Monday, May 23, 2016

Edits...edits...and more edits...

So I'm going through all three of my books in the This & That Series....






And I'm giving them a spruce up!

You see, in the process of writing a book--a process that takes months and months, sometimes somewhere between 6 and 12--the author will often stop seeing mistakes. It isn't because she's lazy, it's because she has read her own words no fewer than 11,934 and a half times since the day she typed "Chapter One." After a while........things get a bit blurry.



She gets bleary eyed and ignorant. She no longer sees the mistakes, even when they're glaringly obvious. It's not something she's proud of. It just happens.

#FirstWorldWriterProblems

And then she hires her editor.

In my case, the editor happens to be a gorgeous and wildly talented author friend, who, like me, has a day job, a family, a husband, and a life. So in addition to reading MY book no fewer than 8,903.8 times...she is also writing her own (incredible) books, parenting her own children, and working at her demanding day job. So, much like with me, she starts getting bleary eyed after a while. Her eyes cross as she goes through my work pass after pass. It's not because she's untalented. It's because she's human. Just like me. And humans eyes tend to roll when they've stared at the same words for 900 hours straight...



And sadly, and mistakenly, sometimes things get missed.

It's not because she sucks. It's not even because I suck. It's not because we're lazy, or that I'm too cheap to hire a good editor. My editor is amazing. It's not because we don't care, or that we're just trying to crank out books and make money without putting any care into the finished product. It's not that all self-pubs have poor editing--because that's an ignorant blanket statement. In fact, if anything, we're trying more diligently to put out the very best product possible than some of the big six publishers are!

Finding errors after I've clicked "publish" sucks.

Suuuuuuuuucks.



But, it happens. In fact, it happens with my self pubs, my traditional pubs, and everything in between. It even happens with books that I have purchased from major publishing houses as a customer! It happens. We hope and pray that it won't, but even the great Nora Roberts or JK Rowling have had some errors slip through. It happens. No matter what we, as authors, do...it's never perfect. As much as we want it to be.......it never is. Perfection doesn't exist. Especially in the world of publishing.

I could go off on a major tangent based on my traditional publishing vs. self publishing experiences, but I choose not to. *cleansing breath*



Moving on....

Which is why, as an author who values her readers loyalty, and who understands (from an author's perspective) how difficult editing truly can be...I am going in for another pass on the This & That Series. I am rereading my books, catching the things I can spot, and even putting a new set of eyes on it.

By doing this, I will be able to put out new, improved versions of Lexie, Marisol, and Candace's stories. And I am able to honor the people I care so deeply about: each of you. Because without you, dear readers, I am but a crazy chick with an overactive imagination and a computer

.



(Scary thought.)

My work will never, ever be perfect. This is a fact. But with help from some amazing, talented editors I will be able to continue to put out the best product I am capable of. And with the love of some awesomely supportive readers, I will continue to share my wacky stories.

Thank you for supporting me.

Off to the editing cave I go. :)

xxoo
Brooke

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I did it.

I was asked a question about my hair today......

And I didn't spill my whole sordid hair story to the person.



This is a real moment for me, because I tend to overshare, more so than keep people guessing. Whenever their eyes linger on my head for longer than necessary, whenever they comment on my hair, whenever they tell me I look nice, I instantly blurt out all the facts like this:

"OhmigoshthankyousomuchIamsogladyoulikeit,didyouknowthatIhavealopecia,andthatIwearawig?YeahthisisawigandIwearlotsofothersbecauseunderneathitIambaldandIlooklikeacancerpatientbutImnotsodontthinkImsickbecauseImreallyhealthy,IjustwearwigsandmyhairchangesalotandIloveyou,pleasestilllikeme."

Translation: "I have hair loss and wear wigs. And the only consolation to having sh*tty hair is that I can wear any wig I want, on any given day, and change my look in an instant. I know this must annoy you, and society in general, so I apologize for the way my hair loss, and my wig wearing makes you feel. Please still be my friend, and for the love of heaven, don't talk trash behind my back."



Yup. My overshare was actually a cover-up for a plea for people to treat me normally, despite my wearing alternative hair. Which, if you think about it, shouldn't be a problem. Treating someone differently because they're wearing a wig is just plain stupid. Alas, people do it inadvertently all the time, and instead of accepting that, and moving on.......I would apply the same tactic that I used to use when I was overweight.

I bring up the subject before anybody else can.



When I was fat, I made fat jokes and brought up my weight in social situations all the time. It was annoying. But I never realized how annoying it was until I'd lost weight. Then I realized I had nothing to lead with in my conversations. I couldn't break the ice by making a crack about being the "fat girl."

Enter one order of Alopecia. Thanks, God.

And now I lead with that.

"Oh, I love your haircut!"

Normal person: "Thank you."

Me: "Ohmigosh, thank you so much! Did you know it's a wig!? Yeah, you could have hair like this, too. I've got hair loss, so I look like Elmer Fudd underneath this fur cap. Hahahah. Yup. I wear wigs. So don't freak out if I'm a blonde by next week! No, I'm not sick. I'm healthy as a horse! Just have crappy hair follicles! Hahahahaha."




(You can see the difference.)

But recently, I've had an epiphany.

I decided to stop apologizing for my hair loss and wig wearing. I've decided to stop offering explanations that 1.) nobody is asking for; and 2.) nobody deserves. Because, if my hair loss causes someone else discomfort, it's a reflection of them, not me. This was not an easy concept for me to grasp. In fact, it's downright agonizing. In a world where women work their butts off every single day to HIDE the fact that they have Alopecia, I have been offering up the information like a Hostess at Denny's telling people the soup of the freaking day!

This is what I am doing in my head, though....


(sigh.)

The thing is...I'm not blind.

I see their strange looks when my hair grows a foot between Monday and Tuesday.

I see their glances at my hairline to see if it looks "wiggy" or natural.

I see their unsolicited comments bubbling in the back of their mouths.

I see them pointedly not looking at my head.

And more so than anything else, I can feel their curiosity.

But after 40 years of being so d*mned transparent, I have decided to stop the overshare. Granted, I haven't transformed my life in all aspects. I spent much of my 40th birthday the other day, elbow deep in a container of creamy goat cheese, mourning the loss of half my life and all the things I haven't yet achieved. So....bear in mind, I'm a work in progress. This first step, the transparency thing (in reference to wigs and hair loss) is a big one for me. GO ME.



I decided a while ago that I no longer owe anybody an explanation. I don't have to tell someone I have Alopecia. I don't have to "legitimize" my wig wearing. I don't have to share with people why I do what I do. My medical issue is not other people's business. My "fake" hair, hair color choice, hair style, and hair length is not anybody's business. If I go from an icy blonde pixie cut, to long, black Russian assassin hair within the space of 24 hours, I owe not one explanation.

This is how I feel about the topic now:



But seriously. I'm over it.

My husband loves me. My children love me. They love me with a wig. They love me without a wig. They love me with a cap or a scarf on. They love me with my shaved head covered in scabby bald patches exposed. They love me in a box. They love me with a fox. They love me.

And even better yet...



I'm starting to love me.

(*squeee!*)

Loving myself, however little for now, feels fantastic. When I look into the mirror and feel beautiful, I like myself. Sure, sure, sure...all the feminists of the world are cringing, and I'm here to say suck it. I want to feel beautiful when I look at myself. I want to like my reflection. I want to feel confident, secure, and attractive to my husband, to my kids, to the world, and most of all, to myself! I've blogged about it before, I'll say it again:

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel beautiful. 

It does not make you an anti-feminist. It does not mean you're not for self acceptance. Beauty is subjective. You have to find what it means for you, and own it. That's what I do when I wipe my tears away, cover up my scabby, patchy, gross head, and pull on a long, glamorous wig. I own my beauty. And that's okay.

So back to what happened today...

I volunteered at a triathlon at my children's school, and was put in charge of writing people's numbers on their arms and calves. While writing on one woman's arm, I commented that she was my son's science teacher, to which she responded, "Yes, I am. I wasn't sure if that was you, because you've dyed your hair since last time I saw you."

I stopped. Looked around to see if anybody else was listening. (They were. I could tell.) And then said, "Yes. Thanks. Keep an eye out, it'll probably change again."

And literally that's it.

After that, I just shut my mouth, and moved on.



This may seem like a very small and insignificant victory to some. But to me, the over-sharer, it was a colossal victory. On any other day, I would've told her, almost apologetically, that my hair had changed because I have hair loss, wear wigs, yadda yadda yadda.....but I didn't do that today. I thought to myself, "I owe this woman nothing." And I said thanks, made a small joke, and moved on.

It. Felt. AMAZING.

It was as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I know, I know, that sounds dramatic. But it's true. It was liberating to just keep my private information private for once. After a year of oversharing in this peculiar, pretentious little city we're living in, where I've felt so inclined to explain and apologize for myself a few thousand times over the last year...I was able to just let it go, and not feel the slightest bit of guilt for "not explaining myself."

I think in the future I'd like to just shave my response down to a quick "thank you," and omit the joke part. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to make people laugh. It's kind of my thing. (I write romantic comedy, remember?) But occasionally it feels good to keep some of myself hidden. It's almost like I'm moving in reverse. So many Alopecians start their journey off hiding and trying to keep their hair loss a secret from the world...and I came out of the gates screaming. I told anyone who spoke to me. Wrote social media posts about it. Explained my hair issues to anyone whose eyes lingered on my hair for more than a second.......and I've been slowly working my a** off to get the giant snake back into the peanut brittle jar.



And I think I've finally succeeded. Or started too.

This summer while I am in the USA, I will be buying wigs for the year. (Since I prefer synthetics, and they don't have the shelf life--nor the price tag--of human hair wigs, AND I live abroad where getting my hands on great wigs is tricky, I gather them while in the states and divvy them out over the course of the 10.5 months we spend in South Korea every year.) I am getting several different wigs, in several different colors, and several different lengths/styles. And I fully intend to wear them whenever I want, without a second thought.

Sure, I'll get weird looks. And if history serves, I'll be gossiped about. But do I really care?

Not anymore.



I don't care what unsolicited advice people offer me. I don't care what other people would do if it were them that were suffering through hair loss. I don't care that they're complimenting hair that's "not mine" (hint: if I pay for it, it's mine.) I don't care that so-and-so prefers red hair on me, but so-and-so thinks shorter is better. I don't care about the unintentionally embarrassing comments people make about growing their hair out to make a wig for me, or how they just want to rip it off of my head some day (spoiler alert: it won't come off that easily, and if you try it, I'll kick some serious butt,) or, even better, how nice it is that my husband can sleep with a different woman every night (Scientific fact: he sleeps with me every night. Wigs don't change my DNA. Science....who knew?)  I will ignore the comments about how often I change my look, or how confusing it is to keep up with my wig changes. I'll ignore it when people with full heads of hair remind me that true beauty comes from within. I'll ignore it when the wealthy Korean moms (who are so gorgeous and stylish and thin) stare at me like I'm a circus side show act. I'll ignore it when kids ask my sons and daughter, "Why does your mom look different again?" I'll ignore it when it is insinuated that vanity is what makes me change my look all the time, or that I need to focus on what's important in life (hint: they're usually saying it's not hair.)

And I'll just do whatever I've got to do to feel like THIS when I look in the mirror:



*snaps*

Because finally feeling good about myself feels good. And I make NO MORE apologies for that.

Today was a milestone. I'm glad I'm evolving. Evolving feels good.

xxoo
Brooke

Thursday, May 12, 2016

So this is what 40 feels like...

I turned (gasp!) 40 on Wednesday.

Selfie with the dog. She helped celebrate my 40th by wearing a party hat for a while, and chasing empty water bottles all over the house.


And I have to admit...I took it hard. I shouldn't have. I have friends who remind me that I'm only as old as I feel; and that since they turned 40, they've never felt sexier; and that life really begins at 40....

But the reality is, 40 has been a tough pill to swallow, for a multitude of reasons. First, my life is half over! Ince I've lived another 40 years, I'll likely either be dead, or pretty darn close to death. Second, I live somewhere I don't like, where I feel like a square peg in a round hole, and I have more in common with the hired help than my fellow expats. Third, I've got some personal stresses that are bogging me down right now, and when I'm bogged down, I can't compartmentalize. If I feel it, it's right there on my sleeve for all to see. I hate that. And four, I'm not terribly pleased with my physical state right now. After losing a hundred pounds, I'm about ten pounds heavier than I want to be. Granted, ten pounds is not that big of a deal. But...when you used to be morbidly obese, ten pounds can feel like the slippery slope towards some serious backsliding, and so help me, I don't think I can stomach going backwards in that department--PLUS, I have alopecia. So I rang in the big 4-0 with a bald head. Talk about a blow to the ego.

I found myself spending my birthday here in South Korea waiting for a phone call, an email, a social media post....that never came. I know that waiting for stuff like that is foolish, and sitting around tangled up in stress only exasperates my hair loss. I know that my happiness shouldn't be hinged to how other people make me feel, or how they choose to act, but it's almost impossible not to be hurt. I'm not made of stone. In fact, I think I'm made of tissue paper, easily ripped and torn.

My cousin sent me some goat cheese (very hard to find here in South Korea)...and we all know there is no better gift than cheese.


I'm hoping that 40 gets better. I'm praying that I can get through this year and find some sort of acceptance for the things I cannot change. Family problems, hair loss, living abroad...all these things that make me want to curl up and hide, need to become non-issues to me. I need to accept my 40 year old self, flaws and all. And I intend to get there.......eventually.

My friends and family here in South Korea did everything they could do to make my day awesome, and I could literally never thank them enough for that. My children woke up early (which is difficult, as my 17 year old is NOT a morning person!) to decorate the house. They had banners and balloons everywhere, and woke me up with cheesecake and candles. Then I had lunch with some friends, who introduced me to "shabu-shabu", which I originally thought I hated, but this place was phenomenal! They gifted me a certificate to get a pedicure at a local salon--which was a real treat because mani's and pedi's here are hella expensive! Then, after lunch, my husband and daughter made me dinner. We were going to go out, but since you can't get a decent steak here in South Korea (no lie--these places cannot figure out how to properly cook a steak!) I requested ribeye and sea scallops. It took them a very long time...and so help me, made a colossal mess, but they did an excellent job. All in all, they did a great job, and I felt very loved.

Some really incredible ladies came to celebrate with me. (Left to right) Neeti, Carisa, Dalit, Minu, Noel, me, Lourdes, April, and Sarah. I'm very blessed.

Shabu-shabu lunch! So good...taking my family back this weekend. 


I've got confidence that 40 will grow on me. I'm only a few weeks away from visiting the USA for the summer, and I think that will help my morale. Life abroad itself isn't bad, but life here in South Korea has been challenging, and I think some time on American soil will do me some good. My prayer is that my batteries will recharge, and I will be excited to come back to Songdo for another year! 40 can suck it! 40 can eat my dust! Maybe my life isn't perfect, but maybe 40 will look good on me. Who knows?

Talk to me in 1 year, and I'll let you know....maybe by the time I turn 41, I'll be a tough, sexy broad who couldn't give two rips whether or not anybody likes me. Maybe I'll be a blonde for my next birthday. :)

xxoo
Brooke

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Two, two, TWO books....

Coming out this year!

I'm back, baby. Holla.

I can't wait to share more about BOTH these awesome stories! More details will come soon!



xxoo
Brooke

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I am not a PSA.

I recently encountered a well-intentioned friend who used me to make a point (albeit a relevant one) of female empowerment and self acceptance to her daughter, and guess what?



It sucked.

Now.......I'm all for female empowerment and self acceptance. Teach your daughters to love the body they're in. Teach them never to take subpar treatment from anyone. Teach them that they can do anything in the world, that they just have to put their mind to it. Hell, you can even teach them that beauty, true beauty, comes from within.

But, don't use me to make that point.

Not right now, anyway.

Now, I have to preface this with: this friend meant no harm. She's a pretty great person, and like most people, would never say something offensive on purpose. Nobody ever means to do harm when they say well-intented things. But alas, sometimes the best of intentions fly like a fart in church. And that's what happened to me. Only, surprisingly enough, it wasn't me farting this time. Shocking, I know.

Just call me Svetlana.


So I walked into my children's school with a new wig on. I'd won it in a contest, it was long, dark, and glamorous. I was told that when I wore it, I looked like a Russian assassin. I felt very sexy and pretty and beautiful and confident while I wore this wig...all feelings that elude me because of my hair loss. Bottom line: I feel like **** about myself all the time these days. It never lets up.

This is a picture of what a REAL Russian assassin looks like. Or what one looks like in my mind. Hint: I do not look like this. At all.


You see, Alopecia does something to a woman, whether you fight against the feelings or not. Whether you had infinite amounts of self confidence prior, whether you say that you'll never succumb to the self loathing Alopecia creates.... in the end, you will. It's part of the process. Alopecia strips you of every ounce of confidence you have, your physical identity, your self image, your self worth, your sexuality, your personality.....and you, the victim, are forced to rebuild it all, brick by brick. You have to find out who you are internally, without the facade, and what version of yourself you want to present to the world. You have to grasp that you're still a woman, despite not having your "crowning glory." You have to find acceptance within yourself, and with your partner--and you have to find some way (and so help me, GOSH, it's so much more difficult than it sounds) to believe them when they tell you you're attractive.

I have said it a thousand times, and I will say it again: it is infinitely more difficult to cope with the emotional repercussions of Alopecia, than the physical. Sure, the physical repercussions SUCK. Hard. The itching, the twinging. Ugh. The other day I had a scalp spasm that was so awful, I nearly peeled off my wig in PUBLIC at my children's school to find relief, I actually sweated through my shirt (it was cold that day, too) AND I started to cry. And anybody who knows me knows how out of character that is.

I'm told all the time "It's just hair." And honestly, I say that to friends often. "Don't feel sorry for me, it's just hair." But, inside my brain and heart, I feel completely different. And I've found that usually the people who claim dealing with the emotional side of hair loss isn't that difficult, are people who have likely never experienced hair loss. And no, I'm not talking about shaving your head in the 90's to prove how "non-conformist" and "feminist" you are. I loathe the videos on YouTube of the hipster millenials who are shaving their heads to free themselves. Get over yourself. You aren't brave until your hair is taken against your will.

I'm trying to learn how to rebuild my confidence now. How to present myself to the world without feeling broken or flawed. I've learned that wigs help. Some women prefer to rock their bald heads. Me, not so much. I feel naked and vulnerable. And as someone who struggled with weight issues for most of her adult life, having no hair makes me feel frumpy and overweight and uneven. When I have a long, glamorous wig on, I feel undeniably safer, more protected. My vulnerability isn't as glaringly obvious as it would be if I were walking around hair-free. That doesn't mean that's the road everybody else should take, it's just the right road for me. Having lots of wigs and trying lots of new looks helps me. Makes me feel powerful in a powerless situation.



But, I digress...

So this woman (who knows I have hair loss and wear wigs, as I am very open about it) spotted me in my new hair, and complimented me on it. She was really sweet and I was very appreciative. (Like I said, she's a good person) So, I said, "Thanks! I love the long hair. It makes me feel beautiful." I said that because it's true. When I wear short wigs, I feel boring, frumpy, and old. And since my bio hair was never very healthy, and was always translucent and wispy, it never grew past my chin. Wigs gives me a look I was never able to achieve, even before Alopecia. Long hair makes me feel feminine and pretty, and (to me) feeling feminine and pretty is important--especially now that I have been stripped of what 99% of the world considers a woman's "crowning glory."

The friend smiled and said, "That's good." And I thought the exchange was over, but then the PSA happened. (Makes me cringe thinking about it.) She turned to her daughter, who is, probably around 10 or 11, put her arm around her, and announced in a voice loud enough for both the daughter and I to hear, as well as anyone else around, that "It's good that Mrs. Moss feels beautiful, but what we all know is that real beauty comes from within, and that she's beautiful on the inside. That's what really matters."

I know it wasn't intended as a backhanded compliment, but.........here I am.


I smiled at this sweet little girl who was staring at me curiously, probably wondering what I looked like underneath my hair, because that's what kids usually want to know. I nodded in agreement with her mother (who was I to argue with the woman? It's not like she was saying something bad! She was right. Beauty does come from within.) Then, I briskly walked away, and went down another hall to have a good cry. And, if I'm being honest, I've spent the last few weeks rehashing that moment in my mind. Because that's what I do. I rehash things. I overanalyze stuff. Its a curse.

Now...it's not lost on me that the point she was trying to make was poignant. AND...very kind. True beauty, the beauty God sees in us, and the beauty we should be seeking in others, is that which comes from within. This I know. As a Christian, and a decent human being, I try to remember this often.

However, making me the example for a "life lesson" moment with a kid, literally while I was standing there smiling like a moron, was painful. Imagine what I looked like a few years ago, when I was overweight....

What if someone had said to their child, "Now, see? It's good that Mrs. Moss feels so good about herself, despite how fat she is. Because we all know that true beauty comes from within, and it doesn't matter whether a person is skinny or fat."

I would've been mortified.

However, in this day and age of fat-shaming and "loving the body you're in", I don't imagine that would've been said. At least, not right in front of me. Most people would've had the forethought to save that "life lesson moment" for a time when I wasn't present. But because I've chosen to be open and transparent about my hair loss and wig wearing, I've opened myself up to unwarranted criticism and unsolicited opinions. People give their opinions, even when I haven't asked for them; and they aren't afraid to be honest. Which is good....but also sort of bad.

In a way, I've shot myself in the foot by opening myself up, and telling people up front that I have a shaved head and bald spots. In the same way that a celebrity opens their life up to the world simply by starring in TV shows and movies, they open themselves up to the criticism of the world, the opinions of the peons, and the paparazzi hounding them night and day. Or at least that's what we (the said peons) say, right? They deserve it! They're the ones who became movie stars! It seems I have done that to myself: I'm the one who told everyone that I have hair loss and wear wigs, therefore, I have opened myself up to everyone's opinions about said hair loss, my choice of wigs, and (inevitably) my treatment options.



***Now, I have to clarify, I am not a celebrity. The only thing Angelina Jolie and I have in common is a giant family and (what I am assuming to be) a very expensive grocery bill.***

But, in openly sharing my journey with my friends, family, and readers, it seems I have automatically made myself painfully vulnerable. I've basically (inadvertently) told the world: tell me exactly what you think about me, my choices, my illness, my health, my life, and my freaking hair, without one thought to how it is received. People don't consider what it feels like to be told "I don't like that wig. You should go back to the other." or "Why wear wigs at all? You should rock the bald look. That's what I would do." or "I think wig wearing sounds fun! I wish I could do it!" (Spoiler alert: it isn't fun when it's happening against your will, and you, too, can wear wigs whenever you want to. They're not available by prescription only.)

If I'm being honest, I freaking hate it when people offer their unsolicited opinions. If I ask, then that's another thing. But just offering your thoughts on my hair? *shudder* Stop it. Just stop.

This "PSA moment" with a friend is not the first time someone has said this (or something similar) to me. In fact, since "coming out" to my expat friends here in South Korea (about my hair loss and wig wearing) I've heard it all:

Oh, I have hair issues, too, so I can totally relate. My hair grows slower on this side, than the other, so I am practically bald, too. I'm forced to wear it short! 

For what feels like the 387th time...never compare your hair GROWTH to a person's hair LOSS. This is bad form. Don't do it. It's thoughtless and tacky. And will inevitably make the bald chick feel like crap every single time.


Or My grandma used to wear tons of wigs, and we loved trying them on as a kid. I wish I could wear wigs. I think it would be so fun! Trust me, ladies, I used to say the same thing, until my hair actually fell out, and I was forced to wear wigs. That is a horse of a different color. Once you lose your hair against your will, living like Kim Zolziak no longer looks like fun.

Then there's the all-offensive: Did you see there is a new hair loss clinic on such-and-such road (South Korea is the most beauty obsessed place I've ever known, so there are hair loss clinics everywhere!) Why don't you go try their products? Or get hair replacement? Why don't you do something about it? If it were ME, I would at least do something!

Mother of pearl, I hate that comment. "If it were me, I would do it" Of course you would! Just like I used to say I would love to have a closet of wigs. Well, fate has an interesting way of shutting people up. And it shut me up by making my hair fall out. 

It's not you going through this. It's me. It's MEEEEEE. It's not you. If it were you, you could do whatever you wanted, but it's me. And the truth is, if it were you, you might change your tune. Suddenly expensive shampoos and onion juice and needles in the scalp don't feel so beneficial, do they? Suddenly wasting precious money on ineffective treatments feels frivolous and excessive. But you never believe it, until you're going through it.

I don't use hair replacement centers, because my hair loss has no real pattern. It falls out, grows back, falls out in a new spot, grows back, and so on and so forth. Bottom line is: If I replaced the hair in my current bald spots, the likelihood is it would fall out in another spot within 6 months, thus making my time, discomfort, and money go to waste. Not to mention that these treatments are overpriced, not terribly effective, often boast hyper-exaggerated results, and many times will involve painful shots.

Yeah. Needles in your scalp. And not just a few. We're talking 5 to 10 shots of steroids in EACH bald spot, to be repeated every month or so for a 6 to 10 month cycle.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in putting myself through that for what will most likely be little to no results. I want things like a new house, and vacations with my family, and to live debt-free...and spending my money on BS Witch Doctor hair loss treatments seems like a waste of money. Call me crazy, but I think the fact that I am a relatively healthy woman is cause for celebration, and that if hair loss is my one health issue right now, I should be celebrating.

This is how I feel when people mention hair restoration clinics.
Seriously? Does ANYBODY know how alopecia works?


Back to my original point: I've heard different variations of the same sentiment at least twenty times. Though I can't quote them all verbatim, they're all generally the same, and they go something like this:

"Yes, you look pretty in your wig, but what really matters is that's you're pretty on the inside."

Good. Great. I couldn't agree more. Truly, these words couldn't be more correct, than if God himself had uttered them. Maybe He has. It would suck to be as gorgeous as Kate Middleton, but be icky and gross on the inside like Saddam Hussein. I wouldn't want that.

But...that doesn't mean I want to walk around looking like I fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch down! That's not to say that's how ALL bald women look (because that's simply not the case--some women with Alopecia are stunning. I happen to not be one of those women.) But ugly is how I feel right now. When I look in the mirror, I am literally filled with disdain.

And frankly, I don't feel like exploiting that feeling just for the sake of placating everyone else's need to spout "bumper sticker" slogans at me all the time!

Fact: I swear, people say these condescending "positive affirmations" to me,  not to make me feel good, but so that they can feel better and more confident about THEIR own response to MY hair loss. That way they can pat themselves on the back for being a good friend.

Stitch that on a pillow, because I just preached the Gospel. PRAISE THE LAWD.



Again, I must state that most people who say these things to me mean no harm. It's just that you don't really "get it" until you're living it. This is fact. This is why now that I'm thin(ner) I never make cracks about someone's size. It wasn't until I experienced life as a morbidly obese woman AND a thin woman that I realized how much my jokes about "skinny b*tches" hurt.) Nobody can expect a person who has a full head of perfectly healthy hair to understand why their "positive affirmations" sting to the girl with no hair.

I'm sorry. I have no interest in being a poster child for Alopecia. I don't want to bear my bald head proudly, daring people to judge me, and rudely reminding them that my beauty comes from within. I don't want the role of advocate. I have no interest in being the face of positive self acceptance. I have a hard enough time accepting myself as it is, adding the pressure of being an advocate for empowerment is too much for me! I'm barely hanging on here, folks!

I'm not that person. I'm just a chick with Alopecia who is trying (desperately) to find her footing after it was washed out from underneath me. I'm not "there" yet. Don't put me on some sort of pedestal to make yourself feel better about my ailment.

But here's the (real) rub.......

The absolute worst part of being told/reminded/lectured that "true beauty comes from within," is that it is often said by women who, they themselves, look fantastic.

They are dressed nicely--and in this city, they're usually wearing designer clothes on their perfect bodies with red bottoms on their shoes, and a Coach or Givenchy purse slung over their shoulder. They have faces painted up perfectly with expertly applied  department store makeup that costs 5 to 10 times more than my cheap Maybelline or Cover Girl. The often bear white, orthodontically straightened teeth that are surrounded by Botox smoothed skin and silicone pooched lips. They often have manicured nails, and if I could see into those Manolo shoes, I'd see that they have matching pedicures--in gel, of course, which costs twice as much, but last twice as long! (<<<<Do detect the note of sarcasm there)

And--here's the clincher--they often have full heads of their own bio hair. Lush, curly, shiny, straight, long, short, highlighted, straightened, happy healthy hair spouting from their very own follicles. Not cool.

When someone, who is lovely and looks like they (clearly) put a considerable amount of effort into their own outward appearance tells you that "true beauty comes from within"...it comes across as condescending and patronizing.




Seriously.

Again, nobody means to do this......but alas, it happens. Just like when I used to make "skinny b*tch" jokes all the time. It was mean! It wasn't intended as mean....but it was.

Who likes being patronized? I don't think anyone enjoys that. Especially when your self confidence is hanging by a freaking thread, and you're convinced everyone around you is laughing behind your back. Nobody likes to feel like someone is pitying them. And nobody wants to be made into a PSA about women's self acceptance or empowerment when they themselves are still trying to muck their way through the emotional war their body has decided to thrust upon them.

Geez, man. Just wait until I am out of earshot to have your ABC After-School Special/A Very Special Episode of Blossom moment with your kid. Because when it is deliberately said in front of me, at full volume, the only thing that I'm thinking is that you want me--and everyone else around--to hear how kind and accepting you are.

Besides...there is something else that all the girls in the world should understand, and I feel really strongly about this: it's okay to want to be beautiful.

They shouldn't have to be beautiful for a boy, or for a job, or for enough "likes" on Instagram that she "breaks the internet." (IMHO, that's not empowerment, that narcissism and a skewered sense of self value wrapped up in their sexuality...but that's a blog for another time.)

But if a woman wants to feel pretty and beautiful so that she can like what she sees when she looks in the mirror, and so that she can face the world with confidence, then by all means, do what you've got to do! Whether it's by dressing modestly, or showing more skin. Whether it's with a blank face, or covered in cosmetics. Whether it's in Converse or five inch heels. Whether it's in Victoria's Secret or Hanes. Whether it's walking around with long Russian assassin hair or going Kojak bald. Whatever makes HER feel good about herself, that's what she should do.

There is no shame in wanting to feel beautiful, and I'm sick to death of the pseudo-feminists of the world making women feel like it's something to be ashamed of!



I guess the moral of the story is, I need to wear whatever freaking wig I want, and stop explaining to people why I chose what I chose. No more telling people that long wigs make me feel pretty. No more explaining that I have alopecia and that's why I'm wearing fake hair. No more "coming out" to the people I meet. I need to wear whatever I want to wear, and let everyone scratch their heads in confusion when I go from blonde to redhead to Russian assassin hair all in the space of a week. No more admitting to these people--who clearly do not get it, and likely never will--why I am doing what I'm doing, and why I make the choices I make. It's no longer their business. It's mine. And I'm done explaining my business to other people. I am not the face of your PSA, world. Choose someone else. Someone less broken.

My transparency is a blessing and a curse at times...and right now, it feels like a curse.

Le sigh...

xxoo
Brooke

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Steps.

A few days ago, I packed away my "Buggy ring." This ring is a gorgeous peridot ring surrounded by sparkly rings of diamond chips. My husband bought it for me after we lost our daughter (read all about that hellish nightmare here, here, and here. Oh, a little bit here, too.) and I've been wearing it loyally for the last (almost) two years.



I love it. It reminds me of my Little Bug, who clearly has an August birthday, who is now 4 and a half. She is likely running around wild and free somewhere across the city from the house where I loved her, and rocked her, and made her mine. She's probably feisty, ornery, and judging by the home she's being raised in, she's likely on her way to repeating all of the mistakes her bio parents made in their youth--because that's what happens when kids are put back into the homes of their abusive parents. They repeat the patterns. We had hoped to break the cycle, but God had other plans. So here we are.

She probably has no recollection of the year she spent with us, but I remember it. All of it. And for two and a half years, it has haunted me like a ghost following me from room to room, reminding me not to celebrate too much, laugh too hard, or smile to brightly, because that might somehow take away from the tragedy that the whole experience was. Now, as a smart woman, I know this isn't true. What happened happened, and nobody can take that away. But still...that damned ghost continues to haunt me, and a ****ing hate it! It's like walking around with a weight tied around my ankles. I can move, but not too freely. I can do things, but not with full enjoyment.

So I decided over the holidays that I was going to take some steps. Not big ones, per say, because it's taken me two years to get to this step, so bear with me, but I made the decision that I was going to start making small changes to eliminate that weight tied to my ankle. Which is why I cleaned my ring, told it goodbye, and put it deep into my jewelry box for safekeeping. And later this week, when nobody is around, I'm going to remove her picture from our china hutch, wrap it in some tissue paper, and pack it away. Not because I don't want it anymore, but because I am sick to death of seeing it every single day.

Now, I probably wouldn't feel this way if I'd lost her to death. If that were the case, I would likely keep her things in my home forever, as a homage to the daughter I want to remember forever. But that's not the case here. The truth is--and my husband wholeheartedly disagrees, for the record--I do not want to remember Liyah any more. I do not want to think about her. I do not want to have that moment, every ***damned day of my life, literally, where I think about her. Wonder how she is. Wonder if she remembers me. And pray that she's okay. I don't want to have that instinct to Facebook stalk her trashy bio family, scouring the internet for updated pictures of the little girl who was mine, but not really. I don't want to think about the good times, the bad times, the in-between times, the late times, the early times, or any other times we had with her at all.

I'm tired. I'm almost 40, and I'm hella tired. I feel older than I am, and I feel more bitter than I should be. I hate getting advice on getting over grief from people who have never lost a child, but I resent them for not knowing the gravity of what loving Bug meant to me. I loathe the child protective services and all their employees, but feel endless gratitude for all of the foster families working so hard to love kids their own damn parents couldn't be bothered to love. I want to bring Liyah up in conversation, then once I have, I immediately want to kick my own butt, because I really don't want to talk about it at all.

I'm not dumb. I know she doesn't remember me. And in all honesty, that's how it should be. I don't want her to remember me, because then she'll grow up resenting the parents she does have, because nobody, and by God, I mean nobody, could ever love that kid the way I did. Honestly, there are days when I legitimately wish I could Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind her right out of my brain. My husband says he would never do that. That his memories of her are some of his most precious. But me? Nope. Take 'em. Every last one.




And so the ring got put away.

Maybe someday I'll wear it again. Or give it to my daughter. Maybe someday I'll be buried in it, since God knows Liyah's will likely be one of my last thoughts that go through my mind before I die. But for now, I am pleased that it is gone. I can't look at it anymore. And that photograph--the one I have been dragging around from Spokane, Washington, to Songdo, South Korea--will be packed away next. My family will probably resent me for doing it. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I'm the one who lost their grip on reality when she was taken away, and I think that affords me some liberty. We'll see.

I feel okay. I mean, I feel bitter, but I always feel bitter. But I feel good about "Sunshining" these items from my life. Onward, and upward, and all that crap, right?

xxoo
Brooke