This is Liz. You know Liz. Liz that writes Ask Team Practical every Thursday. Liz who just gave you advice on engagement rings this morning. Liz who writes at Happy Sighs. Awesome APW staffer Liz. Amazing feminist Liz.
Looking at this picture of Liz, I bet you’re saying to yourself, “Hot damn, Liz is beautiful.” And she is. But how much of your reaction to Liz’s beauty has to do with the fact that her face is framed by super long and wavy hair? If I were to be honest, I’d tell you that Liz’s hair plays into the way I react when I see a picture of her. Why? Because I’ve been socialized to think of long hair as feminine and beautiful. Hell. Other than a few ill-advised bobs in the late 80s (I have thick wavy hair, why did anyone let me do that to myself?), I’ve always had long hair. I insisted on growing out my hair around the time I learned to talk, and that was that. It’s easy for us to associate hair with women’s beauty, because our whole culture does it.
Tomorrow, Liz is going to find out how much value the world gives to a woman’s hair. Tomorrow Liz shaves her head.
Liz is shaving her head to raise money for St. Baldrick’s, which funds childhood cancer research. Kids with cancer have forever altered the course of some APW staffers lives, and there is a huge funding gap when it comes to cancer research. As a new mother who’s had health scares, this St. Baldrick’s page made my breath catch and tears well up in my eyes. The average age of diagnosis for adult cancer: sixty-seven. The average age of diagnosis for children’s cancer: six. Children who die of cancer loose an average of seventy-one years of their lives. But all types of childhood cancer combined receive only four percent of federal funding for cancer research.
So tomorrow, Liz shaves her head in an effort to raise $2,000 for cancer research, and then she’s donating her hair to make wigs for women with cancer. She said in her original blog post about it, “Cancer is such a big word, I don’t know that I ever allow myself to fully think about the dark enormity of it. But, not having control over the way you look and feel about yourself is something I can grasp. These small ones who are undergoing treatments have a whole range of giant concerns that I can’t fathom, and having no control over the way they look and feel about themselves is just the smallest tip of the iceberg.”
When I heard that Liz was doing this, my first reaction was, “Liz is such a bad ass. I could never do something like that.” Which is such an easy way out, right? But it turns out, Liz is terrified. Well, she’s terrified but thought that sounded too negative, so suggested maybe she was “excitriffied” or “overwhelmed.” Liz isn’t doing this because she’s braver than the rest of us, Liz is doing this because she’s scared. She told me yesterday, “Two years ago, when I first went to support a friend at a St. Baldrick’s event, I noticed that while there were dozens of people going up, one after the other, to shave heads and beards and mustaches, there were hardly any women. And I grew indignant! And then, I realized that it made sense, because I completely would not be willing to shave my head, charity or no. That’s… well, no. Don’t they hold walks for that sort of thing? I’m terrified of shaving my head. I’m afraid of how I’ll feel about myself, how people will look at me and treat me, and yeah, it all makes me feel sort of shallow and self-interested to admit that. But, I guess that’s sort of the point of helping one another. If I only gave what didn’t hurt, it wouldn’t be very giving at all, would it? Facing this one small kind of fear helps children who are also facing it, but in addition to a whole ton of other scarier, darker fears. When I think of it that way, it’s not very hard, after all.”
Because Liz is doing something scary and brave, the APW staff and APW readers close to Liz have stepped up to try to support her as best as they can. Maddie pointed out that Liz’s donation page reads like a who’s who of the APW community. I can count about fifteen donors who have written wedding graduate posts, and that’s just people whose first and last names I know.
So this is where you come in. Liz hasn’t made her $2,000 goal yet, and we’d really like her to surpass it. If you have something you can donate (and yes, $1, or $5, or $10 totally counts), please consider giving it here. But regardless of if you can donate finanically or not, please consider supporting Liz with some words of encouragement in the comments. I’d love if she felt the support of this community as she does this scary thing tomorrow.
Here is to you Liz! You are continually an inspiration to all of us at APW (not to mention being one of the funniest, gustiest, and kindest people we know).