“You get to decide what to worship.”
– David Foster Wallace
My girlfriend was a born again believer in the power of Gillette Venus razors, eager to forget that year where she took gender studies and became a contentious objector to my wax strips.
Every Sunday night Lauretta sat in our bathtub, shaving her legs and covering cuts with pieces of toilet paper. She sacrificed body and blood. The Gillette commercials promised that shavers would ultimately be rewarded with heavenly ogling and cat calls. The act of shaving itself however made her irritable.
Still, even on the cold Sunday night last July, when I told Lauretta that I was going bald, she could be found shaving her legs. I sat on our bathroom floor staring at my socks, whilst she swore at the razor. I hadn’t really planned to tell her that night, especially not whilst she wielded a sharp, blunt object, but there was something very intimate about watching her shave.
It felt wrong to keep things from someone who had let you see them in a bathtub, splattered in goops of Sorbolene, squinting at their knees. In the end it wasn’t a very big deal. Lauretta gave me a hug and then went back to shaving. I stayed on the bathroom floor for the rest of the night, just sitting there, watching as her leg hairs circled down the drain.
It has been about a year since my hair started thinning out, first in wisps and then thick, healthy clumps. Nobody was quite sure why this was happening. My doctor put it down to stress, a diagnosis which in itself was so stressful it acted like a self fulfilling prophecy. He told me to come back if the hair loss got worse and sent me on my way with a pamphlet featuring bald, middle aged men on the cover.
Inside someone had copy pasted proud, bald figures like the Dalai Lama and the Rock. The pixelated heads espoused terribly peppy platitudes about confidence and success. When the doctor first confirmed that I was losing my hair, the image which came to mind was surprisingly not of a religious leader or a sports star.
Sitting in the sterile office surgery I thought about Roald Dahl’s The Witches. In the film’s pivotal scene, Angelica Huston pulls off her wig and transforms into a bald she-devil. This film left me, as an eight-year-old, terrified of bald women. I sat in the office wondering how soon it would be until I too started to terrify people.
A little while after Lauretta found out, I decided to tell my family. My mum came over immediately. I found her on my doorstep, proselytising about some miracle infomercial ointment.
My mum didn’t know about Lauretta. She was determined that my hair loss not impede her banal plans to find me a good, Asian boyfriend. My mum put her faith in the Coles cosmetics and health aisle, buying vitamins and conditioners and creams.
I knew that unlike my mother or any prospective Asian boyfriends, Lauretta didn’t really care about my hair loss. None of the girls I dated would have.
They were all uni students who flirted with pixie cuts and used phrases like “patriarchal standards of beauty.” Yet, I used all the products my mum bought me. First out of politeness, and then earnestly, as if I were some sinning Catholic, counting my vitamins like rosary beads, praying with each circular pill that my hair would grow back.
I used the products as if I actually believed in the power of Head and Shoulders. As if $7.99 was a small price to pay for salvation. It turns out that Queer women, even ones going bald, worship at the altar of patriarchal beauty standards.
Recently, my hair started to grow back. The hair came through in patches, raw and messy, but at least in time for the new semester. I stopped letting my mother buy vitamins and shampoos.
I had converted too much, if not to her faith, than at least to her practices and I was not sure that they were really working for me.
Nowadays, the only time I walk into the Coles cosmetics and health aisle is to buy razors. On most Sunday nights, you can still find Lauretta and I in the bathroom shaving our legs.
You can still find us worshipping Gillette Venus.