“Do you wear a wig Auntie Fi?” This was a question to me from my eight year old niece. She is super observant and sees things many of us wouldn’t at her age or older. When she asked part of me wanted to deflect it, but realised she was of an age that I should be able to tell her, and her sister (aged 7), such things. However, doing so would become the probably the hardest conversation I have ever had.
It was not as though I could take my time to plan what I was to reply, but knew I had to use kid friendly language and not make them upset by what I said, especially as I was meant to be giving them a bedtime story and did not want to cause nightmares. So with a deep breath, I looked her in the eyes and answered her – yes I do and took off my wig.
Both girls came onto the bigger bed beside me as we chatted. What followed with both was like no other conversation I have had about my hair loss, as most of the time previously I could not, or was silenced by certain family members for opening my mouth (even to doctors treating me). Their first questions were not at all childish – why have you no hair, how did it fall out, why does it fall out? Explaining that my is sick body, and likes to kill hair cells like it would kill a disease, which both understood. The youngest was shocked but did not laugh or joke, just sat beside me as though it was just another bedtime story.
The eldest asked me what the proper name for it was and how does it happen, would it happen to her? So I reassured her, and introduced them to the concept of our immune system. In return both showed a compassion beyond their years – it doesn’t look like a wig Auntie Fi, you’re just as beautiful with or without your wig Auntie Fi. I had to stop myself crying at their beautiful and humbling replies. The only time I lied was when they asked if another family member wore a wig as knew she’d make my life living hell for saying yes she does. She doesn’t talk about it, even when mine fell out there was no compassion or loving support, and she later prove to me yet again how vile she can be.
I was explaining how sad it can make me feel, and how hard it is to actually talk about it, with both curled up around me to reassure me as their dad (my brother) came in the room to see if they were asleep. Both explained to daddy what had happened, and this made me break down in tears. The youngest asked if it was tears of happiness to her daddy – he said how brave I was and how hard it was, which made him hug me followed by both girls. Together the girls continued to reassure me, as I hugged them both goodnight, and said how amazing they were.
I decided I’d better tell the other family member as we were all at her house. Her reaction as ever was vile – of course they could tell it was a wig as you badly need a new one (she loves to make me feel bad about myself and be insecure in myself)…problem is she cannot understand it is obvious to her as she knows it is a wig and will always be obvious to her when someone is! Then the narcissism turned up a notch – you did not mention me, you’d better not have mentioned mine! As I turned after saying no, I felt weird – on the one hand I’d been brave, but on the other felt shit from the remarks she’d made, and wondered why I had bothered to tell her. I went to my room and cried aloud. My brother knocked on my door to see I was okay…I said yes apart from those remarks as he hugged me then let me be.
The next morning I awoke to a card from the eldest (see pictures), which she wrote with no prompting from anyone. She said I was to read it when only us in the room, which I did, and began to cry again. I put my arms out for a hug – she does not always give or want hugs – but this time came leaping into my arms and I reassured her once more that she was not upsetting me, and how amazing she actually is. With a big smile she returned to her seat as we plotted that day’s activities!
This all has reminded me that my hair loss is nothing to be ashamed of, and is just part of what makes me, me. If that family member wants to be that way it’s her business not mine. Equally, if children ask questions – being honest with them is best, but explaining in ways they will understand, and they may surprise you with what they do/say next.
© Fi S. J. Brown