I was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, at the age of 2 and just celebrated my 30th birthday this past August. As I reflect on the last 30 years of my life and get ready to enter the official start of cuffing season, I wanted to share ten things I’ve learned while dating with hair loss.
10 Things I’ve Learned About Dating with Alopecia
1. Alopecia is like a metal detector for finding the best people
Instead of fearing it’ll be a red flag or a dealbreaker in the dating world, use what makes you different as your superpower for sniffing out quality humans. My hair loss experience has equipped me with compassion, patience and empathy I otherwise wouldn’t have learned or leaned into as deeply, and it’s helped me find top-tier friends (and lovers!) who are more interested in celebrating me than dismissing me for being different.
2. Don’t stick with the first person who gives you attention out of fear of not attracting someone who’s actually right for you
I’ve stayed in situationships well past their expiration date and searched for sparks where there simply weren’t any so I wouldn’t have to get back out there and start acquainting gents with my alopecia. Doing this has caused me to lead good guys on—or worse, give way too much of my time and energy to the not so good ones. Bottom line: You deserve someone who is just as excited about dating you as you are about them.
3. Know when to be patient with someone
Many people out there still haven’t heard of alopecia yet. Don’t write them off too quickly if they ask questions like, “What’s that?” or “Can you tell me more?” Do write things off if they a) are a butthead about it, b) treat your bartender, server, etc. poorly or c) genuinely enjoyed the Space Jam sequel.
4. Become your own press rep
Think carefully about your alopecia narrative and the kind of support you want and need from a potential partner. Are you obsessed with the wig you just bought and can’t wait to pick out new ones with your person? Are you struggling to find a treatment that works for you and hoping for someone to just listen? When you tell them about your alopecia is also a big question that gets to be answered by you. Whether it’s included in your Tinder bio or it’s part of a discussion before clothes come off, you get to decide when you’re ready to talk about your hair loss story.
5. Figure out how you want to present your best self
Obsessed with your wig or favorite hat? Wear it! Rocking whatever you’ve got? I’m right there with you. Hair loss fluctuates, so it’s up to you to create a look you love. In one of my support group meetings, a wise woman who started losing her hair later in life said, “I don’t want to look like a model. I just want to look like me!” You know what lip color makes your face come alive or which pair of ankle booties put that extra spring in your step. Take the time to figure out what you can control externally that makes you feel your best on the inside. Confidence makes us move through the world differently and is, undoubtedly, the best accessory to bring to any date.
6. Got ghosted? Don’t blame yourself or your hair loss
It’s so easy to berate ourselves when things end abruptly. I’ve certainly done it after seemingly perfect nights together suddenly amount to nothing but me scrolling through old texts as I ride the subway. The first time I was ghosted by someone, I felt devastated, retracing the steps of the relationship repeatedly in my head. During this time, my best friend asked me a question that really put things into perspective: “Would you really want to build something with someone who can’t communicate well this early on?” Don’t obsess over trying to figure out what you think you might have done wrong. If anyone is in the wrong, it’s the person who ghosted.
7. Inviting a Date to a Support Group Can Help Move Things Along
As a support group leader, I love it when partners attend sessions to learn more about the condition or how to best be there for them. I’ve had a couple that started off casually dating attend the groups together when one of them started losing their hair and they gradually became more serious. I’ve had a guy with a gorgeous head of hair attend my meeting on behalf of his girlfriend, who was really struggling with her recent diagnosis and wasn’t yet ready to attend meetings herself. (Where is the Netflix rom-com about them?)
8. Don’t let fear of rejection cause you to reject yourself from potentially great opportunities
So many people I speak with completely remove themselves from the dating game when they become diagnosed with alopecia. But I’ve found that sometimes people come into your life to delightfully surprise you. I’ve had a chatty bestie turn into my first love, a totally platonic first date transform into a super sexy second one and a casual partner—something I steadfastly claimed I’d wanted—become the best guy I’ve ever dated (so far!). Keep believing in the possibility of delightful surprises.
9. If someone’s reaction to your alopecia is bad, that says a hell of a lot more about them than it does about you
I’m thrilled I don’t have to plan overnights with the schmuck who asked me out on the subway only to abruptly rescind the offer upon learning about my alopecia. I can only imagine what it would be like trying to lean on someone like that during a bad week. I don’t know about y’all, but I plan to spend my time with humans who make the best of things. I’ve dated those types of people too, and they’re wonderful.
10. Vulnerability begets vulnerability
When you’re ready to talk about it, alopecia can be an invitation for a potential partner to get vulnerable with you, too. Everyone has that thing or side of them they hold off on showing their love interest out of fear, but sharing these things can become a way to strengthen your connection much more than hiding away.