This is a series of short entries about my relationship to my hair. They take place over several years, so there is some repetition. They include a bit about cancer treatment.
25 March 2009 “Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair…”
The last time I had short hair I was ten years old. I hated it. I vowed I would grow my hair long, and I did. I had, for a few years, the longest hair in my high school.
I was a blonde child, but my hair was chestnut brown by then, fairly thick and somewhat wavy. I loved having long hair. It not only seemed a badge of the 1960s (as indeed it was) but part of my whole and entire self.
People told me I would need to cut it, once I had a child (no, I didn’t). I did wear it up, in many guises, most of the time, through my professional career. I found a NYC hairdresser, George Michael/Madora, that knew how to cut and to treat long hair. I bought lovely hair pins whenever I could.
My hair is no longer chestnut, it’s silvery. I like to think of it as Howl said to Sophie in the film Howl’s Moving Castle as “the color of starlight” but the truth is, it’s grey. It is not so thick as it was, nor as wavy, and it does not behave as it used to. A family member used to say, “your hair can only be mentored, it can’t be managed” and that is more true than ever. Yesterday I went out with two pretty silver combs in my hair and a small rhinestone rose barrette. By the time I came out of MetroNorth and walked six blocks, both combs and barrette had completely fallen out of my hair (but I retrieved them).
I met TheInfomancer for dinner and music and couldn’t decide if I looked like a spirited sixty-something year old with long shining hair or a sloppy 61-year old with no grooming or style.
I love my hair. I wish I could make it do what I want, or understand what it wants. I can’t imagine cutting it though. It would be like severing a piece of my own self.
6 May 2015 A Year Ago
The first week of May 2014 saw me having my long hair cut for the first time in about 50 years, and my first round of chemotherapy. It’s a year later. My hands and feet still suffer the after-effects of that first chemo drug (which was changed as soon as the symptoms appeared). I had several haircuts since that first one. I never quite lost all my hair during chemo, and it started to grow back with gusto around Thanksgiving.
I long for my hair to grow back. It is the only part of me that might possibly be restored to what it was before cancer.
This was a scary anniversary, but also a hopeful one. One month from today I will be 68 years old. I want to have energy and clarity of thought, and they are slow to return. Those things do appear some mornings, and I greet them with joy. I want them to stay.
Hair: an obsession, part 3a
I can feel the hair on the back of my neck.
This is amazing. From the time I was fourteen (over 50 years ago) I have had hair to the middle of my back and longer. I could always feel the hair on the back of my neck. I had my hair cut short, and shorter, and shortest last year, and lost most of it during chemotherapy, but now it is growing back vigorously, and I can feel it on the back of my neck.
This is weird, and strange, and wonderful.
Cancer, chemotherapy, radiation do things to one. What those things did in the most basic way is change or alter every single daily activity and habit. Every. single. one. When and how I shower, how I walk, using the toilet, intimacy, reading, getting dressed, preparing a meal. Things will not go back to the way they were. But it is possible, just possible, that I will have my long silver hair back again, the way it was. (It is growing back even whiter, and somewhat curlier, but the small bald spot I had before cancer is still there. That’s amazing in its way, too.)
This fills me with the possibility of joy.
15 October 2016 Hair Again
From the time I was 14 until May of 2014, I had long hair, nearly to my waist. It was my signature, the way I described myself to people who had not seen me: “small, round, pink, long hair.” In May 2014, just before I started chemotherapy, I had my hair cut short. (I had it cut three more times. The last time it was about an inch long all over.) I saved the hair is a silk bag and I put my many (many!) hairpins and ornaments in two boxes at the very back of my closet.
About six months ago I pulled out a few barrettes that I thought I might be able to wear now. A few silk scrunchies. A clip or two. That was ok. I could cope. I could use them.
Today my hair reaches my shoulders. Growing my hair back is a mission, a goal, a deep-seated desire. It is the only part of my pre-cancer life that I can actually get back. Everything else has changed. Everything.
I tried going back in that box at the back of my closet this afternoon. I took out a few more hair ornaments and then I had to stop. I was so shaken by this. All those pretty things were part of a life I can barely imagine any more. But. However. I am going to reclaim each of those pins and barrettes and clips. Those I can get back. And I will. An awful lot is lost, but some things can be found again.
2 February 2017 Hair again and again
My hair had been long since I was about fourteen. Then I got cancer, and had it all cut off before I lost it. I did lose most of it.
Cancer takes a lot out of you, changes your body and your spirit. Almost three years after my first surgery, I know that nothing will be the same ever again. Except, I thought, my hair. I could grow my hair back.
When my hair first came back, it was white, and curly. That was fun. It has been growing pretty fast. That was fun too. I had a bald spot even before cancer treatment, and I still do. Now it’s bigger. As my hair get longer, it gets straighter, still with a wave, but not the curls of before. That’s only to be expected. But unfortunately it is also thinner and more fragile: no doubt partly due to age, but certainly due in part to what it, and I, have been through.
So now my hair is silver rather than snowy white, kind of stringy and flyaway. It does not behave very well, and it strongly resists being pinned up or tied back in any way.
Damn. I want to have long hair again. I want it to be pretty.