Apparently there’s a prescribed protocol for the psychological preparation of losing one’s hair during a chemotherapy regimen. First, you crop it into a very short cut to prepare yourself for the loss. Once it does actually begin to fall out, you shave it off to circumvent the uncomfortable, unsanitary process of shedding.
Conveniently, my mother-in-law is a cosmetologist and has come to perform the grim task of Step One for me. I give her free reign to chop it off in whatever style she sees fit. After all, whatever the outcome, it will only be there a couple of weeks.
Trying to festive-up the mood, she also brings along some hair dye to change up my light brown color, that I always leave as-is. I don’t really see the point in investing the product or the time to color hair that will be falling down the drain in a fortnight, but I don’t bother to refuse.
So the lovely, dark cinnamon color gets put on, and then we head to the garage where the real fun will take place. As opposed to watching the progress in a mirror, I’m pleased to be staring absently at the moving boxes piled in the corners of our small garage.
The chopping starts.
My husband, my father in law, and my son are sitting on the bumper of our car and watching the show. At some point, my son, Little H, climbs down and starts sweeping the piles of hair around the driveway. He’s forming a long pathway out of the clumps of long, wet strands. The genius child is creating a metaphorical pathway to ease me away from the locks. Yes, that, or he's randomly playing in the mess.
Meanwhile, my husband Bobby is smiling and nodding encouragingly. He looks excited; I can tell he likes the do and thinks I will too. A little variety now and then is good for a gal. This could be fun.
Then Bobby stops smiling. The hair is getting cropped closer to my scalp and the energy in the garage dies into a quiet. Clearly, it’s crossed the line from cute. I wonder if I’m going to cry when I see it.
We finish and I head inside to take my first look. No, I don’t cry. I just stare sadly at myself, alone in the bathroom mirror. There are dark bags under my tired eyes and the new dark color of my hair makes me look even more pale than I currently am. I look sick.
And then of course, there’s my hair itself, or lack thereof. It’s wispy and curls up around my ears and down my neck. It’s a little longer in the front, but very short down the back. I look a little something like Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell in Hook, except without the lovely face and glittery wings.
I turn from side to side in front of the mirror and run my fingers through it. Who cuts their hair this short, really? I mean, if they’re not portraying a mini whimsical character, not an eighty-year old with a perm, or perhaps looking to attract another woman, who desires this look? Weird people, that’s who, I irrationally conclude.
With a glance, I will get pegged as a weirdo. Accurate or inaccurate, the summation has the same effect on my self-esteem.
When my hair begins to grow back at the end of the chemo regime, in the agonizingly slow process, I will actually be thrilled when it reaches this length, which I currently detest. But I have nearly a year of gaining perspective ahead. If ever you are unhappy with what you have, take more away and you’ll quickly realize you should have been happy before.
For now, I have a couple weeks of “Weirdo-Tinkerbell” until I become “Alien/Sickie.”