Being bald is pretty great. I’ve always wondered why one of my friends, who ordinarily would have a full head of hair, has shaved his head since college. (Though there have been a few periods where he’s had hair in that time.) But now I see the appeal.
Sometimes, I forget that I’m bald and I startle myself when I walk past a mirror. My boyfriend envisions me calling the police. “Hello? There’s a weird bald lady in my house! But I can’t find her!”
I just did yoga, and I didn’t have a ponytail in my way. My head is nice and cool—though unprotected from the sun. In fact, I have a barely noticeable tan stripe on my head from where the part in my hair was located. It’s like I’m Pepé Le Pew or wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet. (Like most of the Browns, sadly, I’m also not very good at football.)
As I mentioned, I’m not someone who cries over haircuts. When I donated my long hair earlier this year, the stylists seemed concerned and checked on me after they took off about 9 or 10 inches. (I knew then about my diagnosis and that I had more hair to lose in the coming months.)
This Sunday, as my boyfriend sheared off my hair, he asked me several times if I was OK. He also gave me a glass of whiskey.
If there’s a time for having your allotted occasional alcoholic beverage during chemo, I suggest you have it while your head is being shaved. And I recommend whiskey. It’s immediate and makes you feel warm inside.
But once my head was shaved, I realized I liked it. It’s not even the worst haircut I’ve ever had. That was probably when my mom decided to cut my hair into a short bob and perm my hair when I was in sixth grade. The result was a hairdo that someone said looked like a spaceship. A fuzzy flying saucer.
That was just the beginnings of my tress troubles. In the early 1990s, when I was in eighth grade, my hair was full of split ends, so I went to someone my mom worked with at the time, a girl who also cut hair. This girl’s hair was curled and teased on top into a heavy metal dome—a little bit like the blonde in this picture, but with a slight spiral perm to it. It was structurally magnificent, but not the look I was going for. I wanted long, beautiful completely straight hair—like Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, as long as I’m on the subject of metal hair.
Anyway, she layered my hair—a lot—to get the split ends out. And since I didn’t have enough L.A. Looks to make my hair big, I had hair like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes in the “Hard to Handle” video. (My teenage life centered around music videos and references.) Watching the video now, his hair looks fine. But it was not OK for 13-year-old me.
I silently and constantly fretted about my hair, as only a young teenage girl can, and waited. (Like broken hearts, there’s often not much you can do for a bad haircut, except let time heal.) Once it grew out a little, I could finally spray my bangs into a big, stiff wave, keeping the lower bangs loose over my forehead. You were supposed to use a curling iron to curl the top bangs back to create this tube of hair that curled backwards, then spray it up in place. I was too lazy to use a curling iron and make it look like this, so I kind of fashioned my own side wave and sprayed it into place.
After that, I made pretty wise decisions regarding my hair. Well, for the most part. I wanted to Manic Panic my hair a crazy color, but it’s dark brown, so nothing would show up and I was too scared to bleach it. By my junior year, I had moved on from my hair metal phase. (So had the rest of the world, post-Nirvana.) After a summer of painting all my furniture black, listening to the Cure and Nine Inch Nails and buying a pair of combat boots, I had become goth.
I tried dyeing my hair black with a temporary dye, but it wasn’t black enough. (Surely not as dark as my angst!) So I used permanent dye. Over and over again. And then I didn’t want black hair anymore by that spring. But permanent dye is pretty permanent, as it turns out. The salon tried to bleach it out but it worked only at the top near the roots—not the parts that had been dyed black so many times. Until the middle of my freshman year of college, I had an orange band of the bleached part slowly growing out through my hair.
Once that finally grew out, I dyed it black again during my sophomore year of college. (What’s that definition of crazy again? Doing the same thing and expecting different results?) This time, when I wanted to go back to brown, a stylist bleached chunks of my hair to make it look more like my natural color, and this worked much better.
I sometimes dyed my hair that reddish late ’90s color. In my early twenties, I dyed it bright red and purple, but it was temporary dye that lasted only a few weeks and it didn’t show up much on my dark hair. No one seemed to notice much, except for my boss. When she walked into my cubicle, she said, “Oh. You dyed your hair.” To which I replied, “Yes, it’s Pimpin’ Purple.” (A reply that now makes me cringe and laugh. Oh, to be 21 again.)
The following year, apparently no wiser, I got gum in my hair. Not at the tips where it might make sense that a grown woman with no kids would find gum. It was at the top of my head, near my hairline. I chewed gum all the time, and sometimes, I would take it out of my mouth and just put it somewhere before falling asleep. (On my nightstand, for example.) I’m still not sure how it ended up in my hair, but it seems inevitable now. I cut it out, and just kept a hair clip in place to hold that piece down—otherwise it would stick straight up. Like that orange band in my hair, the clip moved as my hair grew.
Since my sophomore year of high school, though, my hair has pretty much been the same: Long and brown. I briefly experimented with bangs in my late twenties and that was a terrible mistake, looking back at old photos.
Until my recent hair donation, I was a huge fan of long hair, and I never wanted short hair. (Certainly not this short.) But I got a lot of compliments on my chic bob. I said thank you and I liked the bob, but vowed to return to long hair soon.
Now, I’m thinking that maybe I wasn’t into short hair because I hadn’t gone short enough. Reflecting on my hair past, I’m not sure if I should have long hair—or hair at all. I don’t use fancy shampoos or gels or sprays. I rarely used a blow dryer. It took too long, especially on my thick hair.
When I did get compliments that my hair looked nice, here’s my secret: I had brushed it that day. I sometimes didn’t bother. (If you’d seen my childhood dolls, you’d see the pattern started early.)
Often, when I found a troublesome knot or tangle, I’d just cut it out, not having to answer to anyone about it until a stylist asked me why a chunk of my hair was missing. I always felt a little sorry for my stylists, when they asked me my hair regimen. “I wash it and I sometimes brush it.”
Now that I’ve been bald, there’s no telling what I’ll do once my hair grows back and it gives me trouble. I know where the clippers are, and I’m finally free of my hair—or maybe it’s finally free of me.