“I Am Not My Hair”
I thought it might be fun to make this post a little lighthearted, as heavy-hearted as many of us are probably feeling after yesterday’s tragic anniversary. I awoke yesterday morning and turned on “Good Morning, America,” as I always do and found myself humming along to India.Arie’s song, “I Am Not My Hair.” The lovely Robin Roberts, one of my personal heroes, was about to enter the hospital for stem cell treatment to take care of a cancer related to her original, treated diagnosis of breast cancer and had shaved her head down, I guess because she will probably join the ranks of chemo patients everywhere (again) and go bald. She posted a picture on her web site and her colleagues at GMA showed it during the broadcast.
I have a very uneasy relationship with my hair, dating back to when I was a child. I don’t like getting it cut, I don’t enjoy the salon, and I don’t really like spending too much time styling it. I’m more of a no-muss, no-fuss kind of girl and fortunately, found a hair stylist I love as a hairdresser and as a friend. She has been guiding me along with my own post-chemo hair: long, kind of curly, turning white. Yes, my head is turning white, though in patches; it seems that the rare few of us who were lucky to survive our stage IV melanoma diagnoses by using a particular immunotherapy all have the distinction of having white hair. Interesting, huh?
Not so much if you still fancy yourself a young woman with plenty of dark-haired days in her future. But when I get to feeling vain about it, I start thinking of it as a battle scar and one that I will wear proudly.
But back to India.Arie. I got up this morning and looked at my multi-colored hair and wondered what I was going to do. It was very long and now, very white in certain spots. Would I keep dying it every four weeks, getting highlights every eight, getting a cut every ten or so? Or would I go back to the buzz cut that I had after treatment—and that I loved—and embrace the world of short, white hair (though only in certain spots)? I knew that if I went to the hair salon I would lose my nerve; someone would surely talk me out of this. Because even though my hair was turning white, it is nice, thick, wavy hair. Hair that some women would kill for. It just wasn’t right for me anymore. I have to come to the place, though, where I want to make things easier, not harder. For me, finding a few hours each month to go the hair salon was getting harder and harder. And this is me, now, so why not embrace it?
Before I lost my nerve, I went downstairs to the bathroom, took a scissors and hacked off about six inches of processed hair. Then, I took it down shorter. Finally, I took a buzzer and with the #8—the longest setting— in place, I buzzed it off, my heart racing. I left a little length on the top but took everything else down to as far as it would go on that setting and then, jumped in the shower to wash off the pieces of hair that were stuck to my body. When I was done, I combed it out and wouldn’t you know it? I didn’t do a terrible job!
I sent my hairdresser an email and explained what I had done and she couldn’t have been more supportive. She knows how I squirm as I sit, waiting for the hair dye to take effect. She knows how I jump from the chair as soon as it is washed out, not waiting to have my hair blown out, running out the door. She knows that I was born without the gene that allows me to sit, be pampered, and enjoy the experience. She told me that if I wanted I could come in when I had a little length so that she could shape it just so.
Cutting one’s hair is not for the faint of heart but as I reminded myself when I was bald, “It’s just hair. It grows back.” I am not my hair anymore.