Planning for Change

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Last Wednesday, I visited the Tallest Barber in Garibaldi. Tami’s cut my hair a few times in the past five or six years – I’ve donated twice to Locks of Love – but this chair time was for a different reason than in the past. Dr. D told me that my hair follicles will soon quit growing hair for a while, and that when the follicle quits growing hair, it lets go of the hair that is attached. Tami said that it doesn’t happen all at once – and for some it doesn’t happen much at all – but I decided that I wanted to be out ahead of this thing rather than go through the anguish of losing long hair.

I’ve worn my hair long for about ten years – and have had hip length hair twice during that time. Long hair had become kind of a marker of identity for me. I guess you could say that I had an emotional attachment to my long braid, even though it made me look older than I am and I was often irritated that it took so much effort to wash, comb, and take care of.

My hair issues go way back. When I was but a scrap of a thing, I wore my hair long because my dad liked it, according to my mom. But my hair was pretty tough to handle: wild, thick, unruly, with a wave that hid until it was cut short – then I had luxurious waves that most women would envy. It tangled and snarled in minutes when let loose from its braid. In short, it was a constant pain for Mom when I was little. I wanted my hair long, because in my childlike innocence, I thought I had to have my hair long to be pretty – and I so wanted to be pretty! But, come summer, when my hair wouldn’t stay untangled and I couldn’t manage it myself, my mother made good on her threat to have it cut short. I was ashamed. I felt like I was no longer Daddy’s pretty little girl – I really thought that now I looked like a boy.

Mary Ann Stewart abt 1966 or 67 001

Later, my hair became a symbol of my teenage defiance. My dearest friend and I spent hours braiding our long hair into tiny braids held fast by “extra” elastic bands that I’d gotten from my orthodontist’s office. Days later, we’d brush out the braids, enjoying the sudden change from long straight hair to wild frizzy hair with tiny waves the full length. It drove my mom crazy. I loved it.

Over the years, I wore my hair short for quite a while, but made the decision to go back to wearing it long when B and I started seeing each other. I was trying to decide whether to grow it out or cut it again, and he asked me to grow it out, but only if I wanted to. (He’s nice that way.) I’ve always liked the freedom of short hair, but don’t care much for the expense of the upkeep. I’m not one to fool with my hair a lot, either – so wash & wear is great for me.

I don’t know how I’m going to feel if/when I lose my hair to chemo treatments, but I would like to think that I’ll weather this change as well as I’ve weathered so many others over the years: find the New Normal and roll with it. It’s bound to be an adventure!

And, thank you, Barber Tami, for the handknit chemo cap – I’m sure it will come in handy!

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