The Oscars, The Slap Heard Around the World and Alopecia
Thanks (?) to Will Smith, the mystery of hair loss has captured the limelight.
Hello again, Pausers,
Thanks for stopping by! It’s good to be back with you again…and with so many pressing questions to unpack.
Movie theaters, what are those? Will they survive? If they do, will we return?
Alopecia, what’s that? We’ve heard the term, yet many of us are not really clear on this condition.
And on-screen violence is one thing, but what about when it’s live, and unscripted?
Sheryl here. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t watch the Oscars this year. When I was up on my movies, I looked forward to watching, but this year I am woefully behind. Although so many great movies are available on Netflix and other streaming services, there’s something missing when a movie is not viewed from a huge screen with surround-sound and the buttery smell of popcorn that you still smell long after you’ve left the theater. I wonder if we’ll ever return to movie theaters - that is, if they remain open and don’t shutter for good.
Did you watch, Lisa?
Lisa. No, I didn’t, Sheryl. We only have cable in our basement and, to be honest, I haven’t seen many big-screen movies in the last two or three years. Love me some cozy home movie-watching but, getting dressed up(ish) and heading out to a dark theatre (Canadian spelling!) with friends or family is a treat. Also, because I studied Radio & Television Arts and sociology in university, I enjoy staying up-to-date with media offerings, actors, directors, the current zeitgeist, etc.
Sheryl. Ah, nice spelling: theatre. Makes the word look rather dramatic. And, I love the things you studied; fun, interesting stuff!
Anyhow, I digress. The slap. On live TV no less! How sad. The whole thing has me so upset. First, because, well, the obvious. Will Smith’s inability to control his anger, for one. I mean, couldn’t he have counted to ten (I highly recommend this strategy), let it diffuse while he gathered his thoughts? Chances are good that he would have come up with a better solution, like waiting it out and confronting Chris Rock at the commercial break. And then, there’s that thing about a man standing up for ‘his woman.’ Did Jada need that, or would she have been able to manage the situation on her own? (I tend to think the latter, and she would have handled it with a lot more aplomb and poise).
But the bigger point here, I think, is the opportunity to call attention to alopecia. However, first I want to step back and recount the uncomfortable time I put my foot in my mouth, sorta out of ignorance. (Stay with me here; I’ll
try to be brief.)
My Encounter with Alopecia at the Gym
Long story short. A few years ago I was at the gym, waiting in line for a spin class. (Back in the day, we did that…*Insert: deep sigh and look of longing*.)
Behind me stood a young woman with a bald head. Seeing her immediately triggered old feelings: You see, In my early 30s, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemotherapy caused all my hair to fall out…but I was never brave enough to go out in public without a wig. Yet she was! And I admired that! Stupidly (in retrospect), I made up a whole story in my head. I told myself she, too, was being treated for breast cancer. Surely she needed me to tell her that she would survive it; after all, here I was all these years later. She’d be so grateful… Certainly she would be comforted by my words and happy I was reaching out to her, because, after all, it was uncomfortable for other people, who never experienced chemo and hair loss, to know just what to say.
Here’s how it went:
Me: “Are you going through chemo? (*Insert: Warm smile, body language signaling, I’m here to talk if you’d like*.)
Her: “No, I have alopecia.”
Now who was uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say???
I read the room completely wrong. Plus, I didn’t really know anything much about alopecia, and couldn’t come up with anything else to say.
I felt awful.
But now, this old story, plus the new story-of-the-Oscar-slap offers me the opportunity to educate myself plus all of you. Because alopecia is more common than we all think.
Lisa. Sheryl, you and I wondered how alopecia affects women in midlife.
Sheryl. Lisa, yes. Part of the reason I was curious is that it’s very common in midlife for our hair to shed and thin. Is that alopecia…or something else?
Here’s what our digging found out about alopecia.
Alopecia is a broad term that relates to many types of hair loss, and can have various causes.
It can affect just the hair on your head, or the hair on your entire body.
Hair usually falls out in clumps.
Alopecia can be hereditary.
It can also occur from hormonal changes,
Causes of Alopecia
Natural aging. Although both men and women can lose scalp hair as a result of aging, it is more common among men.
Pulling hair too tight for too long. This is known as traction alopecia. The repeated tension on the hair (from styles like pigtails or cornrows) can cause it to weaken and fall out - sometimes permanently.
Immune system dysfunction. Known as auto-immune alopecia, this occurs when your immune system attacks your hair follicles. But most people with this disorder are otherwise healthy individuals.
Alopecia areata, one common form of autoimmune alopecia, affects all age groups. In fact, 50% of individuals with alopecia areata develop their first episode of hair loss before the age of 18. When it affects people later in life (after age 50), it’s usually milder, and more commonly found in women. This group, according to research, is also less likely to have a family history of alopecia.
Does Hair Grow Back?
The good news is that it can. The bad news is that it doesn’t grow back for everyone. Some people’s hair grows back on its own within 12 months. Though there is no cure for alopecia, researchers are always searching for new and better treatments, which currently include oral steroids, immunotherapy, minoxidil or other topical medications.
We hope we answered your questions about alopecia. If you’d like to read more, we’ve included some helpful links at the end of the newsletter.
Media, Mediums, and Messages
Lisa. So, Sheryl, what have you been reading or watching for the last few weeks? Anything of interest to report?
Sheryl. Lisa, I binged the entire season of Bridgerton. Not terribly deep, and at least three episodes too long, IMHO, (like, would you just KISS and profess your love already??) But sometimes we need a good escapist soap opera in our lives, you know?
Lisa. Oh, cool, Sheryl, my friend is also binging Bridgerton (love that alliteration). I’ve just started reading Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger. One of the locations in the book is Ottawa, Canada where I was born so that piqued my interest.
My partner and I also watched I Want You Back with Jenny Slate and Charlie Day. A rom-com with wit, heart, clever lines - and no cheese! Worth watching for sure – especially if you’re feeling low.
Sheryl. Thanks for the recommendations, Lisa. I’ll have to add these to my list! You are certainly a fast reader…and always have great recos for shows, too!
Well, we certainly learned something new this week. Hopefully more of us will now be aware of alopecia the next time we encounter someone with it.
Lisa, care to share any other random thing you learned this week?
Lisa. One random thing? Hmmmm… I just heard on the news that the Ontario provincial government is going to temporarily lower taxes on gas and diesel (which are at record highs) BUT it will only take effect after the June provincial election. So, while this is good news for drivers, it will only happen if the Progressive-Conservatives are voted in again. Typical politics.
Sheryl. I am keeping my fingers crossed for all you drivers! The prices are astounding.
Here’s mine: I was excited to get an assignment for a healthcare company to write a story about bats and rabies, because it was a great opportunity for me to learn something I knew nothing about. I learned bats can spread rabies - even if you don’t feel their bite (the bites can be very tiny or undetectable altogether). Also, if you encounter a bat in your house (yikes!), don’t shoo it out the window or kill it. You should capture it (Um, really? Too scary, but yes!). That’s because: 1. Some bats are endangered and 2. The bat should be tested for rabies by the health department.
Lisa. Wow, Sheryl, that IS interesting. As an animal lover, I always feel for “misunderstood” animals like bats, crows, sharks, wolves, etc. My parents actually had a bat fly into their condo via their balcony window last year! They had the concierge “escort it out” via gentle persuasion with a broom.
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