Rocking the Bald Head
I realize that rocking the bald head is an overstatement.
No woman wants to have to rock a bald head. But some things are beyond our control, so I say, lets at least go with that mindset.
I’ve been blonde all my life. My mom, in her eighties, was still a blonde, and her mom, although a brunette, never had to dye her hair. At eighty, she had a full head of hair with only a few strands of grey running through it. My two sisters are blonde. Now granted, we have help from the hairdresser, but my point is, Hutchison women don’t do grey.
But it never occurred to me that at 56 I would have to do bald.
My doctor said hair usually falls out between the second and third chemo treatment, and his timing was right on. My hair had been thinning and now you could see my scalp. As much as I normally complain about my hair, I was feeling rather possessive of it lately. I didn’t, however, want to be like the woman I saw in the elevator at the hospital one day. She had about ten long tendrils of hair coming out of the bottom of her knit hat, curling around her shoulder. To me, there was something painful and sad about the denial of reality. Of course, the woman probably had at one time sported a luxuriant leonine head of hair, which I can understand wanting to hold on to. That was never my problem. My hair was fine and straight, the bane of my existence, but still, it covered my head and I was kind of attached it in a love/hate sort of way.
But the memory of that nameless woman stuck with me. As we smiled at each other across the elevator, I promised myself I would face reality when my time came.
So here it was. My time.
I called Jackie, my sister-in-law to come shave my head. Jackie is a hairdresser, but I think this particular haircut wasn’t easy for her. Mike hung around for emotional support and the three of us shared family news and tried to behave as if this were a normal visit on a normal day while she cut and shaved.
When finished, she unsnapped the drape from around my neck and I got out of the chair. The Builder caught my eye and gave me an encouraging smile as I and headed for the powder room, my eyes on the floor. I stood in front of the mirror and looked up. Bald as a newborn baby. I leaned in and studied my reflection, turning this way and that, running my hand over the unfamiliar surface of my head. I gave myself a full minute to study my reflection as a single tear slid out of one eye and rolled down my cheek. I impatiently brushed it away. Squaring my shoulders, I turned and walked through the door back into the kitchen. Both Jackie and Mike were waiting for my reaction and were relieved when I smiled and said, “It will take some getting used to, but I’m ok.”
And it did take some getting used to. Every time I passed a mirror, I would stop and look and study some more. Eventually the shock wore off and I made up my mind that losing my hair was a bump in the road; a necessary part of the journey to health and healing, and although I did buy a wig, I only wore it three times.
I learned how to rock my bald head.
One of the major plusses was it cut my getting ready time in half. I really liked that part. No shampoo, no hair dryer, no product, no frustration. Just buff and go.
Another thing I noticed was when people saw my bald head, it often spurred them to approach me and offer words of encouragement. It was always because they either had experienced cancer themselves or walked through it with a loved one. Most people assumed I had breast cancer, which I didn’t correct unless asked. I remember one woman in particular, who when I told her I had ovarian cancer, said her mother had ovarian cancer 15 years prior and was alive and doing well. I hugged her, right in the Starbucks at Barnes and Noble as her smiling teenage daughter looked on. Those “chance” meetings would not have happened had I been wearing a wig. God uses people everywhere and I welcomed those encounters.
I always admired hats on other women but could never carry them off myself without feeling silly. Suddenly I was having fun with hats, usually cute newsboy or Jeff-caps. I would add a flower or sparkly pin to the side to dress it up for church. And earrings. Always big, dangly, fun, loopy earrings. I found a new way of expression.
For casual, everyday wear, to protect my head from the sun, I sported Life Is Good baseball caps. I had them in every pastel shade, and for further enhancement, I used my embroidery sewing machine to embroider Jesus Heals in an arc over the adjustment hole in the back. I figured it gave people something to read and think about as they stood behind me in line somewhere.
Deciding to just go for it wasn’t always emotionally easy, but I went for it anyway. The first time I removed my hat to expose my baldness to family took a different kind of strength because they were smacked in the face with my new reality every time they looked at me, and it was a painful reminder. But we all put on a cheerful face and it became our new-for-now normal.
So, I say… If you’re gonna do it,