Why I Was Shocked Someone Fell In Love With Me

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
By Lindsey Sullivan

Last fall, I was on my first date after ending a long, on-again, off-again relationship. It was actually going really well: The conversation flowed easily. He was totally down to leave the bar and go grab ice cream at my favorite spot before it closed. And the fact that he was super-cute and played guitar definitely didn’t hurt. Later that night, we were dancing and he decided it would be a great idea to wrap his arms around me from behind and sway to the music with his head on top of mine. Part of me was totally stoked: This guy is into me! The other part was terrified he’d notice it: the flaw that I felt vanquished all of my bawdy jokes, all the bright-eyed talk about my love of writing, and even my understanding of his busy schedule.

There are so many reasons dating can bring us anxiety. Beating ourselves up for the way we look should not be one of them.

Related: 3 Sure Fire Ways To Up Your Confidence

I have alopecia areata. This is a fancy way of saying that I rock no eyebrows and have a bald patch on my head. How To Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis speaks up about this condition from time to time, but it tends to fade into the cultural background, especially because it is viewed as a purely cosmetic issue. However, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, over 6.6 million people in the United States will develop alopecia areata at some point in their lives. While alopecia areata does not affect one’s physical health (it actually means the autoimmune system is working overtime), the emotional results from hair loss can be devastating.

The disease is also highly unpredictable. Jerry Shapiro, MD has been specializing in hair disorders for the past 25 years. While he recommends treatment in the form of scalp creams and injections (which can be astoundingly pricey and/or painful), there is currently no explanation or cure for the condition.

My mother discovered bald patches on my head when I was two. I wore hats all through elementary and middle school and was subjected to some pretty brutal teasing as a child. The disease has crippling psychological effects, especially for children and those who are newly diagnosed.

In high school, I had enough hair to opt for a super-sexy combover look, where I would shift sections of hair into specific areas, shackling them into place with bright butterfly clips to cover the spot (not all at once, gentlemen). I felt ugly on the regular, and as I crept closer to my senior year, never having had a first boyfriend, date, or kiss definitely didn’t make me feel like Angelina Jolie.

At the end of my junior year, a close friend of mine told me that I shouldn’t bother with the clips. She was one of the privileged few whom I would allow to see me with my hair totally down when we were in the comfort of my own home. And when she did, she said, “Your hair looks so much better down.” Unfortunately, this friend passed away before our senior year, and only then did I decide to heed her words. I spent the summer not covering up when I was with my friends, and the first day of senior year, I was only a smidge nervous when I let my bald patch sit proudly atop my head in plain view.

In not obsessing over whether my spot was visible, I let myself have more fun. I became far more confident in myself. And it was because of this — not the fact that I looked better with my hair down, but that I felt more confident — that I was able to fall in love with my best friend at the time.

Related: 12 Science-Approved Tips To Make Yourself Happier

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
He didn’t make falling in love with him difficult; we never ran out of things to talk about, he always gave the best advice, and he could cook. What shocked me was that he fell in love with me: I had a bald spot, my kissing experience was nonexistent, and I once managed to ruin a microwave pizza.

Our relationship ultimately did not work out, but it certainly didn’t end because I have alopecia. The last date I went on did not get cut off at 9:30 p.m. because I don’t have eyebrow hair. He and I simply weren’t looking for the same thing.

I am by no means a femme fatale, and my dating advice goes like a soccer mom’s: Meet in a public place. Always bring a sweater. On any given romantic encounter with a male, I will likely order a grilled cheese from the kids' menu, reference Billy Madison at multiple points in the evening, and practically cry over how much I love Josh Groban at least once. I don’t know much about love. But I do know the right person will find those things endearing, because someone great already did.

Everyone has “things” that they don't like about themselves, and these are too often physical attributes that a) cannot be controlled and b) simply will not matter to the right person. That “thing” prevents you from looking forward to the wonderful things; you either analyze the past or dread the future.

The worst part of losing my first love was losing the friendship that went along with it; we had started off as friends. The idea of meeting a new guy for the very first time on an actual date can be terrifying, especially with my condition. But the only way to look is forward, and I look forward to falling in love again (and again and again, if Andrew Garfield and Hoodie Allen decide to return my phone calls). There are so many reasons dating can bring us anxiety. Beating ourselves up for the way we look should not be one of them. There is simply too much to look forward to.

So tell your morning-commute crush you’ve read that book, too (if you actually have). Leave your digits and a smiley face on the napkin for your server to find when she goes to grab her tip. Ask that super-friendly acquaintance you keep bumping into if he wants to grab coffee. The worst someone can say is, “No thank you.” If the response is worse than that, do you really want to hang out with that person anyway?

Next: Good News About Breakups: Our Brains Are Wired To Get Over Them

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