Local Dispatch: At a loss for hair, she finds humor to make up for it

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About this hair thing ...

I don't think anyone wants to be known just for their hair. I'd rather be known for being a good person than having good hair.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be nice to have both reputations?

Still, there is that element of emotion which stings the inside of the nostrils the first time you reach to your head and your hand comes back with ... what?

A wad ... yes, a wad ... of your hair. Then that first shower when you glance down toward the hair-catcher gizmo over your drain and it is covered with your hair. The water is now filling up the tub because there is no drain visible for the water to escape.

Hair today, gone tomorrow. Actually, gone a few weeks ago.

Chemotherapy at work. You know it is coming when certain drugs fighting cancer enter your body once a week, but it's difficult to prepare. You know it is predicted, but you dare to hope you might be the one individual in the millions who have been through this who will walk away with every original hair intact. Silly you.

It's true some chemo treatment patients do not lose their hair, but I was told the drug I am getting would put me in the less fortunate group.

And so it came to pass. My hair is gone.

And certainly whatever is going on in the hair trade these days, like all those extensions pouring over women's bosoms (especially TV anchors) -- what is that all about? You see, hair of any kind now gets my attention. I have none of my own to wash, to highlight, to complain about or get mussed as I sleep. Ho hum.

My hair is/was short, and I have/had worn it that way for almost 40 years, since my son was born. So it wasn't as if I was losing tresses that looked like those in shampoo ads, reaching to my shoulders or blowing in the wind with dramatic flair.

I often tease about my short hair and how I would like it styled at each cutting: "I want it to fall softly on my shoulders, the Lauren Bacall look from the movie 'To Have and Have Not.' Can you do that today?"

Short is one thing. Then there was the ultimate shaving of my head -- a buzz-cut, which boys of my generation called crew-cuts when we were in high school in the '40s.

I didn't even have enough to auction off for charity as so many wonderful women have done when facing this same side-effect of cancer drugs. That was disappointing. My hair was worthless.

When it began to come out, I was alone and I cried for about five minutes. Then it was over. I don't say I won't cry again on a bad day, or when hormones and drugs are intermingling and causing chaos in my psyche during this journey, but I seem to be over the initial trauma.

Many of us come into this world with no hair and look adorable, like my granddaughters. I don't expect to be described as adorable, but I have heard "interesting" a few times, and there have been a few silent moments when friends weren't sure what to say.

My son tries to make me laugh whenever he can, and when I told him about my hair he simply said, "Look at me (his hair thinning at age 40) and Sophie (my 6-month-old granddaughter). Join the club!"

And, yes, I had to laugh out loud. I rather liked joining their club.

I have also thought a lot about my father, who was bald as long as I can remember. He always teased his barber about having to pay full price for a haircut for the few strands he had encircling his head. I'm thinking of you, Harley.

I am reminded I always thought my father was handsome. I admired him. I never thought about his bald pate or compared it to my friends' fathers. I loved him and was proud to be his daughter. Who he was had nothing to do with his hair ... or lack of it.

My "aha" moment. A lesson learned. I hope every woman traveling this road will look in the mirror and see beauty in themselves they never saw before.

This hair thing? It comes back, they tell me. I could still aim for Lauren Bacall.

intelligencer - fashion

Barbara Cloud of Squirrel Hill, a retired newspaper columnist and fashion editor, can be reached at bcloud70@aol.com. First Published May 6, 2011 4:00 AM


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