Two years ago, I decided to grow my hair and donate it to Locks of Love––a non-profit organization that makes wigs for cancer patients, both women and children. I knew that cancer patients experience hair loss during treatment. My older sister, in fact, lost all her hair during chemotherapy. She looked like a completely different person. I missed seeing her beautiful black curly hair. For many years, unaware that I could help, I had been throwing away my hair. Why not donate it to make a wig, instead, and bring some joy to someone suffering? The decision brought me unexpected physical and emotional experiences.
I know that human beings are visual and everywhere we go we judge people by their appearance, whether we are consciously aware, or not. But could it be possible to judge a man by the length of his hair? As my hair was beginning to grow longer, my family’s statements were: “When are you getting a hair-cut?” or “Aren’t you going to comb your hair before we go out?” A very close friend even gifted me barrettes for holding my hair in place. Obviously, they did not approve of my new look. I knew, then, that I was in for a long ride.
At work, co-workers I highly respected often would make disrespectful comments like “Hey, Hippie, get a job!” “Your hair looks terrible; get a haircut!” Even those who knew my intentions would remind me that the long hair needed to go because I no longer look “manly” or “handsome.”
While visiting Arizona, a close friend of the family said to me, jokingly, that I looked ‘like hell’ and that I should be ‘taken south of the border’ to get an inexpensive haircut. At times, I perceived the cruel comments as racial statements or a good laugh at my expense. Nevertheless, I tried to remain grounded and self-contained. Deep inside, I knew my good intention would prevail.
At times, I wanted to give up, not because of the negative comments, but the annoyance of the hair on my face. For a while it wasn’t long enough to put in a ponytail. Simply keeping it in place when exercising was a problem. Forget trying to control it on windy days. Also, the care and grooming of long hair became a daily chore. As a result, I learned to admire and respect those who choose to have styled, lengthy locks of hair.
A handful of people were understanding and supported my efforts. Some commended me for the cause or shared a story of someone they knew had donated hair at one time. A few shared their personal stories. One day, on the elevator at work, a young woman told me that her mother was dying of cancer and that there was nothing she could do. I witnessed the tears running down her face. I could do something for someone like her; the hair falling on my shoulders provided the evidence.
I was determined to follow my heart. I heard the calling to donate my hair and help someone in need. I thought it would be easy to give a part of myself, but I never imagined that people could be so insensitive, unkind and judgmental.
I will always remember the day I cut and shipped the hair to Locks of Love. I will be grateful forever knowing that my locks of hair will help improve the self-esteem of a woman or child battling cancer. I guess the moral of this story is very similar to the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yet, in this case, it would be more appropriate to say “Don’t judge a man by the length of his hair.”