Here I am, a week shy of my 38th birthday, and my current celebrity doppelgänger is Fester Addams.
Go on, laugh! I do all the time.
And then secretly I cry.
I try and try to put on my brave, but sometimes I crumble.
Some days I can look beyond the bald, beyond my brow and lash-less reflection and feel more fab than Fester, but other days are just plain hard. No matter where I go, or what I do, or how many people tell me I look beautiful, I feel people’s eyes boring into me. I feel the burden of a society whose spectrum of normal I no longer fit. I feel ugly, unsightly, unfeminine.
“No hats, ma’am,” the young ride attendant calls.
I know she is talking to me, but I glance over my shoulder and pretend not to hear. “Excited, Rooey? This is going to be fu-un,” I coo. Maybe if I keep my back turned, she’ll give up and start the ride anyway. I haven’t prepared myself to unveil my baldness in front of a crowd of onlookers and the sudden threat of it is sharp. I wince.
The attendant is now hovering right next to my car, pointing to a sign above us that states ‘No Loose Items’ in bold lettering. I had already read it as we waited in line, but had been hoping it was more of a recommendation, than a rule.
“Excuse me, lady. Your hat – it needs to come off, please.”
I glance up at her and grimace. “Please – can you let me keep it on?”
“Sorry. Ride rule. No hats allowed.”
“But…I have no hair,” I squeak, imploring her to let me go.
She baulks, clearly embarrassed, then bends a little closer and lowers her voice. “I’m so sorry. You’re going to have to take it off. Really sorry, but it’s ride rules.”
I bite my lip and nod softly. To our right, the waiting queue snakes back and forth, four rows deep. Arms drape languidly over railings, faces gaze intently. Here I am in full view of a crowd of onlookers, having to unceremoniously expose myself.
I coil as far down into my seat as I can, and slide off my hat.
Instantly, I hear quiet murmurs break out as the front rows catch a glimpse of the bald woman about to ride the roller coaster; the one-woman freak show.
Tears prick. My face flushes crimson. I can’t look up.
Fortunately, before I am forced to endure any more embarrassment, the ride takes off with a sudden jerk, and whisks me away. We sail up towards the sky and then suddenly barrel down the bright, curved rail. Air streams past my face and my stomach lurches to my chin as we drop into the next turn. We twist and jerk around corners, down dips, pressed sideways in our seats as we screech and gleam around the looping course.
A minute later we sail to a smooth stop, back at the platform where it all began. I close my eyes, breathe in deeply and smother a laugh. All my previous humiliation has dissolved and my body is now zinging with frenzied relief.
I feel like reality has just collided with the metaphor of my life.
From the carriage in front, both of my boys whoop with glee. I turn around, watching my daughter babble happily, tucked into the safe crook of her Daddy’s arm.
Her eyes, shining with wonderment, catch mine. “That was so fun, Mum. Can we go again?”
We clamber off together, linking arms and smiling broadly. My kids chatter non-stop about how ‘epic’ the rollercoaster was. They don’t notice my missing hat at all.
I wish I was brave enough to leave it off.