Hair – it’s a part of who we are, how we define ourselves, the image we present to the world. Whether you have long, short, straight, curly, thinning, colored, permed or no hair at all. Some people change their hair like their clothes – following the trends or making bold changes just for the fun of it. Some people haven’t changed their hairstyle since high school. Some people hide their grey and others wear it proudly. Some truly believe a comb over isn’t noticeable, some go bald with confidence, and others just shave it all off. Some spend a LOT of time styling each day making their straight hair curly or their curly hair straight – using tools and product that I don’t even know exist. Some just wash and go. Hair is a multi-billion dollar industry. People are famous for their hair – Donald Trump, Jennifer Aniston, Dorothy Hamil, Yul Brenner…
Kids can get sent home from school for dyeing their hair the ‘wrong’ color. That’s always seemed ridiculous to me – there are SO many worse things that kids could do – what’s wrong with them playing with the one non-permanent thing they have control over. If my kid wants to dye his/her hair purple and wear a mohawk – I’ll support it. A tattoo, on the other hand…my kids think you have to be 35 before you’re allowed. Shhh…don’t tell them. But hair…it can be changed.
My husband’s barberess (that may not be a word, but yes, a woman…in a barber shop) recently shaved her head. She had long hair – almost to her tush and without it, she looks very different (my husband tells me, anyway). She explained that it was an act of ‘letting go’ and starting over. I’m not sure if she explained it as a part of her Bhuddist practice, but I suspect it has something to do with it. She wears her baldness confidently and proudly – stating ‘It’s just hair. It grows back.’ She’s right – for most of us, at least. I thought this was an amazing example, though, of letting go of something that we all hold to be so critically important to our image of ourselves – something that we use to define ourselves to others. Ultimately, it’s not our hair that defines us, but our thoughts, actions, and relationships. But we live in a society that places so much value on outward appearance – so it’s hard for me to imagine letting go of it so easily. Of being so vulnerable to those social judgements, by choice.
I lost some of my hair pre-surgery – thanks to Dr. Miller’s skill with a razor. I lost some more of my hair for surgery itself – maybe Dr. Miller again. I lost even more of my hair starting week 3 of radiation treatment. Losing your hair in ‘handfuls’ is a very odd and disconcerting experience, I’ll admit. I hid my strange bald patterns under a hat – mostly because I was cold with the middle of my head being bald, but I was also very self-conscious about my reverse monk style. My hair is longish, but it’s thin – so even though the bald spots (just over my ears, all the way around my head) were largely hidden by the hair I had left, it was still quite apparent. I didn’t lose it all – and I wonder if I had whether I would have worn a wig. It’s really hard to say unless you’re in the situation – looking at yourself, bald in the mirror. But I think I would have forgone the wig.
I spent time worrying about whether my hair would 1. grow back at all 2. grow back a different color and 3. grow back a different texture. People have had experience with all 3 or a combination of the 3. I actually contemplated shaving the bottom half of my head, under the bald area. When I asked my Radiation Oncologist about my hair during one weekly appointment – he mentioned they have a way to address it with folks who have only lost part of their hair during treatment. I didn’t ask how – it likely involved more toxic chemicals and I decided to take the ‘wait and see’ approach.
Well, my hair is growing back the same color and texture as the rest of my hair (thank goodness). I only have one area where the hair seems to have given up altogether (i.e., I have a bald spot which will likely be permanent). But because of the different times and ways in which I experienced my hair loss (i.e. razor and falling out), I have hair that comes in all lengths – and it’s not just the way it’s cut/styled. The funniest spot is the ‘Alfalfa Sprout’ on the top of my head. I don’t wear a hat anymore – unless it’s for sun protection or because I haven’t made it to the shower yet and have to go out in public. Mostly, you can’t notice the oddness that is my hair and honestly, I don’t care – I earned that oddness and I’m embracing it proudly.
BUT, it’s time for a haircut. So…what to do? I’m afraid I’m not as bold as my husband’s barberess, so I have a more complex decision. Shorter to aggressively start to get to an ‘even’ length? Just a trim to reduce my split ends, but not lose so much weight that my crazy 2 inch long spots can’t be contained? Somewhere in the middle? Haircuts cause so much turmoil! I’m not very fussy about my hair – these days I’m usually a wash and go kind of person, but as it’s growing back – I’d like to have the chance to primp and preen if I so desire.
I’ll probably spend some time looking at hairstyle pictures in the next couple of days. I may go bolder, but it depends on my mood. I’m not hormonal at the moment, so I’ll likely make a well-researched, thoughtful decision (if you can do that with hair.) I am intrigued by the cool temporary colors available today and I’m not working in an office at the moment…so if there’s a time to go wild, it’s now. I’ll let you know how it all turns out on Friday.