Lice, Sunburns, and Sweat

September is Alopecia Awareness Month. I was diagnosed with alopecia at the age of 6 in the same year the Kansas City Royals went to the World Series for the first time. My parents attended the first World Series game in KC; I watched it on TV. The Royals won. There are pros and cons to having alopecia when it comes to chasing baseball dreams.

At the end of second grade, I was invited to play on my first baseball team — a Chuck E. Cheese sponsored, Kiwanis league team. On this team, everyone learned about the various positions and tried on all the equipment which was the perfect recipe for a lice outbreak. When Coach called Mom to tell her the news she replied, “I knew there would come a day I would be thankful God made Ethan bald.” Coach was embarrassed, but it was a sign I had been accepted as a ballplayer.

My sophomore season in high school was probably the worst alopecia-related incident and it was all my fault. I spent a Saturday playing golf and, for some reason, forgot to bring a hat. I also forgot sunscreen. I first felt the sunburn on the drive home. Before bed, I greased my head in aloe which made my pillowcase gross. The next day, friends at church pretended to warm their hands from the heat radiating off my head. The blisters first appeared on Monday which were equal parts painful and embarrassing. On Tuesday, the high school team had an away game and I played a couple innings at second base. After the game, the team went to Wendy’s for dinner. I remember crying in front of the mirror in the restroom trying to peel my hat off of my head. I’ve never had another sunburn on my head since.

Now, playing in the Grip ‘N’ Rip League, the only alopecia-related problem I have is sweat. I can saturate a hat in two innings. Or less. Sweat streams off the bill and in my eyes and pools in my glasses. I don’t really want to own three or four versions of the same hat just to keep sweat under control. Before each game, I freeze a couple of kitchen towels and keep them in my bat-bag, cooling off my head and wiping up the sweat at the end of every inning. It’s something.

After almost four decades with alopecia, these are the most important lessons I’ve learned.

1. Sunscreen or hat (or both) always, always, always.

2. Ivory soap is the best.

3. Persons with alopecia were created to shine.