An estimated 12,060 new cases of cancer are expected to occur in children under 15 in 2012, as reported by the American Cancer Society. Although boys have slightly higher rates of cancer than girls, that means there will be a lot of little girls that end up without hair this year. Yet, very little attention is given to these thousands of girls in the form of accessible role-models. We’re all surrounded by images that demonstrate that beauty = long flowing hair (exhibit A: Disney Princesses). So what happens when the girls lose their hair? The same hair they played with as they pretended they were Belle or Aurora, is now gone. Needless to say, once they lose their hair, their role-models become limited.
It is true- if you are old enough, you eventually embrace the baldness and even go as far as to profess that ‘bald is beautiful.’ But this can take a while. At the beginning, it is really hard to look at yourself in the mirror and genuinely see yourself as “beautiful.” Cancer treatment starts out by making you feel lousy, changes your body, and then takes your hair. Your old definition of beauty is gone. In our society, hair is a big thing. For prom, you get your hair done. For your wedding, you get your hair done. When you start to go grey, you get highlights. Unfortunately, it is an inescapable reality and many times, an utterly annoying thing to deal with once your hair is gone.
As a young cancer patient, I wasn’t thrilled about losing my hair but one day, when my hair looked pretty gnarly because a large majority had fallen out, my dad shaved my head. I’m pretty sure my mom cried but at that point, I realized that hair does not have to define you. In fact, the lack of hair can be more defining. It shows that you’re confident in who you are and that you’re not ashamed of the tough times you’re going through. Instead, the baldness in all of it’s glory let’s you show off that you are in the middle of a one of kind life journey. Don’t get me wrong- this took a long time and I know plenty of children and adults that never reached this point.
That is why I support the movement that is encouraging Mattel to make a Bald Barbie. Little girls love dolls, especially Barbie. So how crappy is it that not one Barbie, not one, is without hair. Sure, the girls can cut the hair off but we all know how hard it is to fool little girls. They somehow know the difference between their parents making them feel better and an actual “Cancer Barbie.”