I am comfortable in my own skin and proud of who I am 99.9% of the time. There is only one situation that has ever made me feel ashamed (yet, only momentarily) of my bald head. It has only happened a handful of times, but yesterday was one of them, and this instance hit me particularly hard. I spent all night thinking about why it bothered me so much, and how to turn it around and make it something positive.
I was walking through the grocery store yesterday afternoon without my family (this situation only seems to happen when I am alone), and I heard a tiny voice behind me asking, "Why doesn't she have any hair?". The mom shushed her daughter and went along with her shopping. This alone was irritating to me, but it is a normal reaction by parents. I wish that they would take that opportunity to talk to their children about how we are all a little different, or ask me why I don't have hair so that their children can learn that talking about things that their curious about is better than staring or wondering. If they even said, "She has cancer." (which is totally wrong) it would be a more acceptable response. At least in that situation, the parents are explaining something to their children, which will in turn teach them to be tolerant and accepting of differences.
In this instance, when the little girl asked again, there was a comment added which always shakes me to the core and makes me sad. She said, "She's really scary mom!". At this point, I was tired of waiting for the mom to take advantage of the situation, and I turned around to explain things to the little one. What I turned to, was a mom pushing her cart as quickly as she could, down the aisle, with her head tucked down, whispering to her daughter. Although I didn't hear the conversation, I can guess that she was saying something along the lines of, "It's not polite to say things like that." or was scolding her for making a comment at all.
I know that she was probably trying to teach her daughter to be polite and was extremely embarrassed about the situation, but from my perspective, she was making the situation worse. She was teaching her daughter to be someone who is afraid of people who are different-someone who stares and assumes, instead of someone who is open and curious about differences.
Although the mother's response bothered me, it was the little girl's comment that stuck with me throughout the day (as comments like this usually do). I hate that my mere existence can be frightening to a child. I have spent my whole life around kids and have made making connections with them a career that I'm proud of. It is horrible to think that I could scare a child just by being near, and it's even worse to think that my only difference to them is that I lack hair on my head. I can only imagine how they will respond to people who have more obvious and distinct differences.
Although my first reaction to this situation was to be hurt and a tiny bit ashamed of who I am, those feelings are not the ones that direct me. Instead, with some reflection, I have decided that these situations will be my motivation to continue to be who I am and be proud. Until kids are exposed to people who are different, they will not learn how to be accepting. If I have to hear comments from children that are hurtful, at least I know that I am exposing them to a life lesson that they may not have gotten before. It's difficult to hear such sad comments, but they can be a platform to teach (which is right up my ally).