Saturday, December 17, 2011
Back last year when I'd started chemotherapy, on the night we cut off most of my hair, I saved a little bit of it. It was my favorite piece, from right in the front. I snipped it off first, saying I'd keep it. Matt questioned me about it at the time. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but it was something like, "Do you really want to keep that? When enough time has passed for that to be a souvenir, you will have grown new hair." Those weren't quite the words, but that was the gist.
I kept it though. I tucked it in the top of my jewelry box, not in a bag or anything, just lying there. And there it lay. Every day or two, when I lifted up the lid of the box to get a pair of earrings out or something, I would have to poke it aside gently with my fingers so I could find what I needed. After that night, the hair on my head went on and fell right out and then, in time, started growing again, and the seasons went around.
Months turned into a year, and then started rounding on year two, and still that lock of hair was there. A couple of times, I took it out of the box. I would smooth it in my fingers a little and admire its texture and color. I thought, "I need to save this to show my colorist when I get highlights put in my hair again." Then I would remember that my hairstylist has my precise color formula recorded in her little black book, just waiting to be called up. Then I would put the lock of hair back in the jewelry box.
Life continued to happen. I kind of stopped seeing the lock of hair at all. With one hand I would flip up the top of the box, nudge the hair aside, pick up my jewelry, and flick the lid shut again. It grew to be kind of a nuisance having it there, as you can imagine. You need to pick up a pair of little stud earrings and there's, like, some hair in the way.
Just as I ceased really seeing that actual curl of hair, the whole issue of having hair and losing it and regrowing it kind of fell out of my top stories. Like, it wasn't the headline anymore, then it slipped below the fold, then it got buried way, way back on like page E20. Maybe after Lifestyle but before Real Estate. No longer current events, no need to catch anyone up on it.
The other night, at my first book club meeting, there was a girl there who had a kid in the same class as Laura a few years back. We kind of recognized each other, but it took a few minutes to make the connection. She shook her head and said, "Oh, I didn't know it was you! Your hair was really long, right?" I said, "Yes, it was long." She kept on, making a kind of gesture with her hands, as though to indicate big, full hair. She goes, "I mean, it was like, really different!" There was a time in the not even distant past when I would have said, "Yes, I had to have chemotherapy and it all fell out, but it's all fine now," or something like that. But I just repeated, "Yep, it's short now!" And left it there. It is not something I find I need to process in conversation anymore.
This is what I would say to anyone who is facing chemo and the loss of hair, because I know that for many people, this is near the top of the list of their fears. But I would say that, believe it or not, not only will you get through being bald just fine, there will come a day when you don't even really regret that it happened, and you sure won't spend any time thinking about it. That day will come sooner than you think. As hard as it is to imagine when you're just starting down that road, the whole story of going bald and being bald will one day be boring to you. Like, over, done, next topic.
So, that lock of hair. Late last week and into the weekend, Matt was gone to California for work. The day before he was to come back, I wanted to freshen up our little bower for his return, so I decided to clean and organize the bathroom vanity. Because you know how husbands come home from trips and say, "Show me the bathroom sink!" Yeah. I also had a cute pedicure to show him. Like, "Let me see your feet, wife!"
Anyway, I was straightening our stuff and I opened my jewelry box and plucked out the lock of hair. I hadn't really looked at it in a long time, and it just seemed like a relic. Not in the good sense of something precious preserved, but like something that had once seemed important and was now just odd. Is that still lying around? Clutter. I picked up my phone, snapped a picture of it, feeling kind of ridiculous even doing that, and then tucked it down in the bathroom wastebasket.
You always hear personal organization gurus tell you not to hang on to unnecessary things. If it's not useful and it's in the way, get rid of it. If it's sentimental, take a picture of it, then keep the picture and get rid of the thing. So this blog post is my way of doing that.