Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bucket List Item: Donating My Hair

On Friday, I finally accomplished one of the things I have wanted to do most of my life.  I donated my hair. It is something I have wanted to do since I was 12. That year I met my friend Kristy.

Kristy may have saved my life. When I met her I was just about to cross a very busy intersection at the end of my neighborhood, to this day, I still have no idea why I was going to cross that street. There was nothing on that side but an old, abandoned hotel and a vacuum store. Neither of which interested me at the time. I think I wanted to test my boundaries. Anyway, my foot was on the street and I was waiting for a gap in the traffic, (There is no cross walk or traffic light, and to my recollection, the speed limit was 50 MPH) when I heard a voice shout from across the street to my right, “Do you know Judy Jung?”. I looked over, startled, and saw a girl standing there in front of a white house with a picket fence. She looked about my age. “Yeah,” I responded, bringing my foot back to the sidewalk. “She’s my physical therapist,” Kristy said. I had not met another person with a physical therapist in two years, so I started across the street. “Mine too,” I said. It turns out that Kristy was in remission for Leukemia. She saw a physical therapist to help mostly with her balance.

We were young, at an age where making friends is still as easy as breathing and with that one small conversation, our friendship was born. We spent the whole summer together going for walks, playing board games and playing with the dollhouse her father had built her. We talked lot. She was the only girl in the neighborhood that was my age and knew what it was like to be different. We decided that we would be true friends forever. Unfortunately, I did not live up to my end.

When school started, Kristy got made fun of a lot. Even though she had been done with chemo for a while, her hair had not grown back entirely. She had a large bald patch that she tried to cover, but the kids saw it, laughed and called her ‘cabbage patch.’ They also made fun of her clothes, which were more juvenile and neat than what was in style back then. At first I stuck up for her. I sat next to her on the bus and held her hand while kids slung insults at her back, but then, for some reason, my friends decided they didn’t like her, and that anyone that hung out with her was a dork, or a loser. You can guess where it went from there.

A few years later, Kristy’s cancer came back. Our homeroom teacher had us all write her letters and I poured my heart onto the page. I had always felt bad about pushing Kristy away. She had made new friends shortly after. Friends that, obviously, were not in my circle, and I had never really known how to apologize for something so mean. I figured her friends hated me, that she hated me and I knew I deserved it.

Kristy wrote back a few weeks later. Her note said simply “Don’t feel bad, I forgive you. T.F.F” (True Friends Forever) To this day I am still amazed and humbled by bother her capacity for forgiveness and her ability to love unconditionally. Kristy died a few years later. I had moved away to live with my dad the year before and we had never gotten a chance to reconnect in person. 

That was about 15 years ago now. For some reason I kept putting off donating my hair, even though it was long enough at least twice. I guess I thought it might be hard, or they would have to cut off more than I wanted. Most people I asked told me that I needed 12 inches of hair to donate and I just never had enough. I never looked into it, never bothered to take the extra time. I would think about it for a few days before a haircut and then chicken out.

After growing my hair out for the wedding, I almost cut it off immediately after. My hair is extremely thick and heavy; I was just over having it in my way all the time. But I decided that this time I would donate. I asked previous donors and did my own research. I decided to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. After my research, I found out that Locks of Love has looser criteria for hair than most places (hair can be dyed, permed or gray), but that is because Locks of Love actually sells unusable hair for a profit. I wasn’t bothered by this as much as some people might be because I was sure my hair would be usable for a wig. Then I found out that Locks of Love does not provide wigs to people for free but on a sliding scale. Alternatively, Beautiful Lengths has stricter criteria, but none of the hair they receive is sold for profit. Any hair that cannot be used is turned into mats that help with oil spills and wigs are handed out free of charge through the American Cancer Society.

I was finally confident enough in my decision to take the plunge I got my hair cut on Friday and I feel great. Of course, I took pictures so those of you who might be on the fence about donating can see how simple it is.

The before shot. Tom took this while we were out to dinner and you cant even see the ends of my hair

At the salon, your hair should be washed and dry before cutting. My stylist (who is also my Step-Mom) put my hair in several ponytails to give me a more even initial cut.   

And there goes the hair!

Yeah, that all came from my head. Even my Dad was shocked.

Here is what it looks like now. I LOVE it. It's so light and bouncy. What do you think.

Look at all that hair!

One shot of me smiling with the hair, because that's what people do
and the hair goes into a couple ziplock bags and is sent in a padded envelope to Beautiful Lengths


  1. I'm so relieved that you did research! So few people realize Locks of Loves' questionable practices and just assume that their hair goes straight to a child with cancer.

    As someone with extremely long hair that I love and would not cut, I get asked when I'm donating it, so this is an issue that I've thought a lot about.

    Your new cut looks adorable!

  2. In doing my research, I see that a lot of people with long hair get harassed about donating it. This strikes me as strange. No one walks up to people insisting they donate their clothes or their cars to people who need them. It is definitely a personal choice. For me, it was just too hard to manage at that length, I am not sure if I will ever grow it out that long again, so I was glad to donate while I could.