-- Hamlet, I. v.
I talk to my hair with oils
I say today I need you to curl
And when I style you,
Stay in place, do not spoil!
-- Sylvia Chidi*
I am letting down my hair -- it's fed up with me, and it's leaving. My scalp is complaisant and lets go of it. Not in clumps, but strand by strand. There's a fuzz of short light-colored follicles in my comb.
I'm vain of it, my hair. There's quite a bit left, with a natural wave and some original color. The doctor told me this would happen: the chemical they pump into me every three weeks goes after fast-growing cells, and hair follicles grow fast. The exodus, plotted for three months, is now.
I'm more or less okay with the plumping and sagging face, the scooping flesh under my eyes, the flop under my chin disrupting my noble profile. But these strands of hair, out of their place, speak to me of what is lost. Sometimes, standing its ground on my cranium, my hair has caused a casual observer to mistake my age.
Why is this a big deal? This is the inevitable consequence of a self-care campaign, a soldier's fight irrelevant to the objective, mere roadside incident in what friends call my "journey." And certainly not the most serious incident but a cosmetic distraction, froth of the underlying churn. Keep moving, nothing to see here.
But that's just it. This is something to see, an announcement of visceral combat. It has that meaning to those who know me. Nothing unusual for the bystander in a seventy-year old man with thinning hair (though now I am exposed in my seventyness); but there is something unusual in me with thinning hair. The bystander doesn't know what is wrong, but I do.
This is something to see. For other signs of the struggle there are strategies of camouflage and concealment, selective presentation and tasteful retreat. Or I can tough it out with more or less success, though this doesn't work with a companion who knows me well. But this is right up there on top of my head, where the flag of my dominion flies. My flag is in tatters.
I suppose I could wear a hat. But what hat?
But I've never had a good relationship with a hat.
And a hat is the giveaway that a chemo patient is losing hair.
But then not everybody knows I am a chemo patient.
I could just be an old guy with a hat. But I don't want to be "just an old guy."
This is all about me, isn't it? I am the auditor who is disappointed.
*"I Love My Hair"
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