Worst Nightmare Came True When Boy Refused To Date Because Of Her Baldness.

Story by Lindsay Walter

“Girls are pretty when they have hair” 

This was what I was told and made to believe growing up after losing my hair at age 2, due to the autoimmune condition, Alopecia. This was so much more than just losing my hair, it was losing apart of me. I was born with a head of beautiful red hair, but it began to fall out, first in small chunks and then within a few weeks I was completely bald.

When this happened 27 years ago I knew no one else in my community or school with this condition. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and ugly and saw nothing beautiful about my bald head. I didn’t want to be different than the other kids. As a child it is hard to have a visible difference. I began to wear a wig from a very young age, it became my security, my hiding place from the reality I never wanted to face. I had this huge secret I kept and never knew how to or wanted to talk about. I became quiet and reserved. 

It is already hard enough being a kid and going through all of life changes and curve balls that were thrown my way. Middle school, as it is for most, was really hard, but add a difference and it was a time still to this day I wish I could forget.

I have Alopecia Universalis, which is total body hair loss. I now see this as an awesome advantage to never have to shave my legs, but growing up I did not. It is hard to not have eyebrows or eyelashes for several reasons. My wig was something that I had to cover up my bald head, though this never stopped kids from commenting on it, asking why it was often frizzy, or didn’t move like normal hair does. Kids knew I wore a wig, but I still did my best to hide it.

But, having no eyebrows was the hardest. It is something that stands out on my face. I have my brows tattooed on now and got this done in middle school. They are a light color, and have no hair. I need to fill it in with make-up, which is something that I didn’t do everyday. I played sports and would sweat a lot. I also didn’t feel comfortable with make-up on. This was the hardest for me to navigate. I didn’t like the way I looked. I would walk with my head down, avoided eye contact with people and tried to avoid looking at the mirror because what I saw was someone who was anything but pretty.

To me, what was pretty about a bald head, no eye lashes and tattooed on eyebrows? Nothing. 

During this time I continue to stand out from all of my peers, but this time it was in a positive way. I discovered the game of basketball, and it truly saved me after a hard day at school. I would come up and shoot hoops in my driveway for hours. I would pretend to make the game winning shot, the crowd would go wild and yell my name. Everyone loved me, and no one made fun of my Alopecia.

During this time I never thought about my Alopecia, but rather big dreams. I wanted to play on my high school varsity team as a freshman, to break school records, and to receive a scholarship to play in college. Basketball became my distraction. I would work hard in school, and couldn’t wait to come home to play basketball and eventually played on the school team. Kids would still continue to make fun of me, but it bothered me less because I had something else to look forward to, something positive that made me feel so alive and excited. 

I never told the teacher when kids would make fun of me. I had no confidence in myself and didn’t want those kids to not like me (even more) than they already did. And in a way I felt like I deserved it, because there was truth to what they said. When they called me “baldy” or said “Lindsay is a boy or ugly” it was true, or so I believed. When I look back to this season of life I still never understand why kids were mean to me. 

Life continued on over the years. I started to gain more confidence in myself and became more out going through my success in basketball and a few close friends I had made through sports. But my Alopecia was still a big secret I never talked about. I would go into the bathroom stall at half time of basketball games in high school and wipe down my head and reapply the tape that held my wig on. It was just my life and I never knew any different. I worked hard in basketball and that was my main focus. I was fortunate to have a great high school and AAU career. I broke countless records at my high school, and received scholarship offers to play in college. This was a true dream come true for me and I was so happy. 

I went off to college, and played basketball, the dream was happening for me. I learned so much about myself during my 4 years. It was my sophomore year of college when I slowly began to look into Alopecia and see what else was out there. It was my reality I didn’t want to face, but deep down I knew my hair was never coming back. I was still absolutely terrified to tell anyone about my Alopecia, especially guys. What if they didn’t like me? What if they thought I was ugly? I still didn’t see anything attractive about a bald head. 

I will never forget when this guy I had the biggest crush on had finally asked me out. Truthfully I was in shock because he was attractive and I didn’t think I was anywhere close to his league. But, we went out a few times actually and things were going along great. We had so much in common, it was exciting and he gave me butterflies. But, I also had this pit in my stomach when I thought about telling him about my Alopecia. Eventually I knew I had to and my worst nightmare came true. He was completely in shock. I will never forget the look on his face of pure disgust. He said, “I could never date someone who didn’t have hair”.

I was devastated, shook to my core and just crushed. It was hard to recover from that. I definitely put a wall up with guys after this and in friendships too. I hated my Alopecia and was so upset about it. 

But, life continued on. I became very involved in my schoolwork, basketball and volunteering. I loved to help people I learned. I also decided to run a marathon my senior year of college. I am extremely competitive in any and everything and I thought what a bucket list item to check off. Before this I was never a runner, but I thought it was “just running”. Though it’s not fun I could do it.

So in June of 2012 I set off down the streets of Duluth, Minnesota my college town. I couldn’t believe it; I was running a marathon and enjoying it. I felt alive, strong and empowered. These were all emotions I wasn’t use to feeling. Once I crossed that finish line I knew right away I found my next endeavor. Marathon running.

I began to race all over the country. I loved to travel and the thrill of being in a new city where no one knew me. No one knew I had Alopecia, or cared because I looked different. 

My favorite thing about the running community is how different we all look and train. I fell in love with the process and the feelings running gave me. That first marathon changed my life. I was still wearing my wig and hiding my Alopecia until one day before the 2016 San Diego Marathon when I was overcome with emotion and took my wig off mid run. And for the first time when I looked at it I saw nothing beautiful about it. It was dripping in sweat, and smelt putrid. I began to cry. This was the moment I had dreamed of since I was a kid, to finally be OK with my Alopecia. I knew after this all of the heartache was worth it. I finally felt like I was the Lindsay I was always made to be. 

It was small steps leading up to this moment. Telling a close friend about my Alopecia, running an errand without a wig, running marathons, having supportive people and community. I knew I had to take control of this and once I did one small step, it all began to get easier. 

When I look back at my life so far I can say I am proud of myself. I have run 40 marathons, 1 50-mile Ultra Marathon and am looking forward to taking on a 100-mile ultra marathon soon. 

Alopecia has truly been the greatest gift I never knew I needed. There was a long time in my life where I would deny having Alopecia and say nothing positive about it. But now, I love my Alopecia. It has made me strong, empathetic, and compassionate and shown me I can do anything I set my mind to. To set big dreams and to never quit on myself.

It is the greatest filter for people and relationships. I have had so many opportunities to meet, speak to and share my story with children who have Alopecia and be that role model and friend that I needed when I was younger, and that is the greatest gift. I started a pen pal program for friends with Alopecia as well, because I know what it is like to feel along and need someone who has been through it first hand to talk to. I know it would of made a huge difference for me and the way I saw myself and thought of my Alopecia. 

I know I don’t need hair to be beautiful. I am beautiful because I choose positivity, to help someone every chance I get and to work hard in any and everything. 

I am Alopecia strong and bald is beautiful! The sky is truly the limit! 

You can follow her journey on: Facebook and Instagram

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