For Women, Baldness Need Not Be Faced Alone

Thea Chassin has started a support group called 'Bald Girls Do Lunch.'

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For Women, Baldness Need Not Be Faced Alone
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For Women, Baldness Need Not Be Faced Alone

Whether its Rogaine, HairClub or countless As Seen on TV cures, baldness is a problem often associated with men. But for women suffering with alopecia areata, baldness can be an embarrassing and often secret problem.

West Hartford native Thea Chassin is providing support for these women with a group she calls "Bald Girls Do Lunch."

TRANSCRIPT:

Thea Chassin says she used to have a lot of hair.

I had hair. I had really great hair. I loved my hair.

But then, she started losing it. First her body hair began to fall out. Then she lost her eyebrows. And about 16 years ago ...

I lost my hair to such a degree that I didn't have a hairdo anymore. I didn't have hair that I could go out with and feel like I had a hairdo on ... so much of it was gone.

Chassin has alopecia areata. While the condition isn't common, it's not terribly rare either. Between one and two percent of Americans will experience alopecia at some point in their lives. Usually, it's mild. A patch of hair falls out and then it grows back.

But Chassin went completely bald. She said she felt shocked and isolated ... unsure how she would explain her baldness to family and to friends. And then came the questions about cancer.

Very frequently, someone will come up to me - give me that little touch on the elbow and say, "So, how you doing?"

Chassin says she immediately knows what that means.

They are very close to, have themselves experienced, or know somebody whose gone through chemo or cancer and they want to commune about it.  

At "Bald Girls Do Lunch" women learn how to respond to these and other potentially awkward questions. They share a meal, swap beauty tips and enjoy the safety of confiding in other women who understand what it's like to be bald in a land of people with hair.

Hair loss, particularly for women, it’s not a topic that people want to talk about. Hair, for women in particular, has been considered your beauty. Your sign of beauty. Your marriagibility. So it's no surprise that when someone loses their hair, they feel ... hmm. I don't fit in anymore. Where is my beauty? What is it?

Rachel Plout says that was exactly how she felt 27 years ago when her hair began to fall out. Today is her first time meeting other women with alopecia.

When you lose your hair it’s like you lose yourself. When you look in the mirror, you’re not you anymore. There’s no more eyelashes, no eyebrow. No hair. So it’s a very hard time to adjust. To pick up yourself and say, OK  I got  to go out there and I gotta face the world.

At the lunch, all the women are wearing wigs. Some aren't comfortable taking theirs off in public. But Chassin isn't so shy.

I take my hair off so randomly and so frequently that I don't even keep track. I'll have hair on more likely in the wintertime. I don't like to be too hot. So I don't wear wigs in hot weather. I rock my bald look. I also do a lot of hats and scarves and I tie them very fashionably and people just say, oh, really pretty scarf.

Chassin says Bald Girls Do Lunch is kind of like a social network for bald women - a place where they can connect, feel beautiful and understand they don't have to face baldness alone.

For WNPR News, I'm Patrick Skahill.