A Hair's Strength This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
My high school was probably like any ­other – the football players bullying the nerds before school, the cool kids going to the park at lunch to smoke cigarettes, and the science club raising money to help find some cure. At least, that was my sophomore point of view.

I was different from most kids my age because I was a good cookie – the no-party, no-sex type. My best friend, “Mary,” on the other hand, was the ­exact opposite.

She had her septum pierced and a sleeve tattoo on her right arm. She had dull, limp shoulder-length hair. When we first met, she told me about her problems at home. She was anorexic, sometimes not eating for five days. Anything she ate, she would immediately throw up because of her fear of not being skinny enough.

Though her disorder alarmed me, I felt like it wasn't any of my business. I would talk to her about it and try to get her to eat lunch, but I didn't stick my nose in.

We were best friends. We always walked together in the halls, laughed at inside jokes, went shopping, and had sleep-overs. I looked up to her in ways I'm sure she wasn't even aware of.

Everything dramatically changed one night when Mary stayed over at my house. In the morning I awoke next to her and saw her head resting on a pillow of her hair; almost all of it had fallen out. My stomach dropped and a flash of heat flooded my face.

That was the hardest morning I ever had, watching her cry and react to her hair loss. A girl's hair is her pride, her reputation, and her identity. It is an important part of her self-esteem.

She wondered why it had happened, but I knew it was because she was malnourished. I didn't know that hair loss was part of her disorder, but I remembered studying the Holocaust and seeing pictures of starving people who had gone bald. This thought made my hands break out in a cold sweat.

I couldn't let her go through this alone. Impulsively, I grabbed an electric buzzer and, sobbing, watched my own brunette strands float gently to the bed. She screamed at me not to do it. After all the drama, we sat silently on my bed amid the mixed strands of our hair, soaking in everything that had happened.

School after that was twenty times harder. ­Because of our lack of hair, we were called
names like “dyke,” “skinhead,” and even “Britney Spears.” At least we weren't alone. I felt humili­ated, yet blessed with selflessness. After all, my hair would grow back.

And eventually it did. The following summer it was as long as a boy cut. Shortly after Mary's hair loss, she went to a treatment center for her disorder somewhere in India, two thousand miles away. It was time to move on with my life, though I still wondered if Mary's hair ever grew back and if she found a better friend than me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 10 comments. Post your own now!

xxxxxxxx said...
Jul. 19, 2011 at 3:24 am
 What a great friend you are!
 
tay tay said...
Feb. 6, 2009 at 4:01 pm
this story is sad and great! U seem like a great.. I couldn't immagiinee doing that exspecially dealing with people at muh school......
 
JamieandJessie said...
Jan. 27, 2009 at 6:16 pm
Wow, you're such a good friend! That must have been really hard for you. We couldn't even imagine doing that!
 
tweedle dee said...
Dec. 18, 2008 at 2:38 am
wow, if i am ever such a good friend i will be very blessed. what an amazing act of courage and selflessness.
 
blinkingandbreathing said...
Nov. 25, 2008 at 1:02 am
Wow. Many ppl only wish that they could have the amazing courage and strength to to do what you did. If i knew you, id tear up and bid you a hearty, "You. Should. Be. Proud." ppl like you are the ones who make a difference.
 
bakerchick said...
Nov. 23, 2008 at 1:09 am
this story truly touched me because i dont know of anybody as beautiful as you probably are and girl, keep rocking on
 
anorexic-angel said...
Nov. 7, 2008 at 7:17 pm
as an anorexic i can say that she probably never found a better friend than you and as a friend i would say thank you so much for all you did for her she is probably so thankful to you and so am i you are a very selfless person may god truly bless you
 
megannnwow said...
Oct. 19, 2008 at 1:09 am
This is such a gorgeous story. It's moving not in the way that it was the most fantastic thing I've ever read, but the real story shows something about you, which is so much more important. That is such a selfish act... A girl is practically required to have hair in modern day society. Live on.
 
HashBrowny975 said...
Oct. 17, 2008 at 12:01 am
I think it is a very touching and serious story. Anoroexia is a serious disease and a sad one. It is so great that the narrator of this story would be such a good friend and caring enough that she would want to go through this is expirience with her friend Mary. I also think it is wonderful that she learned selfless-ness and humbility. I think this is a great story of true friendship. Great Job Stephanie S.
 
HerLoss said...
Oct. 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm
What an excellent article and what a good friend you were to Mary. She is lucky to have had you in her life. You are correct, being malnourished can cause one's hair to fall out and can be one of the most visible side effects of anoroexia. I outline other reasons in my book Breaking the Silence on Women's Hair Loss. I also talked with a lot of women who shared their heartbreak at losing their hair. Your article gives such a wonderful snapshot of this and I applaud your bravery for shaving your h... (more »)
 
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