When I was trying to navigate my life as a bald woman, strangers would frequently enter my personal space and ask prying questions. The assumption was that my hair loss must be due to cancer treatment even though I suffered from Alopecia Universalis. Quite often, I was caught off guard and stumbled for an appropriate answer that would both preserve my feelings and discourage any further prying. Most of the time I failed miserably and would spend days contemplating my verbal inadequacies.
Recently I heard from a lovely girl who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoctic Leukemia. She is just twenty-six years old! Her treatment requires her to spend long stretches in the hospital and due to a compromised immune system, she must wear a mask when out in public. Her mother related a story to me that reminded me of my days when the stares, comments, and nosy questions seemed endless. This girl was going to the hospital for treatment and had taken great care to look lovely in her beaubeau scarf which matched her outfit perfectly! She was wearing a mask as a precaution due to her immune system. She was approached by a man who made a comment about her mask in reference to the current news about the Swine Flu. He wanted to know if she had traveled to Mexico recently. On that same day, another man made a comment about her scarf saying she looked like a “pirate.” She went home and agonized over her inability to come with a spontaneous answer under those circumstances and thought long and hard before coming up with a list of comebacks for people who make unnecessary and often unkind remarks.
What to say when someone asks you a personal and prying question about your appearance:
1. I’m wearing this mask so I don’t catch the “nosey flu” which you seem to be suffering from.
2. This hospital is working hard to find a cure for cancer but I guess they are still working on the cure for intrusive questions.
3. (Regarding the mask.) Don’t you know I’m Michael Jackson’s secret lovechild and he makes us wear our mask everywhere?
4. God only made a few perfect heads—the rest are covered with hair.
5. Did you come all the over here JUST to ask me such a personal question?
6. I’ll answer the question about my bald head if you answer a question about what size you wear.
7. I’m sorry but would you mind rephrasing that question so it doesn’t seem quite so personal?
8. Didn’t you know that shaving your head makes your hair grow in thicker?
Let’s keep this list going! Share your own “personal comebacks.”