The first time I went on one, I wore a human hair wig so that it would survive the heat and to prevent damage in steam rooms, particularly as I hadn't quite come to terms with having a baby smooth scalp! When I first lost my hair, I spent a while wracked with guilt, angry with myself that I was upset when others have to contend with serious illnesses. At the time, I was worried about being mistaken for a cancer patient and that somehow, it would be disrespectful if I was! Funny what you go through when losing your hair! Tough! As a result, I spent a rather sticky, sweaty and uncomfortable day at the spa. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad, but the combination of the stress, heat and PVC cap made for a rather uncomfortable scalp! It didn't do much for the wig either and took a lot of conditioner to get it back to it's high quality self!
As time went on however, I became more and more comfortable with having a hair-free scalp! In fact, in many ways I am a #HairNudist, whipping off my wig in the office, the car, on dog walks, and definitely in the house. It's a gorgeous relief sometimes and very comfortable although the postie got a shock the first time!
Anyway, I digress! Back to the spa days I'm sure you are all keen to hear about! As time went on, I grew in confidence about being bald. I realised that actually, most people are incredibly kind and understanding and those who aren't, aren't worth much anyway! As I came to terms with it and got more used to whipping my wig off, my days at the spa started to change; and the spa on Saturday was no exception!
We arrived at about 10am and there were already lots of women milling around in the changing rooms, some changing under a towel while there were the inevitable few standing proud and nude for anyone to see! I changed, grabbed the obligatory bath robe, and trotted out into the main spa area. Initially, I started off with a cup of tea before moving through to the sun loungers, still wearing my favourite wig - the Codi! After a quiet half hour, it was time to get bald, and enter the Japanese Salt Steam Room. Off came the wig and I hung it roughly on a peg with my dressing gown; at least there wasn't a risk of someone pinching my gown! From this point on, here is where the spa got interesting...!
I am and always have been a people watcher; I love indulging in this particular pastime and if it were an Olympic Sport I'd win hands down! From the moment I took my wig off, right up to lunchtime, I walked around proud and bald, carrying my wig like some sort of security blanket - a talisman I no longer need or rely on, yet one I can't help keeping close. As I stopped at each treatment space, down it went, on this chair, that table, hooks and at one point in a pocket. My mum even started referring to it 'affectionately' as a dead rat causing quite a giggle!
Now the interesting part of this story is not me and my experience, but more, the reactions of others. They don't particularly bother me, but it's fair to say reactions and facial expressions are a varied and in-exact science. There were the ones who considered me unwell and extended me a sympathetic smile; those who glanced briefly before carrying on their day regardless; a few who I could feel assessing me thoroughly, trying to work out if I was at ease in my own skin, the same way they might any other person; and one or two men who you could see considering whether I was still attractive or not. Well, it might sound a bit morose and disheartening, but in fact, it was quite a nice feeling. It helps connect you to people in some small way and gives you a talking point to strike up a conversation should you choose. It can help break the ice and in the grand scheme of things, nobody treated me differently to anyone else! It's a great feeling and the only thing it made me realise is that in 99% of cases, people don't have a clue what it is or what it means.
I spent a long time pondering those reactions and whilst it didn't change how I felt, it did help me draw a couple of conclusions:
1) The reaction of each person seems to depend largely on age; the golden oldies don't miss a beat; the 40-50s extend a sympathetic smile; the 30s start to ponder what it must be like; and those younger who's reactions are pretty much unpredictable.
2) It's about education; most of the 'bad' feelings me and my fellow alopecians feel are often our own imaginings. We base our own approach on how we expect others to react, when actually with an upfront attitude and a bit of education 99.9% of people will take it in their stride!
Now, I can only speak for myself and my own experience, and of course I know many others who've been treated poorly, but my general feeling is a good one and I feel it's important to have a positive attitude. Later this year, I've also got some projects lined up to start changing attitudes and get people better informed, so watch this space...!