Photo by Augustine Ortiz
I grew up for some time with a perceived sense of normalcy. While my family had rumblings of tension in my younger years, I was healthy and happy. As time passed, the small rumblings became larger until they shook my family apart. My parents divorced when I was fourteen.
This, and many years of various issues preceding the divorce, led my body to its current state of self-attack. When I was fifteen, I noticed a small bald patch on the back of my scalp, an interruption in my long, brown hair. Within six months, I had lost almost all of my hair and learned that the cause was alopecia. Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder, which means that there is a misfiring in my DNA, causing my immune system to attack my hair follicles. Autoimmune disorders are genetic and are thought to exist dormant until those affected experience something so stressful that the “switch” in their DNA is turned on and their body begins to attack itself. There are many different ways this can affect someone. In my case, my hair fell out, and quickly. I did my best to remain positive, but it was a wearisome journey with little to no hope for treatment or a cure.
THIS, AND MANY YEARS OF VARIOUS ISSUES PRECEDING THE DIVORCE, LED MY BODY TO ITS CURRENT STATE OF SELF-ATTACK.
Fast forward to a few weeks after I decided to shave off what remained of my hair—surrounded by friends and with many tears—my eyebrows began to fall out as well. This was a breaking point for me. Losing my eyebrows caused me to mourn in a new way because I felt the loss of the face I had known most of my life. According to American beauty standards, eyebrows are incredibly important, and I was not ready to let them go. I began drawing on my eyebrows, every day, with makeup. I would not allow anyone to see me without my eyebrows drawn on. Once I began college, I would run from the community bathroom to my dorm room after I showered, in an effort to minimize the number of people who saw my bare face.
The turning point for me came after spending almost two years feeling masked and alone, tired of hiding my face from others. I was in Nicaragua, interning for the summer, and each morning, with tears, I would draw on “my face” with difficulty through the sweat brought on by the humidity and the sun. I felt trapped by beauty standards I knew were false and damaging. I felt trapped by my fear and my alienation from my own face.
LOSING MY EYEBROWS CAUSED ME TO MOURN IN A NEW WAY BECAUSE I FELT THE LOSS OF THE FACE I HAD KNOWN MOST OF MY LIFE.
With support from close friends who knew of my struggle, and with many prayers and contemplation, I went without a drop of makeup the day I left Nicaragua to come back to Seattle. I walked through the airport and felt people stare in a new way, and while it was scary, I realized that I had the strength within me to look those people in the eye and allow them to truly see me. From that day onward, I have never gone back to wearing eyebrows. I learned that my life as a bald woman gives me a unique relationship with makeup, and while I do not see it as a problem for those who choose to draw on their eyebrows, I have found great triumph in liberating myself from where I was hiding. I must love my face, first and foremost, because self-acceptance and love are what give us proper tools to fight the damaging beauty standards that plague our world and society.
See more of Lennox in this amazing video, "Kids Meet a Person with Alopecia".