause decided to punish my hair with an evil double whammy. Not only was I shedding hair at an alarming rate from the top of my head, but I’d also gained the ability to grow random thick, black hairs from my chin and neck faster than my husband can grow a 5 o’clock shadow!
Forget hair removal cream on these bad boys! My new chin hairs are deep rooted, strong little fuckers. War needed to be declared on my chin so I invested in industrial quality tweezers and a strong magnifying mirror so I can check and dispatch on a daily basis.
As funny as it may sound, and I try to remain light-hearted about these things, my hair dramas are doing nothing for my confidence or self esteem. I will regularly cry in front of the mirror as I gaze at my stubble and grinning scalp. Does that make me vain? Perhaps.
But being a bit overweight and not looking the best in clothes, my hair was the thing that gave me confidence, and as each new clump fell out a part of ‘me’ left too. Where I used to have the odd bad hair day, I now have a bad hair life. Losing hair is changing my appearance and my personality.
Our hair says so much about us. We use it as armour but it can also be used against us. For instance, did you know that during the Second World War, women in France would have their heads shaved as a punishment for having romantic relationships with German soldiers?
Religion, the bible, society in general, they all look at hair and what it symbolises. We even use the phrase ‘letting your hair down’ which apparently comes from when women would wear their hair up all day, but let it down for a bit of sexy time with their husbands in the evening.
Healthy hair is a symbol of our femininity, so losing mine at a rate of knots scared me so much. Erratic periods through perimenopause was telling me that my body was no longer willing and able to make a baby. But just as cruelly, ‘the change’ was also robbing me of my crowing glory, my confidence, my happiness.
Many women suffer from hair loss totally unconnected with perimenopause. I knew that certain medical conditions or treatments would come hand in hand with hair loss, but I was totally unprepared for hair loss as part of the menopause process.
A visit to the hairdressers should be an enjoyable experience. It’s a chance to experiment with a new look, change our appearance and boost our confidence. But now I just sit there under the harsh lights trying not to cry as I look at the shape of my skull through my thinning hair.
I wear my hair longer and up these days. By being in control of an up-do, I feel more ‘pulled together’ and on top of things. It’s one way of getting my confidence back.
Rapunzel used her hair as a ladder for her Prince. Medusa had snakes for hair and could turn people to stone. And poor old Samson lost his strength after a trim was arranged by Delilah. As I continue my journey through perimenopause, I feel more Samson than Rapunzel. My follicly challenged head leaves me with a mood so low, some days I am way more scary than Medusa.
I’m learning to live with my unpredictable hair loss. For weeks I think things are on the up and my shedding has returned to pre-peri-levels. Then my hormones will have a brain fart and the hair brush or comb will tell a scary story.
So for now I will continue to work on my up-do skills as I try to recreate the crowning glory I used to have with slightly less material to work with. And I also check my chin with my super-treezers twice a day for any embarrassing stragglers, because I might have many skills, but I can’t sing like the bearded lady from The Greatest Showman.