Ask Andrew W.K.: "How Do I Overcome Being Self-Conscious About My Body?"
[Editor's note: Every week New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
Photo Ashley Eberbach
Here's the problem: I'm losing my hair. I'm really self-conscious about it. I tried shaving my head but it doesn't look good and I'm tired of wearing a hat everywhere. I don't have beautiful, long flowing hair like you. What should I do?
- Hair Envy
Dear Hair Envy,
First of all, losing your hair isn't really a "problem" - it's a situation.
It seems like you have three options in dealing with the situation, since it can't really be "solved" like a math problem... 1. Wear a wig, 2. Get hair transplants, or 3., Embrace this aspect of your body and move on to more exciting and important parts of your life.
I can understand how losing one's hair can be traumatic. It's associated with aging and change, and it's often connected to ideas about what traditionally "looks good" and is sexually attractive in many cultures. But perhaps it's also completely meaningless. How you look is simultaneously the most important and least important thing about you. I can think of dozens of people that are balding who look fantastic and have made it an integral part of who they are, or rather, haven't allowed something like "hair" to define them, let alone to take away from their appeal otherwise.
I'm sure you can think of people who are bald and awesome, and as we admire them it's hard to even imagine them having a full head of hair. But regardless, there's a bigger opportunity here -- a way to challenge yourself and embrace this cosmetic shifting for all it's worth. It's similar to someone wishing they were taller. Or someone wishing their skin was a different color. Or someone wishing they had different eyes.
There are steps that can be taken to alter one's appearance to fall in line with one's personal desires -- make-up, high-heels, contact lenses, or in this case, wigs -- but perhaps it's worth examining the underlying aspects of what your appearance means to you and the world. The body is a vehicle within which we get to experience what it's like to be alive. It's not you who's losing his hair, it's your body that's losing its hair. This is a challenging and often painful realization, but each of us is not really our body at all. It's just a place-holder -- a point of entry.
Often times, we get so caught up in how we relate to our appearance, that we forget almost every other aspect of what it is to be ourselves. Usually what we value about other people has ultimate very little to do with how they look -- it has much more to do with how they are. Caring too much about our looks -- and that includes our weight, our height, our hair, our face, etc -- becomes an easy surface game to play and to keep us occupied so we don't have to dig deeper into life's more challenging and important games.
It's like you're on the Olympic basketball team, but choose instead to sit in the locker room playing video game basketball. It's easier and is still somewhat engaging, but it's not what's really going on. What's really going on is that you're alive and you should be glad to have a body at all. Do whatever you want about your hair, or lack thereof, and be done with it. Your life is waiting on the court and wants all your attention back in the game.