A 23-year-old model depends on her hair for her career, but her boyfriend is insisting she shave her head to stand in solidarity with his sister, who has cancer. His whole family has shaved their heads in support, and is upset that OP refused, because it would ruin her career. Is she wrong? Is her boyfriend's family wrong? Should she be expected to throw away her career?
bfbaldthrow shared her story with Reddit, hoping to get some guidance.
Hi Relationships, I'll try to keep this short and blunt. Please don't judge before you've read the entire thing, I promise I'm not as awful as I sound in the title.
I've been with Matthew for 3 years now, and we have a perfect relationship. I know everyone says that, but it really is true. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I've only met his family a few times because they live pretty far away and my boyfriend had a huge falling out with his father a couple of years ago. They've since patched things up, but it's still not the same as it was. Matthew is not particularly close to his sister because she's 12 years younger than him and he doesn't see her that often. Of course he still loves and adores her, but they're not a very close family. Jessica has cancer and as a result has lost all of her hair. Matthew was devastated, obviously, and has been going to visit her more often. I have only seen her a few times since, because of work commitments. I have been down twice alone (without Matthew) to visit her in hospital. She's a lovely young girl and I'm devastated for her and their family.
Jessica is home at the moment and Matthew's mum called last Friday and asked if we could go over there. Upon arrival Matthew's mum whipped out a pair of scissors and shavers and said that the whole family was shaving their heads for Jessica. My job is modeling. I have very thick, natural auburn hair that reaches my waist. It's one of the reasons that I'm fairly successful. It's one of the reasons I can afford to pay the bills. I couldn't model without my hair. So I respectfully and politely declined, telling them that it would be detrimental to my career. I don't have two jobs, I don't have a back-up, this is my job. It's my money maker. If I couldn't model, I don't know what I would do.
Matthew immediately got angry, insisting that this is more important, and while I agree that sentimentally and emotionally this is far more important, I cannot afford to lose my hair. I have to think logically about this otherwise I won't have a roof over my head. Matthew's mum was very upset, and proceeded to tell Jessica that I wouldn't shave my hair because I am vain. I apologised to Jessica and explained my reasoning, and I went home. I have barely spoken to Matthew since it happened as he says he 'needs space to consider if he wants to be in this relationship.' I told him that I would do anything other than shave my head. I'll do a charity run, I'll raise tons of money, whatever I can possibly do, instead of shaving my head, but he won't listen. All he says is 'how can you put your looks and vanity over my cancer ridden sister'.
Did I do the wrong thing?
tl;dr my career is modelling and part of my success is due to my hair. My boyfriends younger sister has cancer so the family shaved their heads in support of her. I declined, and now everyone hates me.
Edit: Matthew told me that Jessica is very upset and has told all of their family repeatedly that she hates me for having long hair and refusing to shave it for her. She's only 13 years old though, I have a feeling that the family are perhaps poisoning her view and of course she's going to be having a difficult time as it is. I can't hold any grudges against a young girl being in such an awful situation.
Initial thought - the whole thing is ridiculous.
...What is wrong with these people?
All he says is 'how can you put your looks and vanity over my cancer ridden sister'
No. You are putting your career first. Moreover, how dare he use his kid sisters trauma as a way to guilt trip you. You sound incredibly supportive of this little girl already- not everyone would go see her in the hospital without their SO.
The boyfriend should respect her decision - it's her hair.
Even if she wasn't a model, it doesn't matter. Asking someone to participate in something and having them politely decline is a perfectly healthy relationship. She shouldn't be forced to do something charitable she doesn't want to do. Asking for charity in the first place is gauche. These sound like very controlling people if they are mad that she won't participate in something, especially something that has to do with one's body.
The brother is understandably freaked out over the cancer.
This dude's 13 year old sister has cancer, maybe replace selfish and manipulative with his head is not in a logical place right now. You are acting like the guy is going to gain something out of this, he isn't. He probably feels helpless because his sister has a horrible illness and the only thing his family can do is try to make her more comfortable. Personally I think it would be very noble for OP to shave her head, but not something to end a relationship over if she doesn't want to. No one is being evil here, a family is having a hard time dealing with a tough situation.
Maybe OP can set up a photo shoot for the sister and the family instead.
Oooh I'm envisioning OP using modeling connections to get a photographer and make up artist to do a family portrait (JUST FAMILY), or glamour shots for the sister.
OP shaving her head isn't going to help get rid of the cancer.
Yeah and you're not even putting your career "first," because Jessica's cancer and your hair/career are not correlated.
Your hair does not impact Jessica's cancer. Shaving your head isn't going to help anyone even if it would appease your boyfriend's pushy, insane family. Maybe it would be a nice gesture, but there are plenty of other gestures; why should you be pressured to perform the one that will have a detrimental effect on you (and no material effect on Jessica)?
And forcing her to shave her head negates the "gesture" aspect to it.
This. Also it's not so much of a "nice gesture" anymore when it's not her choice.
The family shouldn't treat OP this way after three years of a "perfect relationship."
F*ck this family.
You thought you had a perfect relationship, but think of it as taking three years to finally see a side of him he kept hidden.
This is ridiculous! You're not even part of the family and they expect you to shave your head on a whim?! That's bullshit! I'm pissed for you!
The audacity to even ask you and be angry at you is appalling.
he 'needs space to consider if he wants to be in this relationship.'
I think you have more grounds to reevaluate this relationship than he does. Think of his irrational and arbitrary decision making when it comes to kids down the line.
The silver lining: this situation may have given you a lot more insight on how he and his family reacts when facing a disaster. As you can see, they are irrational and instead of being mature and reasonable -- this will not be the last of it.
You did nothing wrong.
How about getting Jessica fitted for a wig?
If I was in your position, what I would do is find a really nice, long wig for the sister. Or even several in different colors and bring them to the sister and offer to style them however she wants (if possible). There's several online fairly cheap. I would also tell your "boyfriend" flat out, "Unless you intend to pay all my bills until my hair grows all the way back in, and hopefully the modeling agency would still even want me then, I cannot shave my head."
Shaving shouldn't be the only option - and acting like it is is unfair.
Agreed. OP offered other solutions as well, but they're obsessed with forcing her to shave her head for some reason.
Your body, your choice - there are plenty of other ways to be supportive.
I think something that needs to be said here is that even if your job didn't depend on your hair - is that it's still your hair and it's completely understandable that you don't want to shave it, for any reason. Yeah, shaving your head is a nice gesture, but there are plenty of other ways to be supportive without making a massive change to your personal appearance that will take years and years to reverse, as your hair is so long. It's not vain to be happy with the way you look and not to want to change it... Especially when the reason for changing it is "emotional support", which can be achieved in many other ways.
The Original Poster Wanted To Give Us Some Context
Edit: gosh I hate threads with a ton of updates when there's no real update but I feel the need to defend Matthew's family a little. They're not crazy people. They've always been absolutely lovely and kind and welcoming towards me. They were a normal, happy family before this happened. Their youngest member of the family, the innocent, sweet, vulnerable girl is dying and there's nothing they can do about it other than try to make her happy. Of course their view is clouded, of course they're not being rational. Matthew's mum has quit her job to spend more time with Jessica, they've spent every penny they have on gifts for her. I don't think they're crazy or bad people.
I think something that needs to be said here is that even if your job didn't depend on your hair - is that it's still your hair and it's completely understandable that you don't want to shave it, for any reason.
Exactly. This is a girl with gorgeous, waist-length red hair that took her YEARS to grow. Even if OP wasn't a model, I'm pretty sure her hair would still be something she's attached to, and a source of feeling feminine.
Her body, her hair, her decision. She doesn't even have to give them any explanations beyond "I'm not comfortable doing that -- is there any other way I can help?"
So I just created this account to say this.
I was a model. I had long red hair to my waist and it paid the bills, and it paid them really well. There is no way in hell I would have shaved my head on a whim, and even less chance I'd do it because my boyfriend's sister got cancer so his family made me.
Let's pretend you shaved your head. Which one of them would be footing the bills for the next 2-3 years until you got your look back? Or the fact that you're worth less at 25 as a model so you'll never make that money back? Or deal with you being dropped by your agency (assuming you have one) because you went and did that without their ok? This isn't vanity, this is basic survival.
And then we'll get on to the week or month after, after the euphoria and 'we're in this together' has died down and suddenly your boyfriend may not find you as sexy because he went for a longhaired redhead rather than a shaved headed woman (I'm not saying it's inevitable, but it's a definite possibility).
So you've shaved your head, the girl's cancer isn't impacted in any way. A month later you're broke and your boyfriend's being a bit weird with you, you're losing contact with your friends in the industry because you get less bookings and spend less time with them and more time desperately trying to find another job.
F--- all that.
Even without all of those things, you have bodily autonomy. It's your body. You choose if you grow/shave/dye/whatever your hair. Trying to force you into it is a serious display of ownership or entitlement.
I'm so pissed off for you. The fact that he even tries to frame it as vanity rather than a completely unreasonable request shows how little he values your 1) bodily autonomy, 2) career, 3) sense of self. Maybe it is time for you to figure out if you want to be with him.
From Her Supporters
Yeah my livelihood isn't based on my appearance but I wouldn't shave my head even if my own sister had cancer. There would be so many other ways to support her that would actually be useful.
TBH I'd think seeing all your bald friends and family who previously had flowing locks would be a constant depressing reminder of one's own hair loss.
You don't sound horrible from the title. You sound like a woman who knows her boundaries.
I would take a long, hard look at his family. From my own experience with an abusive family I'm seeing several red flags:
Upon arrival Matthew's mum whipped out a pair of scissors and shavers and said that the whole family was shaving their heads for Jessica.
You're not your own person to them. If they saw you as your own person, they would've made it clear on the phone and asked if you wanted to join in.
My job is modelling.
They don't care what you do and how you make your way through life.
Matthew immediately got angry, insisting that this is more important, and while I agree that sentimentally and emotionally this is far more important
No, this is not more important in ANY WAY. I bet you it wasn't even his sister's idea. This is just an attention grab likely spurred by the parents.
proceeded to tell Jessica that I wouldn't shave my hair because I am vain.
Guilting and shaming you into doing something you don't/can't/shouldn't want to do.
This is likely not the first time any of these issues have come. I would honestly dip before the red flags started getting redder and more abusive.
ETA: With your boyfriend's reaction I would bet $100 that they've been trying to poison him towards you and this was a test that you "failed".
Another Original Poster Update: Misdirected Anger
Emotions are running incredibly high in their family at the moment. I'm trying to give all of them, including Matthew, plenty of space to calm down and think about it. They're all very (understandably) angry in general at the moment and I think it helps them to put some kind of blame and anger on me, particularly Matthew, I think he feels kind of guilty for not visiting her very much before she had cancer. Once everyone has calmed down I'll discuss it with them, and hopefully they can come to see my point of view. I didn't get a lot of time whilst I was there to explain myself fully because they were all really angry the second I said that I couldn't.