As a retired attorney, dance teacher, performer, and activist, Mary Marshall is nothing short of an accomplished, talented woman. But sometimes people judge her the minute they see her in ways that can be downright frustrating--and VERY hurtful--as she admits in a powerful blog post about something very central to her life: her hair.
Or rather, the lack thereof. In her 40s, Marshall began suffering from alopecia areata, an auto-immune disorder where the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing partial or total hair loss. It began with sporadic bald spots that she was able to hide under her thick hair, but in 2007. the condition accelerated and she lost all her body hair--even her eyebrows--within a few months.
Marshall tried wearing wigs, but felt too hot and gave up after a few months,deciding instead to go out in public with just her bald head. Growing more confident in her new look, Marshall gradually became an advocate advocate for people who have alopecia areata and even founded an International Alopecia Day event.
But, as she writes her in her revealing essay on The Mighty, that doesn't mean she doesn't get hurtful reactions from people all the time.
"At least once a week, someone asks me about 'my cancer.' In the middle of a mall, a man will want to talk to me about his wife because I look like she did before she died. I’m approached in restaurants and supermarkets and asked if I’m a 'survivor,'" she wrote of the awkward, intrusive encounters, one of which led her to snap, “Yes, I’m bald!” to a stranger who wouldn't stop staring at her in a waiting room.
But that's not the worst part.
"My worst experience was while traveling in Indonesia. I was standing outside an airport with our bags while my husband went inside for a cart. Because it was extremely hot, I had nothing on my head. A group of stylishly-dressed young women came over and started laughing and pointing at me. Then they came up next to me and posed for selfies. Normally, I’m very quick to assert myself, but I was so taken aback that I simply froze. A crowd gathered, and I started to cry."
We just can't imagine how she must have felt in that moment when cruel strangers invaded her personal space like that and used her for their own entertainment. But we applaud Marshall's strength, and want to help share the important message she hopes to send to the world:
"I completely support women who prefer to wear wigs, but I hope that someday more women will feel they have a choice to go without one. I also want more people to know that not every bald woman or child they see is bald due to chemotherapy," she writes.
Learn more about International Alopecia Day event and the alopecia support group she runs on Facebook here.
via The Mighty