One of my friends is currently undergoing chemotherapy and her hair is beginning to fall out. She asks, “Any suggestions?”
It brought back memories of my own journey that happened almost a lifetime ago, though it was only in November 2015.
Before November 2015, I had long, waist-length hair that was as thick as my arm, and it seemed to have a life of its own, going from Sunbleached gold in summer (with some help from lemon juice, sea water and hot sun) to dark brown later in the year.
I was afraid to lose my hair. I went to my hairdresser Joey and to my eternal gratitude, he understood. He said, “I’ll take an inch off every week.” I cried the first time my hair fell on the floor, as I have not cut it for years. My partner and Joey too had tears in their eyes.
Joey taught my partner how to tie my hair up in a loose braid that could potentially minimise hair loss. “Maybe wrap it all up in a scarf so that it doesn’t pull in your sleep,” Joey suggested.
Joey did not charge me for subsequent visits and I am grateful, not because of the money saved but because it felt as if he was in solidarity with me. He washed my hair ever so gently, and personally, instead of the salon assistant. My partner vowed to shave his hair off in the event that I went completely bald. “We’ll look like Mr and Mrs, hey, Jac?” he said tenderly.
Anyway, it was still a shock when my hair started falling. I didn’t lose all my hair but I had two bald patches which made me sad. I felt as if I won’t be me anymore without my trademark hair. It had always symbolised my youth and fertility.
One day, my partner gathered up my hair and threw it out of the window. It remained on our little balcony in London for a few days, and then one day, I saw a bird carrying it away. I knew it would be using my hair to build its nest and that gave my broken heart a little lift. Winter is a tough time for birds, but having a warm place to sleep in can give them a good, safe night. So my loss was really a gift to these magical creatures and that happy thought sustained by soul throughout my long winter. Life is amazing. It’s all about give and take, and something beyond the self.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
– The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
Main photo: winter’s bird nest from Pinterest.