Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hair Goes Nothing

Fear not, Sinéad.
“I’m losing my hair,” I tell my husband as we’re eating dinner.

“Oh, yeah?” he says drily. 

He looks at me, at my hair, and there’s a flash of resentment.  His forehead has been expanding its real estate since he was in his mid-twenties.

“Yeah,” I confirm.  “I’m pulling wads of hair out of the bath drain like, every other day.”

His expression is a little more sympathetic now.  “Are you just losing it, or is it stress?”

“I don’t know,” I say.  “Maybe both.” 

I run my fingers through the hair at the back of my head.  It’s there, but it’s paltry.  Insubstantial, compared to how it was.  I don’t think my scalp is visible, but I’ve always had really thick hair and lots of it, big heavy hanks.  It’s always been an issue when getting my hair cut.

“Wow, you’ve got a lot of hair,” most beauticians moan about an hour into what was probably booked as a 45 minute session while standing ankle deep in my hair.

My hair grows fast, as well.  A few years ago, I finally found a beautician who knew how to cut not only thick hair, but Asian hair.  Because I wanted a change, she cut it really short.  Halle Berry short.  I hadn’t had hair that short since high school, when I had to get a botched trim job by my mother fixed.  Aside from a 4 years in my twenties when my hair went waist long, my hair usually hovers somewhere between chin and a little longer than shoulder length. 

I loved the short hair.  It made me feel sassy, a little avant garde because I used wax to bring out my waves.  But to keep it in optimal shape I had to get it cut every month, and that was too expensive, so I went six to eight weeks, and even that was too pricey. Three months was too shaggy, and not in a SallyHershberger way.

“Could you cut it into something that can grow out?” I sighed resignedly the last time I saw my beautician, almost six months ago.

And now, when I need it to look lush, it’s falling out.  Even my mom noticed it.

“Is it just falling out or stress?” she asked, echoing my husband.

“I dunno,” I shrug.

I comb my fingers through my hair and only a couple strands come out.  That’s not bad, is it?

“Eh, it’s genetic,” my mom finally says breezily, scratching the thinning top of her head.

I’m not sure how I feel about losing my hair.  I don’t think it really bothers me.  I’m pretty negligent with it, brushing it twice a day, once before I go into the shower, then running a wide toothed comb through it when I get out.  I’ve always let it air dry, although when it was really long and ropey, it never really dried since I twisted it into a bun.  For a while I was a little concerned that it would get moldy and turn green like sloth hair.  Then, I thought that might be kind of cool, since I could always cut it off if it got stinky or slimy.  Oddly, dredlocks, struck me as kind of gross.

“You’ll tell me when you can see my scalp, right?” I ask my husband. 

That’s one thing I don’t want.  My grandmother’s hair was a mist of white over vast plains of pink

“Why?” he asks, playing with a narrowing peninsula of hair. “What are you going to do when that happens?

“I’ll shave it,” I tell him.

It’s only fair.  He’s promised to shave the peninsula when the hair bridge fades and it becomes an island.   He doesn’t want to be one of those guys sporting The Unicorn.  I’d shave my sparse hair because I don’t want people thinking I’m undergoing a battle for my life when I’ve just got bad genes.  And I’ve kind of shaved it before, back in the 80s, when I had my sister buzzed the back half of my head as a fashion statement.

“You’re both idiots,” my mom had groaned in exasperation.  “You,” she pointed to me, “for asking for it and you for actually doing it,” she finished, pointing at my sister.

My sister and I grinned.  It was one of those rare moments when we conspired to do something “shocking,” and it was fun.  Later when we highlighted each other’s hair, I rinsed mine with food coloring or Kool-Aid to make it streaked cherry red or blue.  The great thing about hair was that it always grew back.

Except maybe now.  I cleared the drain again.  I don’t think the loss is “serious.” Yet.

Rodent or hair?
On the other hand, I have a large collection of scarves and hats that I enjoy wearing.  I haven’t worn wigs, but the idea always sounded fun.  If I’m lucky, my hair to scalp ratio will hold out until my seventies.  Seventy seems to be my marker point to let my wild run amok.  If my hair goes thin then, I plan to go the route of the eccentric French interior designer Madeleine Castaing, who famously wore her wigs with a party hat chin strap. 

“A wig is just a ‘at made out of ‘air, non?” I could imagine her saying, batting the layers of false eyelashes that surrounds her extravagantly lined eyes.

Many years ago, a friend told me that a person’s hair reflected their personality.

“Coarse and unruly,” I said then.

“You said it, not me,” she laughed.

And twenty years later, how would I describe my hair?

Well, obviously, I’m losing it.

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