I'm not sure why I was so blindsided by the question. I mean, I know it has been asked before of women who lack hair, and this was just the person to be asking it, a wide-eyed, blonde-bobbed young girl who was also waiting in line to use the bathroom at the campground. I replied a cheery, "Yes, I am," and that was that. Only it really wasn't because I am still upset by it.
I was having a fine weekend, my sense of self confidence bolstered by my 9 year old's birthday party at a climbing gym. I climbed with the kids and felt strong, capable, and able to bond with my son by challenging him to go as high as his 47 year old mom. I wore a short, blonde wig, so I could pass for normal without being uncomfortable, and it worked. But waking up from a sweaty, smokey night in a tent, I didn't reach for the wig but just a thin, bright pink cap. Even with the innocence of the question, I felt it as a judgement. No, I am not a young beauty with or without hair, but was my morning face really so ugly that I looked like a man? I tell myself that it was just about the hair, that the little girl saw, even if she didn't recognize that that was what was different, that I had no hair, and in her cookie cutter categorization, that said "boy."
I want to be the "girl" who when first challenged by a towering climbing wall, went straight to the top. I want to be the girl who is the mommy of the mommy and daughter pair of my three year old sweetie with her curly, blonde tresses. And I have to hold that identity in my heart even if, when I go out into the world as myself, I am seen as something less certain, less valid. When I was a child, I sometimes got mistaken as another boy between my brothers, and I recall feeling more smug that I was right and they were wrong than upset by it. Even if not always sure how to display or promote my femininity, being more tomboy and science geek than made up woman, I have gone through life certain that I was feminine by definition. I haven't chosen or been forced to play with gender limbo. Now though, do I need to add on adornments of femininity just to get back to "normal?" Even as I have been intrigued by societal constructs and categorizations, having them land at my feet when I am just going about my business, is new and unsettling. I write this here because I am afraid that if I tell my husband or my mother of the girl's question, they will judge me too and tell me I look better with hair. Yeah, I know. Tell that to my hair please. Thank you for listening.