The hair on a person’s head imposes its own grammar on the individuals in a given society, and a lack thereof speaks volumes in ours. In a bid to undo the knot of social stigma that’s tied to baldness as well as to raise awareness and funds for children’s cancer, Hair for Hope returned for its 15th consecutive year last weekend, so I headed down to VivoCity on 30 July and signed myself up.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I had to address after that close shave.
By Jade Yeo
Image credit: Hair for Hope Singapore
A common yet fairly insensitive question posed by many upon first sight, often accompanied with a bemused expression. I’m guessing what they mean is, “Why have you gone bald? Was this for a good cause or…?” Well, if you haven’t read a little about it in the news, an annual event organised by non-profit organisation Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) called Hair for Hope was held at VivoCity on 29 and 30 July. Combined with numerous other satellite events arranged by corporate offices, schools and grassroots organisations, it is the only head-shaving event in Singapore that serves to raise funds and shed light on childhood cancer, one that I gladly took part in.
What made you decide to do it?
Donating to the CCF is a deed on its own, but to physically demonstrate courage and get your head shaved at the event makes for a larger visual impact. Up to 90 percent of cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy lose their hair, and it doesn’t happen all at once. The treatment causes hair to fall out in clumps, so on top of their existing ailment, self-confidence really takes a hit. Between being bald and wearing a wig, it’s an easy choice to make, except wigs that are well-made tend to be pricey, and no one wants to deal with an uncomfortable, poorly-made option. I know we’re not curing cancer by any means, but by getting my hair buzzed off along with the other participants, I hope we’ll be able to let children and adults know that it’s okay to be bald and that it’s no laughing matter.
Were you scared?
I’ve taken hair clippers to my own head several times before and I’ve sported a pixie cut for about 5 years now, so the fear is non-existent at this point. In fact, I was pretty excited to get all of my hair shorn off, and it’s rather evident in this video my nervous mother took. Here, you’ll see me getting my head shaved by a volunteer hairstylist from QB House who has actually given me a haircut in the past (she’s no stranger to buzzcuts and loud hair colours herself), so it definitely made the shearing session extra special.
Were there a lot of girls who shaved their head?
Similar to every visit I pay QB House, I was one of the few females scattered along a long line of males, and I felt really proud to see girls and women with long hair grace the stage. We’re used to seeing boys and men with shaved heads, but the image of a woman with no hair can still pack quite the visceral punch. For most males, it’s seen as a spring-clean or a rite of passage in the case of our NS boys, but for females, it’s seen and treated as a sign of self-inflicted crisis and distress (case in point: see first FAQ). However, bald females have built a stronger reputation as of late, with the media serving up some refreshingly badass characters on screen – I’ve even written an article to honour them. So if you’re a female who needs the extra push to register for a Hair for Hope event, look to them for inspiration.
Does the hair get donated to make wigs?
One of Hair for Hope’s objectives is to diminish the stigma that’s attached to being bald, which is why the CCF doesn’t collect shaved hair and turn them into wigs. If you’re keen on donating your tresses, you can send them in to Locks of Love, a US-based organisation that creates wigs from donated hair.
How did your parents react?
When I told my mum I’d be doing this, she didn’t take it too well. She cried, in fact. She didn’t want to see me with a bald head, and it was her only reason – that it would make me look less attractive. Way to go, mum. Dad, on the other hand, is pretty used to my “antics”. Two tattoos and years of cropped haircuts have prepped him well, so he supported my decision. They both expressed concerns about the process of growing my hair out, though. Sure, it’s going to be an awkward and uncomfortable one, but at least there’ll be room to experiment with new styles along the way. Maybe I’ll attempt that mohawk again.
What did your boyfriend say about it?
He’s a boy with an unconventional aesthetic sensibility and thankfully an open mind, so he was all for it when I told him I was set on doing this. I do wish he were here to witness the spectacle (LDR woes) and perhaps get his hair shorn off too. He says I look more feminine with a shaved head which surprised me, and even suggested I dress up like Eleven from Stranger Things one of these days. Also girls, if your boyfriend threatens to break up with you because you’re getting your head shaved for a good cause, please do yourself a favour and break up with him first. The last thing you need is a piece of misogynistic garbage like that in your life.
Did you get a lot of stares after?
Of course. Even when we’re just out getting lunch at the nearby kopitiam, I can feel the gaze of others and I even saw some of them pointing me out to their fellow colleagues. Hence, getting onto a crowded bus or train is a nightmare for an introvert like myself. It makes me want to crawl into a ditch each time I catch someone judging my appearance for a prolonged period of time, so I really can’t imagine how self-conscious the individuals battling cancer must feel when they step out in public.
Are you gonna wear a hat?
Unless I know I’ll be stuck under the searing heat for more than 15 minutes, I won’t be needing a physical shield. After all, I didn’t get my head shaved only to cover it up with an accessory. As someone who’s quite averse to hats in general, it won’t stand for any positive message if I started wearing an obnoxious fedora to cover up my bare head.
BONUS: Comments I didn’t need to hear + other unsolicited advice
“Your hair now shorter than your uncle’s.” – Aunt.
“Lol. With the tag on your wrist you look a lot like a patient. OH WAS THAT THE POINT???” – A friend.
“Wah, look like nun now.” – A discriminating, ignorant fool. I mean, my elder brother.
‘”Cut ‘botak’ for what? Just donate can already.” – Same fool, pre-shave.
“If I donate, you don’t cut okay.” – Mum out of desperation, right after my brother’s suggestion.
“But you will look like a boy.” – Mum again, pre-shave.
“I thought you broke up with your boyfriend.” – A friend.
“Haha like Britney’s meltdown.” – A friend.
“You should start experimenting with hats and scarves actually.” – People who don’t know me well enough.
“Aiyoh!” – An auntie exclaimed before nudging the uncle next to her. She proceeded to stare at me for about a full minute, brows furrowed, until the train arrived.
“其实，这个头发现在很流行,” which translates to, “This hairstyle is really trendy now, actually.” – An auntie said to another auntie as she pointed at my head. These two ladies were standing right in front of me on the train to work today.