This morning she read about a new ice-cap sort of thing that you put on your head if you’re going through chemo. It’s supposed to freeze your hair follicles so that your hair doesn’t fall out.
And then she read her favorite blog – Your Man for Fun in Rapidan – which, from day to day, can be about anything in the world, and it too was about hair. Facial hair. Check it out: Your Man for Fun in Rapidan.
She took this as a sign from above that she, too, should write about hair, partly because writing about hair is easier than writing about white dwarves and dark energy, which was her original intent, and partly because she has a lot to say about hair. Who doesn’t?
Her brother, maybe, as he is a man without hair. Anywhere. He is a very tall, very hairless man. It’s careless writing to use very with hairless – if you’re hairless you can’t be very hairless, right? – but she likes the look of the two very’s in quick succession, so she’s keeping it.
The (literal) saving grace of alopecia is that you never have to buy shampoo again.
If her brother were still living alone, which, ever since he acquired a wife and child he is not, he would never have to spend a moment’s time concerned about the drains of his house clogging up with hair.
Which she does. There’s a lot of hair in her house. Three women, all with abundant flowing locks, one (peripatetic) young man who contributes a bit more, one shedding cat, and one dog (who, although non-shedding himself, is fond of terrifying the shedding cat, making the shedding cat shed even more).
You can see how drains, and their free-flowing-ness, are a major concern to her.
Drain catches, the kind that fit over drains, abound in her house, and yet they do not always do the job, do they? No, they do not. In a tall cupboard she keeps a plumber’s snake, which, due to the fact that sink drain caps are non-removable these days, is virtually useless.
In the same tall cupboard you can also find a long, thorned, white plastic bendable thing which supposedly will unclog a bathtub or sink drain, but she has never gotten it to work successfully. Unless the tearing apart of her fingers and wrists with its horrid plastic thorns is considered success.
There are also, far back on a high shelf, the worse-than-horrid liquid drain uncloggers. About them, no more shall be said.
Is this post still about hair? It is, yes, but let us return to hair that is still attached to the heads from whence it came.
Her youthful female companions have beautiful hair. The hair of one is long and wavy, dark curls that cascade down her back and that she intently, determinedly irons straight three times a week.
The hair of the other is black, or as close to black as dark brown hair can be. Straight, heavy, it rivers its way down her brown shoulders and back. For years this youthful companion pulled it straight back in a tight ponytail, but now, often, she lets it hang free.
Now she thinks of her friends and their hair, so few of them happy with their hair as it is, most of them longing for hair that is other. If it’s curly they wish it to be straight. If it’s straight they wish it to be curly. Long, short. Thin, thick. (She can hear her mother saying, “‘Twas always thus.”)
There are the friends who have spent months, on and off for years, some of them, with scarves tied about their heads, hats worn year-round. Chemo takes all your hair away.
She thinks now of a day she spent in the service of cancer and its cure: drawing eyebrows on her beloved friend with eyeliner pencil, sewing a small curve of miniature pillow into a bra. That hair came back with one difference; this time, it was loved.
She herself was born with hair two inches long, jet black, each strand tipped with white. A head full of soft porcupine quills, all of which fell out a few months later.
Her grandmother, the one in the photo above, went to the beauty parlor once a week, there to chat with Sharon, her hairdresser, while Sharon washed and then re-dyed the short permed curls bluish-white and sat her grandmother under the giant old-fashioned hairdryer.
Her mother went for years and years to her hairdresser Rocco – “he knows my hair, he knows my head” – and when he died, it was a long time before she could bring herself to go to anyone else. In the interim, her hair itself looked as if it was in mourning.
She herself has been getting her hair cut by Monique now for a long, long time, since just after the youthful companion with the long curls was born. Over these many years Monique has become very pricey, but she could not see anyone else – it would be like committing hair adultery – so it’s only a few times a year that they see each other.
When she and Monique meet up, they have only the one hour to catch up, and so they make the most of every minute, Monique’s sure hands on her head and hair. They have seen each other through so much: marriage and births and divorces and all the sundry in-betweens.
“Do what you want, Monique,” she tells her, and she is always happy with what Monique wants.
What would her father have to say about hair, if asked? She can hear him now, his big voice roaring through the room.
“What do I have to say about hair?” he would bellow. “Does a beard count? It does? Then you know damn well what I have to say about hair! The Yankees! That’s what I have to say about hair!”
The Yankees, ah yes, the Yankees. Her father, lifelong Yankees fan that he is (a sad fact, given the bloated, steroid-ridden, overpaid, over-ego’d condition of that team, but she must state it anyway), took a vow that he would not shave his beard until the (next time the) Yankees won the World Series.
That is why every photo taken of him for some years, up until last October, shows him with that salt and pepper beard.
“Did I like having a beard?” he bellows. “Hell no! I did it for my team!”
Thinking about her father, with his bellowing voice, his 50-year comb-over, and his World Series beard, makes her happy. She will go wash her hair now.