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August 22, 2015 3:51 AM   Subscribe

I had my head shaved for charity today. It was all good. Then some random young man decided to tell me what he thought of that decision. How best to frame this experience?

So, I had long hair all my life until about 9.30am today. I Braved the Shave and felt really good about what I'd done, until some late teens / early twenties person walked past me with his girlfriend in tow and said, not aggressively, "You look disgusting". I am no-one's idea of a raving beauty and I did understand that a lot of people would find this an unpleasant look, but I was flummoxed and hurt by this stranger's negative opinion. Mr MMDP wasn't there but was pretty much as angry as I've ever seen him when I told him - he said the person had no excuse for saying it and that maybe he'd grow out of being so spiteful given time and experience - but it sort of sucked the joy I was feeling out of the moment.

How should I frame it? How do I recapture the light hearted (and literally lightheaded) feelings I had just prior to being blindsided by Mr Spiteful? I'm not good at mentally self soothing - what do you do that really works in similar situations?
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence to Human Relations (78 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I would frame it as, "Yikes. I'm sorry that your life is so f*cking miserable and sad that you actually feel okay with saying horrible things to people. You must be in such pain that I can only feel compassion for how sick you are."

that, or:

"Christ, what an asshole. I am AWESOMESAUCE."
posted by kinetic at 4:03 AM on August 22, 2015 [69 favorites]

This poor guy is so poisoned by living in the patriarchy that he thinks all women exist solely for him to look at! He and his girlfriend must be very sad because they will never truly be able to have a relationship of equals. On the other hand, your husband sounds awesome and you sound awesome and you will have an awesome life together.
posted by chaiminda at 4:13 AM on August 22, 2015 [169 favorites]

What Chaiminda said.
posted by LyzzyBee at 4:15 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Fucking miserable and sad" "poisoned by living in the patriarchy" INDEED! When I get shit like this (for being fat, for my little boy hairdo, for whatever the hell), I reframe it as a caffeine for my ego. I CHOSE this. I LOVE this. When I scare or intimidate a sad, sick, poisoned person, it's proof I'm living my life right. So I say go you! Fuck him; if he approved of you, that would be the problem.
posted by mostlymartha at 4:19 AM on August 22, 2015 [44 favorites]

Also, rub your hands lustfully over your delicious head stubble every damn day. It feels amazing and will remind you that you're amazing.
posted by mostlymartha at 4:21 AM on August 22, 2015 [52 favorites]

Beauty is not found in hair. You ARE beautiful in this situation because of your generosity and courage. I have long hair too, and cutting it off for a good cause like this is extremely kind and brave, I am in awe of you!

The only disgusting person here is the rude man on the street. HE is the ugly, insecure one, inside and out. Take a second to feel a bit of pity for him (and his girlfriend) and then toss the whole incident aside, it is meaningless to you and not worth one more minute of your thoughts.
posted by fourpotatoes at 4:22 AM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

This young man meant to suck the joy out of you for defying your feminine gender norm. He didn't know or care why you had shaved your head. You were not a complex, ethical person in his eyes. You were a symbol of a changing world and he was going to knock you down a peg hard and make you hurt to make himself feel in control. It was like many of the other attacks that occur each day against people who defy norms of gender and sexuality in many ways. To feel better, you can remember that you are not only in solidarity with cancer patients (AND YOU ARE AWESOME FOR DOING THAT!) but also with everyone who is attacked for defying the order of things. Raise your fist up and feel great.
posted by flourpot at 4:24 AM on August 22, 2015 [128 favorites]

I don't look very feminine but I have boobs so I get comments like this on the street once in a while. My interlocutors, like yours, are invariably young, male, and-- to use the technical term-- shitheads. If there's one thing I know about young male shitheads, it's that they're wildly insecure and desperate to prove their manhood at all times. So my bald head must have really scared them! They were so thrown off by it that they tried to start a fight, but, aww, just got ignored instead. It makes me feel pretty powerful, actually, to ignore guys like that and keep walking with my head held high. Now I'm going to rub my fuzzy head just like mostlymartha recommended. It feels wonderful.
posted by thetortoise at 4:28 AM on August 22, 2015 [22 favorites]

first of all, good on you for doing an awesome thing!

second of all, the vast majority of people who commented on my bald head were very kind and positive, so hopefully you won't encounter any other asshats. when I did get insulted by a stranger, one of my friends told me they were just so small and miserable and they were jealous that they didn't have the guts or confidence to pull off such a daring look. it takes guts to go bald; it doesn't take much to spew unfounded hatred. you're in the better spot.

enjoy being carefree and hair-free! I miss it!
posted by gursky at 4:28 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here's a true story for you. I worked with a super-gorgeous woman who was clearly hired in part to make mostly-male clients happy to go to meetings with her. She wasn't quite as outright mean as your mr jerk, but she did give sideways looks in the elevator.

She was the victim of a home accident - she was cooking over a gas stove in pajamas when they went up - and she ended up horribly disfigured and it took months of pain and treatment for her even to walk. To its credit my workplace welcomed her back but found her a non-client-facing role.

It was pretty profound to watch her struggle to find her place in the world again. No boyfriend, no sales bonuses. She had been pretty smart but her default was to fall back on charm, and her new body was frail, scarred and twisted.

One time she was struggling with some software for the third time and my coworker sat down with her and she started crying and said a few incoherent things about "people like you guys" by which she meant, I think, geeky people. The upshot was she had realized she was one of us now, reliant on knowledge as power. (Although of course it's not that simple.)

She did ok, I think, in the end. But watching her struggle with her superpower deactivated, I have forever after been glad for the asymmetry of my face. I can choose to dress well, or to shave my head (go you!) or gasp, get old and not be trapped in a world where if I got a scar I would have to Change Everything.

(Her injuries were profound and chronic pain was a factor; I'm just talking about the one takeaway.)

P.S. I bet you look fine and that kids a jerk face.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:32 AM on August 22, 2015 [43 favorites]

You're beautiful inside and out but that man has to live with being a hateful asshole forever. What must it be like carrying that poison around? I'd pity him instead. Then I'd go out for brunch with Mr MMDP and forget about him entirely because brunch rocks and you're both awesome.
posted by Jubey at 4:34 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

He is a miserable fuckwad who already takes up more space than he deserves. Don't let him do so in your brain as well. Someone that bound up in the superficial probably hasn't done shit for anyone but himself, ever. You're a thousand times the person he is on your worst day, and the day when you contribute to charity is a hell of a lot better than that. You rock.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:43 AM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

This used to happen to me on the regular for being a pretty woman with a shaved head in the 1990's. It was almost always a clear case of gender role violation. Random dude says "you look horrible" and usually I would kind of shrug it off.

There were two incidents where I couldn't, that really shook me. And I suspect for the same reason it shook you. It was in neither case 'he got to me' but much more of: great, now my day has to be rescheduled so I can fit in an existential crisis about a world with such cruelty.

It means you're goodhearted (duh!) and you don't have to push yourself back to lightheartedness. It's just another feeling that nice people have, it's ok. There there. It'll pass.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 4:47 AM on August 22, 2015 [19 favorites]

The stranger is emotionally defective, as demonstrated by his action. You are better than him, as you don't go around passing unwarranted critiques of strangers. And - hurrah! - you aren't stuck with him in your life, as he isn't a relative, friend or neighbor.

Pity his emotional defectiveness, and move on.
posted by Wordshore at 4:47 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

A late-teenage boy? Dear MMDP, they are children. Still not sure of their bodies, marinating in testosterone, desperate to work out their status in life. This boy wanted to impress his girlfriend, saw that you looked different/ not a threat, and tried to make himself look big by randomly being aggressive to you. I wouldn't assume that he even thought you did look disgusting-- you probably looked fine to him, as well. It was just a dick-swinging move.

With that said, being subject to aggression is traumatizing no matter how random it is (you could expect to feel shaken up for a few days after a stray dog snarled at you and chased you, after all-- and that wouldn't be personal, either). So the usual post-minor-advice about getting lots of sun and exercise and quiet amusement applies. But please don't attribute any meaning to what he said, any more than you'd feel bad if a toddler called you a poopy-head.
posted by Bardolph at 4:59 AM on August 22, 2015 [14 favorites]

That was deliberate, unprovoked assholery, which can only come from - you guessed it - assholes. When someone acts like that towards me, I figure that the perpetrator is probably someone whose life is filled with nastiness and misery; how else could someone feel so spiteful and powerless that he feels compelled to lash out at strangers? And with behavior like that, you can safely draw the conclusion that most, if not all, of the nastiness in his life is his own doing.

If you so desire, you can extrapolate this into other situations he might encounter: he probably gets thrown out of stores and loses jobs and stubs his toes kicking expired parking meters on the regular. His girlfriend has probably already told him what a petty fuck he is for harassing a stranger, and she's going to leave him, just like every sane person his presence has ever cast a shadow over, and he will never, ever get over her and it is all his fault. Just like everything else that goes wrong in his life.

Also, baldness on ladies is awesome and beautiful and I have always admired it but never gotten the courage to shave my own head. I'm envious, but I am too shy to ever tell a bald lady that. So whenever you see a woman with hair who isn't talking to you, it just might be me quietly approving from a distance.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:02 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

You were not a complex, ethical person in his eyes.

i'm not so sure. my guess is that he finds complex, ethical people threatening for some reason.

(so i guess you can take comfort in the fact that he was scared. you big scary thing, you.)
posted by andrewcooke at 5:14 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Christ, what an asshole. I came in to say something about the opinion of jackasses not being worth a bucket of warm spit, but I've been eloquently beaten to the punch by all of the above.

As far as anecdote goes: I currently work with two bald people, one male one female. The guy originally had his head shaved because of the need to peel back his scalp for massive brain surgery; he's chosen to keep it shaved. The woman is in the middle of her third round of chemo, and shaved off the little bits that didn't fall out, just to even things up. Both of them have had family members shave in solidarity, and I think it's safe to say that they'd both agree that you're a beautiful person inside AND out, and that it'd be nice if a sinkhole opened up under that jerk and swallowed him up. And I wish I had your courage to do this.
posted by easily confused at 5:18 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

You do not look disgusting. But he sounds disgusting.
You can grow your hair back. Let's hope , for humanity's sake, that he can eventually grow a brain.

Just some words, that I hope will help make you feel better. You are awesome, rock on.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:28 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Feel it strongly when it comes up and then silently let it go. Repeat until it fades.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:34 AM on August 22, 2015 [7 favorites]

some late teens / early twenties person walked past me with his girlfriend in tow and said, not aggressively, "You look disgusting".

L'esprit de l'escalier: "Bless your little heart." Preferably delivered with the look of an indulgent mother toward her mouthy five year old.
posted by flabdablet at 5:36 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

I find that "go fuck yourself" works well for me when I encounter an awful terrible no good asshole on the street.

Im so sorry this happened! I think you are amazing. I would be replaying this over and over in my head, and that is okay! It will fade. Like a bruise. In the meantime, if you link to a photo we will all compliment you until your brain is full of only the good stuff.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 5:40 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

My mother died recently and Macmillan were just fantastic so whilst you have just contributed to helping someone else with cancer, he is just an imbecile and probably has a tiny dick to match his IQ.

I'd like to think that I'd have had the courage to silently wave my little finger at him but I'm a coward of the first order and anyway I'd not have heard his spiteful little dig (there are occasional benefits to being hard of hearing!).

You are lovely: ignore, ignore, ignore.
posted by humph at 6:04 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't even waste the mental energy required to make some kind of sense of it. Forget about it. If it comes to your mind, let it go. Instead dance around your house to something ridiculously upbeat feeling light and free and remind yourself that haters gonna hate.
posted by unannihilated at 6:05 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Very awesome that you participated in that event!

Jerkface said a hurtful thing, so it's OK to take a moment to acknowledge that you were hurt, and more importantly feel empathy for people — especially women — suffering from cancer who have to deal with that particular kind of insult as well, on top of dealing with CANCER ffs.

You could reframe further by allowing yourself a little anger at Jerkface, then channeling that anger somewhere productive. You could, for example, make an interesting front page post about the potent cultural symbolism of long female hair and/or examples of women who have challenged it. I'd be really interested to read that!

After that return to your regularly scheduled awesome self.
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 6:05 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry that was your first experience with a stranger commenting on your shaved head. I'm a woman who has been bald since April, and I assure you that you will be overwhelmed with all sorts of positive comments in the days ahead. I have never had strangers compliment me so much on my appearance since I shaved my head. I think pretty quickly you will build a treasure chest of cold hard evidence showing you that the problem here is that guy and his shitty attitude, not your head, and that soon you will be able to laugh at his idiocy.

And as someone whose baldness was not her choice - thank you.
posted by something something at 6:13 AM on August 22, 2015 [11 favorites]

Hey, I did the same thing a few years ago! Good for you! Enjoy the fuzzy head while it lasts (and stay away from bits of felt, lest you turn into a human colorform board).

Thing is, some people just suck. For every supportive person I encountered, I had at least one person who was polite but didn't get it, and at least one person who was terrible.

One of the terrible people was my grandma. Every time I talked to her for months afterward, she'd assume this concern troll voice and ask me about my hair. "I know you must look so ugly right now." "Are you still going to work or are you hiding until it grows back in?" "But doesn't everyone make fun of you??!?" "I don't know why you did this to me, you used to be such a beautiful girl." No joke. And that's my grandma, who loves me. The asshats on the street were much better, relatively speaking.

What you need to do is keep reminding yourself why you shaved your head and how awesome you look. Shaving my head was a really positive experience for me because I realized I'm still totally fucking adorable even when I'm bald--my hair doesn't matter. And it also really doesn't matter what anybody else thinks about how I look because they are obviously wrong.

Maybe treat yoself and buy a few things to accessorize your new, fuzzy head. Big, dangly earrings are fun. Chunky headbands are great when it starts growing out again. Enjoy it!
posted by phunniemee at 6:14 AM on August 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

Feel sorry for him trapped in his narrow, sad little, world view. He knows nothing, he is trapped thinking this is how men have to act, and had no idea that a true man/adult lifts people up to feel powerful and doesn't have to tear them down. You did something for you, don't let some little wet behind the ears wanker take it from you.
posted by wwax at 6:27 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

His words tell himself, not about you. You reflected something in him that he's scared of. Maybe on some level he was intrigued by your violation of gender norms, and then alarmed by his feelings. Maybe he wants to violate gender norms himself. He translated all of that into disgust, in order to reframe the situation into one where he could feel powerful.

(Or, he's an asshole).

Regardless, you don't exist for his entertainment. Pretty is not a price you owe the world. Fuck him.
posted by bunderful at 6:32 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

What an idiot.

There's the superficial external "beauty" that our society places so much value on, which seems to involve supermodels, unhealthy body shapes, thin and tall, hair, or whatever else that might involve. I don't think that actually has a lot to do with true beauty, which includes so much more than just those trite things.

Unfortunately, the non-superficial aspects of a person usually require some time to get to know and to see the beauty within. It's interesting that in what you experienced, it seems that probably wasn't the case. I imagine that, based on your description of the "joy of the moment", you were radiating that, and combined with the new look, that really does expose some of the beauty within. Likewise, he showed in a moment that he was a trite, superficial asshole who has less than half a brain.

Rectal-cranial inversion is unfortunately too common. "How do you manage to walk down the street with your head so far up your ass?" would have been a fine response.
posted by jgreco at 6:42 AM on August 22, 2015

I'm hoping that the girlfriend will think about it and maybe tell some friends what he said to a complete stranger, and they'll tell her to dump the sorry ass that he is.

You have way too much class than they do and you responded beautifully by offering no response.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:44 AM on August 22, 2015 [12 favorites]

Try telling yourself this until it sticks:

"I just did something to make other people, who have cancer, feel better.
He just said something to make someone else feel bad.

One of us is looking disgusting and it's not me."
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:06 AM on August 22, 2015 [28 favorites]

sorry, final comment, but inspired by Too-Ticky's post above: you could think of it as "taking a bullet" for someone who had their head shaved for a medical reason - you took that insult so someone it would have hurt more didn't have to (if we hope he ends up feeling stupid enough to not say it again).

(as someone with a shaved head, i'm kind of concerned at the implication that shaved heads are not attractive, but, well, whatever....)
posted by andrewcooke at 7:10 AM on August 22, 2015 [12 favorites]

Going bald is brave and I think it's badass that you did it. I cut my hair really short about a year after my wedding. A good friend and I were out drinking soon after and he made a joke like, nice anniversary present. People who feel the need to comment on others' appearances, especially those of people they don't know, are really quite pathetic while you are a rock star.
posted by kat518 at 7:13 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel - just remind yourself those feelings are about that asshole's comment, not about your hair.

The closest I've ever felt to 13 again was the summer I buzzed my hair to an inch short for an extended road/camping trip. On my way to the bathroom at a large campsite in Oregon I passed a 9 year old girl, and then behind me heard her urgently whisper "Moooom! It's the ugly girl!" Like you, I'd been feeling all light and free about my hair decisions, but the immediate hot shame and anger was so hard to shake for a bit. Ugh. Patriarchy.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:18 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

How does he know YOU don't have cancer? My God. Can you imagine saying that to someone going through chemo? Maybe his girlfriend will point that out to him and he'll feel terrible and change his ways, and since he said it to you and not to a cancer patient, you spared a cancer patient that ordeal. Anyway I think you are brave and beautiful. Truly beautiful. This is what beauty is and some day, maybe, that young man will be lucky to have eyes to see it.
posted by HotToddy at 7:32 AM on August 22, 2015 [27 favorites]

There is a time/place to act enlightened and a time/place to sneer back. In this case, the only possible reply is "And what are you, Brad Fuckin' Pitt??"
posted by Quisp Lover at 7:42 AM on August 22, 2015

I Braved the Shave and felt really good about what I'd done, until some late teens / early twenties person walked past me.

Hey, that sounds like fun. I've often thought it would be neat to join one of those charity head-shaving events, if I could convince my friends to pony up some donations. What made you decide to go for it? Were you trying to help someone you know, or was it a spur-of-the-moment, kindness-to-the-universe type of decision? Good on you for trying to do something great, and I bet the people who will be helped by it are better off for your choice.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:48 AM on August 22, 2015

I just don't know what to say to you all. How very, very kind. I have taken something from all of your comments, and was moved by your very personal stories and examples. I know he was a nasty, insignificant person but it was just so shocking. And oh yes, I am so glad it was aimed at me and not someone actually living with that shitty disease.

For anyone who wants to know what disgusting looks like (© Spiteful Youth), check my profile pic.

You are absolutely lovely, all of you.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 7:51 AM on August 22, 2015 [18 favorites]

"What makes you think you're such a prize?"
posted by brujita at 7:52 AM on August 22, 2015

Oh, yay! I was just about to ask for a picture. You look joyful.

It's called "Brave the Shave" because people who do it are brave - you're brave. Good for you!
posted by selfmedicating at 7:56 AM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

On preview Ghostinthemachine, it was really a combination of radio ads, wanting to do something for charity and mostly losing a couple of people along the way. So I did it for Ingrid, with the heart of gold and the most beautiful contralto singing voice you ever did hear, for Sian who was a tiny dot who rocked a bald head, and for the women of a certain ago who I don't know but see in the supermarket sometimes with the just grown out look.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 7:57 AM on August 22, 2015 [29 favorites]

Ha! It's better to "look disgusting" than to be disgusting. But I saw your pic, and of course you don't look disgusting! My immediate, honest impression is that you look very friendly.
posted by heyho at 7:58 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

when i shaved my head (for punk rock reasons, nothing near as noble as your reasons) i found in general women were very awesome about it - talking about wanting to shave their head or about when they did shave their heads or about how they wish they could be brave enough to do it. kids liked to touch it. young men (besides my fellow punk rockers - although even some of them) were by and large assholes about it - some older men too. the way i was treated differently by men when i have hair vs when i shaved it off was a really awesome consciousness raising time for my feminism.

feel the things your feeling through this - maybe journal it? good bad or indifferent, i think you'll find you learn a lot about yourself in how you react to others reacting to you.
posted by nadawi at 8:03 AM on August 22, 2015 [10 favorites]

Well, MMDP, I bet Ingrid, Sian, and the supermarket woman would have a smile as big as yours if they saw that picture. Good for you.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yeah, basically, he is a limited and sad person it is better to pity from a distance, like you would a rabid raccoon.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

also you look radiant and light and free! that is what mr. shithead was responding to - the fact that you look so happy while simultaneously not performing femininity/age in the way he thinks you should. he might have also been making an assumption about your sexuality. take those comments as a compliment - you look so happy that it broke his stupid little brain and he lashed out. yay!

also also - if you haven't yet, showers feel amazing with a freshly shaved head - sometimes i want to shave mine again just to feel that. and as a note of warning - sunburns on freshly shaved heads are awful, so wear sunscreen or a hat!
posted by nadawi at 8:10 AM on August 22, 2015 [13 favorites]

My immediate instinct would be to state firmly and brightly "You are incorrect, sir! Actually I look awesome!"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:12 AM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

Your hair will grow, if you want to let it, but that poor guy is stuck with that personality for life!
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 8:44 AM on August 22, 2015

I am a woman and have had a shaved head; I experienced similar things. I'm sorry you encountered this and I think your reasons for shaving your head are awesome.

I wasn't always able to keep this in mind, but here's what I came up with: Anger is an infectious disease and it spreads like a cough. The bearer was infected at some point and now is compelled to infect others. It helped me feel bad for them.

One other thing -- it's easier for our brain (sometimes) to focus in on our negative experiences and make a big deal of them. I try to remember the number of people I encountered during the day who had a neutral or positive reaction to me when stuff like this happens. I don't have to give in to my brain's story about one person negative reaction = oh no everything is bad.
posted by CMcG at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yep, compensating. I turned sixty this year and I am still sometimes haunted by the mean, thoughtless things I said or did (or did not say/do) as a young adult. I remember some older, wiser adults looking at me with sadness, not because I had hurt them, but because they could see what a unnecessarily difficult road I was creating for myself. You rock, Martha My Dear Prudence.
posted by BoscosMom at 9:01 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe think of it this way: women going through chemo (or who have other medical conditions resulting in baldness) get this kind of reaction from assholes. One of the great things you're doing by "braving the shave" is helping to normalize the fact that some women are bald sometimes! And maybe his mortified girlfriend will point out that you might have been sick, so by saying that to you, he won't say it to someone who's dealing with alopecia or chemo or something. You're awesome!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

Tina Fey tells the SNL story of when Jimmy Fallon was criticizing Amy Poehler:

“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers' room, waiting for the Wednesday night read-through to start. [...] Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can't remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and "unladylike." Jimmy Fallon [...] turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, "Stop that! It's not cute! I don't like it."

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. "I don't fucking care if you like it." Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.

With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn't there to be cute. She wasn't there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys' scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”

Note that years later, they're still pretty friendly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2015 [15 favorites]

I shaved my head for charity when I was a teenager. 16?
I also had a boys haircut as a kid. These two things, the latter especially, turned out to be quite formative for me, because it made me really, really aware of how we are policed on our appearance in public, particularly in extremely gendered ways.

Yes, people can just suck. It wasn't just teenagers making rude comments, it was grown women, talking loudly in earshot as if I wasn't there, "Is that a boy or a girl?" while I was wearing a girls school uniform, not because I think I was passing as a guy, but because they apparently felt the need to make sure I knew they *disapproved* of my gender presentation. It was men who made it clear that I was somehow personally disappointing them for not appearing more attractive, as if that was something they deserved and I was obligated to provide for them, like the guy you mentioned.

It is a cancer of the mind. Because terrible things like cancer, and attitudes of racism, sexism, and public shaming for victimless acts or expression exist in the world.

It just made me more determined to be on the side that is, well, fighting cancer. It made me more aware of micro-expressions of those attitudes, and whether they were things I want to give in to, or support in the world.
I'm pretty reactionary, public shaming pretty much cements in my mind that whatever the assholes are doing, I want to run the other way. I mean, you want to put some thought into it, mindlessly rebelling is just as constrictive, but being a visible example of things that the small minded hate, is an example of being the change you want to see in the world.

I have been publicly insulted for having a shaved head in the past, and I still get insulted for NOT shaving my legs or armpits. I consider that I am a strong adult human being, and I would prefer that I am being the visible, normalising presence, making it that tiny bit less likely that people to say such things to those younger, or more vulnerable than me.

You didn't just raise money for Cancer Research, you are standing in the same firing line that a woman who had just been diagnosed with cancer, and have shaved off her hair ahead of chemotherapy would face. Thank you for that.
I am a very empathetic person, and I get the impression you are too.
If it was me, I would be very glad that this horrible thing was said to *me*, and not a person also facing cancer.

I don't know you, but I am very proud of you because you are doing a hard thing, being in that social firing line. You, just by being visible, are increasing the acceptability of women who have chosen to, or had to (chemo), shave their heads.
If you feel like going a step further and challenging people who reveal such attitudes, that would be an even harder thing, but it easier for me when I think of the other people, the other women I am doing it for, so they don't experience such abuse in future.

You are a beautiful human being.

Now, that aside, you will be amazed at how cool/cold you get having no hair on your head! Until it grows back, you may want to gather an awesome collection of knitted hats, and it may fuel an addiction to cosy hats, or that may just be me. :)
posted by Elysum at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

I want to suggest a different approach than most people have offered here, but first a little background:

I used to run a lot. It was very common for me to have people drive by and shout things at me. The most common slur was, "Faggot!"
And it used to bother me a lot. I'd get very upset. Often, I'd engage in fantasies of what I should shout back, or--if the car was coming up to an intersection--I'd speed up in the hopes of catching up to that person and...well, I never managed to catch up to anyone, so I never had to worry about what I mgiht do.
Then I thought about it. The way l was reacting was exactly what that person wanted. It took a lot if discipline, but I realized that the best way to handle these types of comments was just to keep running.

Now, you have done something very selfless that has altered your appearance. It might cause people to react in a way that is unpleasant. I would bet money that, when it comes down to it, you don't really care what other people think of your decision.
So the best thing to say is nothing. A better thing to say is, "You're right." Trying to return the feelings you felt will not make you feel better. Showing that the comment did not provoke the reaction desired sounds like a better match for your values.
You are not disgusting, and I think you know it.
posted by Mr. Fig at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

The inner poverty of your critic is manifest. You have to survive a momentary expression of his poverty, but he, well he is likely a timeless prisoner of it. Either that or one day he matures to the point of feeling terrible regret at his history of cruelty. Either way, his future holds much suffering. You on the other hand are a person who makes real sacrifice for the benefit of others. You get to live knowing that.

Once you get over the initial shock, you will notice he is worthy of your pity.
You on the other hand are worthy of adulation.
posted by jcworth at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2015

You have a beautiful soul.

This young man is proof that there is still a lot more work to be done in the world. Don't let the bastards grind you down. They are everywhere.

You look just fine in your picture.
posted by Michele in California at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Chiming in to say that I have the opposite reaction of that douchecanoe when I see your picture. If I saw you walking down the street I would have thought, dag, what a cool person. I want to be their friend.
posted by batbat at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2015 [7 favorites]

Some fantastic responses here. I'd like to add one I've witnessed myself during a charity run where a friend was running. She got a nasty guy hollering after her, my friend turned around and shouted back:

"I am doing this for charity. What is your excuse?"

We all laughed, mood was restored and guy was quickly forgotten.
posted by kariebookish at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

I will add that I shaved my head four times for health reasons. It took at least a month to stop getting doubletakes in the ladies room and people sometimes challenging me for being in the "wrong" restroom.

In most cases, I was kind and diplomatic about the misunderstanding. I always figured I was taking a stand for a whole lot of others who are trans or gay or had cancer or whatever. I felt being kind was the ambassadorial thing to do. I only bristled in cases where I felt people were guilty of overstepping their bounds and not mere misunderstanding.

I had a lot of nice conversations with people and a few not nice conversations. Most people were apologetic and obviously willing to have their mind expanded by running into a bald woman and chatting with her. I figure some of them will be slower to jump to conclusions in the future and it will make life slightly less of a hassle for someone else someday, someone whose life involves an excess of hassle.

So, you possibly have that to look forward to for a few weeks. :-)
posted by Michele in California at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think "Fuck off" is a good response! You look great! Totally get some outrageous earrings!!

Also, this kind of dude is going to say SOMETHING mean. Like, he can't help it. I mean, he may say everyone looks disgusting regardless of what their hair looks like.

That said, my husband has had similar experiences shown above. When he used to bike a lot in our (liberal, college) town, he got hoots and "faggot" yelled at him too. So, we kinda took the power away from it and joked about it. Like "Oh, you look so gay, ya know, riding a bike like a human being." (like that's a bad thing anyway?? It's not) and would just giggle at the stupidity of the people who yell crap like that. Being able to laugh at something really takes away their power. :)
posted by Crystalinne at 10:53 AM on August 22, 2015

BTW, always remember: Mick Jagger's really ugly. "Ugly" does not by any means "unsexy". It's not a limitation in any aspect of life...unless you choose to make it one.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:56 AM on August 22, 2015

I'm very sorry this happened to you--it must have felt so hurtful. Your profile pic looks happy and friendly! And I admire you for being brave, because it is brave to shave your head, especially as a woman (as you know from your experience today).

I totally agree with everyone saying that the young man has been marinating in hateful, patriarchal brine for a long time and is probably quite immature as well. Hopefully he will grow out of it or be educated out of it before he inflicts himself on many other people.

I wanted to add another possible way to reframe this experience: you mentioned he said this in front of his girlfriend. There are occasional AskMes from young women who say things like, "I have a great boyfriend but lately I've noticed he has these attitudes that make me feel uncomfortable [further detail about things the sexist, cruel things boyfriend has said or done to other women]." Then a whole bunch of us come in and tell her what she already knows, or she wouldn't have asked the question: that her boyfriend is a jerk with toxic ideas about women and she should dump him.

Maybe this experience today will plant a seed of discomfort about her relationship with him, or confirm the nagging doubts she was already feeling. Maybe it will be the dealbreaker for her, and she will break up with him and find someone who is a kind, decent human being.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:01 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, Boy (makes you) Wonder was with his GF? Esprit d'escalier, I know, but quietly and solicitously to her: “I am so sorry that you're here with Stupid.”
posted by scruss at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had my head shaved for a while, and honestly, having stuff like that happen was the most valuable thing to me about the experience.

(At times it sucked! I'm sorry this happened -- that guy sucks and you're great and he's wrong and who cares what some chump thinks anyway. He has a sad and lonely life.)

But -- shaving my head created a powerful set of experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I'd always been a pretty average looking white lady, deliberately camouflaged, in places that were mostly (at least superficially) friendly to average white ladies. This was a glimpse into a world that had been hidden to me before, and it was uncomfortable and revealing and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Some people loved the haircut (and I loved it - so easy! so fun to rub! so cool!)... but also, people looked at me like something must be terribly wrong, and some people thought it was a license to get in my face in a way I had never experienced, including threats. It was a tiny taste of what being an outcast/outgroup person is like; it's a start on walking in the shoes of the other people out there who are of the "wrong" race or body or whatever. You're traveling to a foreign country a bit by doing this, with the pro's and con's that entails. It's a good, life-expanding, thing to do.

Also, seriously, as long as you're reasonably safe: fuck that guy and people like him. Show them your fangs.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 AM on August 22, 2015 [16 favorites]

And if fangs doesn't work for you -- for all he knows, you're a Buddhist nun, or a famous punk rocker now incognito walking down the street. If you need to, when somebody gets in your face, inhabit one of those other identities to get you through it. (Kid, you probably have all my records -- if you knew who you're talking to, you would die of embarrassment, so I'll spare you.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:55 AM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

How should I frame it? How do I recapture the light hearted (and literally lightheaded) feelings I had just prior to being blindsided by Mr Spiteful? I'm not good at mentally self soothing - what do you do that really works in similar situations?

People have given you good advice and I clicked through to look at your photo and oh that smile! Good on you. I spend a lot of time when I'm ruminating over bad news telling myself the parable of the monks and the lady and the river. That the time that jerk took to tell you something shitty was like a few seconds and then (I bet) it left his mind and he just got to go oafing off into the sunset, but he left you with something that is sticking with you and festering.

So part of it (after the positive selftalk that people have been giving you great advice about) is not letting bad people colonize your mind. That time you spend continuing to think about this is time that you are spending with this bad person in your head. And that a good way to reframe and fight back (since you know it isn't true, it's not like a good friend maybe telling you some honest truths you needed to hear) is to consciously stop thinking about it. It's hard, I am not going to lie. But distractions and maybe even some chitchat with your hubs ("I am going to bitch about this for five minutes and then not talk about it again today." "OK") might help the pain ebb because you'll fill your mind with more positive things. Again, this sort of mindfulness isn't easy or, for most people, natural, but it's a skill you can learn and get better at. And it helps ease pains like this pain.
posted by jessamyn at 11:59 AM on August 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

When my wife was diagnosed she preemptively had all of her hair removed and then went shopping for a hat. She came home delighted to have found some inexpensive caps in a variety of colors and she rocked the look. Everywhere she went she ardently, forcefully reminded people that it was joyous just to be alive. Sorry, anniversary is coming up and I'm getting weepy.

Thank you for raising awareness (and money!). Fuck cancer. And fuck small minded people.
posted by cleroy at 12:28 PM on August 22, 2015 [17 favorites]

Now may be a good time to play Taylor Swift's super bubblegummy little song, Shake It Off. You are lovely. Just lovely. F*** that kid.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:19 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've always wanted to use the line "A good thing YOU don't have to get by on charm, hey?" in response to this kind of outrageous remark, but fortunately for me, these kind of situations don't arise all that often, and probably I'd be too slow-witted to reply fast enough anyhow.

Like HotToddy above, I was horrified to think that the dirtbag in question could easily have done this to a woman who was actually in treatment for cancer. From the other side of the world I am boiling over in outrage at this thought!

When my mother died*, she had short fuzzy hair that had only just started to grow back after her last, failed round of chemo. She dyed it purple, in defiance of the white walls and institutional sameness she knew she was heading back into. She was fiercely intelligent, deeply compassionate, irreverently funny and kind, and she raised 2 amazing young women (and one wastrel who spends too much time on Metafilter). Dirtbag stranger could never have seen any of those amazing qualities in her, or in you, which is a great tragedy for him, if you view it from that perspective.

*She would have been 64 yesterday (or today, depending on your time zone) if she had lived.
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:27 PM on August 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

Oh hello, you fabulous person. I did the shave a couple of times when I was at a high enough body weight to enter Biggest Loser, and in the midst of (as usual etc boring sometimes crippling) social anxiety. And I also got the fabulous lazy eye thing going on which some people claim is something you should warn people about on dating sites, so they don't have to be disgusted with meeting you, the poor little things. And it cuts, doesn't it, when people not only decide that your sweet face is unattractive, but the true and human you behind it is so worthless that they can tell you so.

If I could, I'd make every kind person who is bullied and shamed by an idiot feel beauty and calm whenever that happened, and I'd make every dickhead arsehole douchebag idiot shithead feel the shame and pain they so randomly dish out. But I can't.

Here's the thing. You did this thing. You did this appearance change thing that some people find impossible to even contemplate. You're brave. You're decent. You're kind. You're empathetic. I'd much rather have you living next door to me than said shithead. You would never do such a thing. You get to go through life making people feel better, not worse.

Also, it doesn't and shouldn't matter, but gosh your face is so engaging and welcoming and warm. I find it hard to tell late teens/twenty-something people's faces apart, but I would see your face in a crowd, and not knowing you, swap a smile, because shit - your head looks so good like that and you're fucking awesome for not being a cookie cut-out.

And last, just wait till it grows a tiny bit and your hair responds to the faintest breeze - I felt naked in a very good way. Like, not illegally exposed but swimming nude in a dam in the moonlight naked.
posted by b33j at 5:46 PM on August 22, 2015 [10 favorites]

When people say irrational, unhinged, hostile things (9/11 was an inside job, Barack Obama is a Muslin, Hurricane Katrina was caused by gay people), they're almost always factually incorrect.

This is one of those times.

Shaving your head is baller.
posted by General Malaise at 5:50 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

quietly and solicitously to her: “I am so sorry that you're here with Stupid.”

That. If you're in the mood for retaliation, she's the pressure point. He's doing it to impress her - make that fail. Ideally say something she'll be so upset about he will still be hearing about it days later and wishing he had just skipped the whole thing.

Then again, why bother? It's just some idiot, and you're awesome (and look awesome). To use a bit of a dated analogy, Michael Jordan doesn't care if the blowhard jackass on the school playground thinks he's playing basketball wrong.
posted by ctmf at 5:52 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

HOLY FUCK MMDP, you look so awesome!
posted by kinetic at 4:34 AM on August 23, 2015

Small follow-up for anyone still reading this (and so very many thanks again for all the great advice):

I was so inspired by what you all said that today I took us off to the busiest cafe in a busy town nearby, wearing my brightest flowery top and a pair of dangly earrings. And no hat. We had a drink and we chatted and I was a bit uptight but it was all good. I felt awkward but thought about what you'd all said about being a brave person and tried to live up to that.

And then I saw a woman come slowly past me using a walking stick and with the grown out hair thing going on and no, we didn't catch each other's eye, but I hoped maybe she took some tiny comfort from not having the shortest hair in the room anymore. I could do that for her solely thanks to the loving kindness of a bunch of internet strangers who inspired me to go for a cup of tea with Mr MMDP.

You did that, AskMeFi.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2015 [30 favorites]

I know he was a nasty, insignificant person but it was just so shocking.

It always, always is a shock, meeting a prick like that. For me, most of the shock comes from the sudden reminder that pointless clichéd pricks like that exist.

I usually find myself needing to spend several days after an encounter like that mulling over the "why the fuck would anybody bother living their life that way?" question and finding that it has no satisfactory answer.
posted by flabdablet at 10:53 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

You did that, AskMeFi.
Ah, no... we didn't, dear Martha. That was you.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:16 PM on August 23, 2015 [14 favorites]

Write down all the things you can think of, really brainstorm, your feelings about this.

He's a jerk
He is trying to prove he is manly by degrading a stranger who doesn't look the way he wants women to look.
He was raised by a misogynistic father who regularly degraded his mother.
He was beaten daily by his parents since the age of 1 and has lost compassion toward others.
He just lost his mother to cancer and the pain he endured through that loss is manifesting as anger at the world.
He was raised by loving parents but chooses to be hateful because it provides a rush.
He watches a lot of internet porn and those women don't have shaved heads.
He was told by his mother/father earlier in the day that he is disgusting when he told them he thinks he is gay."

and on and on and on.

There are soooo many reasons people are mean and awful. Writing out your thoughts rather than just thinking this over and over may help you understand that this isn't about you, this is about a broken person who lashed out at you.
posted by waving at 11:52 AM on August 25, 2015

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