A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Life after Bobby: being remembered, where I reflected on Dad’s responses to the question of How would you like to be remembered? and offered some musing of my own. In this post I shared my plans to shave my head, to raise funds and awareness for charity:
If I’m completely honest, in death, as in life, I’m not sure I’ll be too bothered what people think or remember, what matters to me is that I will be most happy myself if I think I’ve made some positive difference to someone’s life, in some small way. To that end I have decided to shave my head to raise funds for two causes very close to my heart, Rowcroft Hospice (who supported Dad, and continue to support our family) and JusticeforLB (the campaign set up by Connor Sparrowhawk’s family to raise awareness and funds to cover legal costs for his inquest).
Dad died a wonderful death at home in November 2012, four months later Connor was admitted to hospital for assessment and treatment, but he drowned in a bath 107 days later on 4 July 2013. I consider ourselves immensely lucky to have had such a good experience of Dad’s death, and I feel an immense injustice/pain/anger/there are no right words for Connor’s family and friends. The differences between our respective families experiences of death (coming to terms with it, preparing for it and support received after it) could not be more stark.
In a small attempt to make a positive difference for others facing the death of a loved one in our local area (South Devon), and to support those trying to come to terms with Connor’s death, get answers and improve treatment for people with learning disabilities, I will be shaving my head!
A couple of things have surprised me since I shared that post, the first is the generosity of the 66 people who have put their hands in their pockets and stumped up funds to support my cause. My current total stands at £1,670, so at the start of July my hair will be coming off. I am shaving my head. Doesn’t matter how many times I type that it is still taking some getting used to.
Which neatly brings me onto the other thing that has struck me, the fact that almost universally everyone I have mentioned it to has had a reaction, some positive, some negative, some stunned silence, some disbelief – but nearly everyone has reacted to the news. This got me thinking, and I suspect I’ll keep reflecting on this over the next six weeks so I’m going to create a blog category for head shave (see the right hand column) where I’ll keep all these posts. They may be shorter than usual, they may just include my latest thought or panic or inspiration, but it seems like this is a ‘thing’ worth documenting. What has struck me so far is the range of responses, and the quite visceral response the suggestion has brought about in one or two people.
On Friday evening I had a conversation with a friend where I queried why she thought I shouldn’t shave my head. [To be up front I am by no means completely relaxed about the reality of what this could be like, I swing between intrigue and fear, although most of that fear stems from vanity and a sense of societal expectations around conformity.] This friend, a very good friend, hates the idea that I’ll shave my head. She even went as far as to panic when I suggested a night out because she’d realised I’d have no hair by then. I’m still not completely sure whether it’s a fear of her own embarrassment (which I suspect is key), or her trying to empathise and therefore panicking about what her life would be like if she had no hair, but in the end I felt a little irritated.
The most visceral realisation for me in recent weeks is that I have a choice. So many others don’t, either due to illness or treatment, they have to just accept this reality. I am lucky to be able to choose to do so, and yes of course, there’s no reason why my hair wont grow back. I watched a couple of videos about head shaves recently (you can find everything on youtube) and one that stuck with me was a girl who shaved her hair very short due to a problem with scalp psoriasis. In her video she keeps legitimising her decision by the fact she has a medical condition that requires it; it’s almost like we feel the need for legitimacy or permission, to shave our heads as women. Feel or fear? I know I’ll come back to this in later blogs, and maybe there’s something in it, shocking as that would be.
I have about 35 days left with long hair and in that time I am determined to wear it up, and down (something I never used to bother doing). I’m already irritated by my fringe (a new development two weeks ago) and I can’t stop fiddling with it! I find myself swishing my locks around and playing with my hair far more than normal, perhaps these are all micro preparations for the inevitable loss. I’m not sure.
In the meantime I’ll keep musing and keep hawking my causes, so if you were one of those people who promised to donate but didn’t want to do it if it would lead to the clippers being charged, then you are safe now, it’s coming off anyway, so please donate what you can afford. It has been suggested that I set my bar a couple of thousand pounds to low for this challenge, so please feel free to rectify that by donating here, or spreading the word if you have already donated or can’t spare the cash right now. You can watch my video below to see why it’s important to me. Thank you.