I had very thick hair as a child. But I was also very tender-headed, so I hated getting my hair combed.
The first time my mother took me to the salon, I screamed bloody murder. So for the rest of my childhood she did my hair herself. And it always looked good.
I grew to believe that my hair was my best quality. I could have on my best make-up, and my best outfit, but if my hair wasn’t done right—the whole thing was off. After college my boyfriend discovered the first bald spot on the back of my head.
Soon afterwards I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition. The doctor told me that I could eventually lose all of my hair. I was devastated. I immediately called my mother—and she told me we were going to fight it.
We prayed and prayed. We kept finding new oils and new shampoos. But the bald spot only grew bigger. My mother started doing my hair again– just like when I was a kid. And whenever a new spot appeared, she’d invent a new style to hide it.
For the longest time no one knew. But it was so much stress. I’d panic if someone was behind me in the elevator. Dating was the worst. It was like: ‘Oh my gosh. How am I going to keep this a secret?’ Some mornings I’d call my mom in a moment of desperation. I’d tell her: ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to shave it off.’
But she’d talk me out of it. She’d tell me: ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to figure this out.’ But we never did. It only got worse and worse.
By the age of thirty-one I was in a really dark place. And I decided to go on a fast because I needed some clarity from God.
And that’s when I made the decision. The first person I told was my mom. She’d been telling me not to do it for so long—because she was scared too. But I needed her to be OK with it. I needed her to finish this journey with me.
Everyone in the hair salon was nervous. The person in the next chair was nervous. Even the hairdresser was nervous. She was like: ‘Do you really want to do this?’ But then she took out the clippers, and began to shave it off.
My mother was the first one to break the silence. After the first pass of the clippers, she looked closely at my head. And then she announced to the whole salon: ‘It’s going to look good!’
Feedback to this story:
“What a lovely way you and your mother journeyed through this. There is nothing like a mother’s love. And watching her daughter handle difficulty with such bravery!” — Chrys Allen
“As many others have said, you are beautiful. There is a sense of fierceness and strength that radiates from you in this picture… gorgeous!” — Crystal Marie
“I so feel this story. I have alopecia and my son has alopecia universalis which leaves him completely bald with no eyelashes or eyebrows either. It crushed me when we first shaved the bits of hair that were left on his head when he was about 3, but it was the best decision because we stopped focusing on what he was losing and shifted our focus to how beautiful he was and what an amazing person he became in part because of his challenges. Attached is a pic of him from last summer.” — Amy Featherstone Risinger
About the author:This story first appeared on Humans of New York Facebook page and is published here with permission. Humans of New York began as a photography project in 2010. Somewhere along the way, the writer/photographer began to interview subjects in addition to photographing them. And alongside their portraits, he includes quotes and short stories from their lives. For more amazing stories and photography buy the book HUMANS by Brandon Stanton.