Many women can tell you stories about their hair – about the disastrous haircut or the misjudged perm, about the joy of finding a hairdresser who cuts it just right and the lengths we’ll go to stick with her or him, about the thin line between loving how you look and another bad hair day, about how a bit of rain can turn your sleek curls into unmanageable frizz. I have all those stories and more. However much we might want to be free from the tyranny of the norms of feminine appearance, what we look like does matter and hair is a huge factor in looking good.
It took me ages to appreciate that I had curly hair. As a child I had it cut in a pageboy, and as a teenager I spent hours trying to flatten my hair to my head. I could have had an 80s ‘shaggy perm’ style without the bother of perming it, but I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get my hair to ‘flick’ at the sides instead. I used clips to try and get it under control, would position my hair very carefully when I placed it on the pillow at night, and even went through a phase of wearing a bobble hat as it dried in a vain attempt to achieve the smooth and silky look I craved. My teenage self hated my hair. A new hairdresser in my student town showed me what it could do and, apart from two pregnancies and a brief dabble with hair straighteners when I was 40, I’ve worn it curly ever since. It’s been long, short and in between and while I’ve recently been debating with myself how long I can get away with home-dying it to cover the grey, and I’m still searching for that elusive product that eliminates frizz and produces perfect curls, I’ve grown to love my hair.
And I’ve been quite upset at the thought of losing it. The ‘cold cap’ won’t work for the type of chemo I’ve having and, besides, I hate being cold so hours with an ice-pack on my head is too much pain for little gain. I went to see my hairdresser a couple of weeks ago to get her to cut it short in preparation, but when I tried to explain what I wanted I burst into tears. She gave me a big hug and refused to cut it short, but she did give me a great haircut which I have loved for the last two weeks.
Today, as I was washing my hair in the shower, it started to fall out, covering my hands and clogging up the plug hole. I was feeling elated after running five miles this morning so wasn’t that bothered – proof once again that running makes everything better – but perhaps it’s more that I’ve become resigned to losing it. There’s still a lot of it to go, but baldness beckons.