Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bald and Beautiful

It was the spring of 1995. Dan and I were having a little outing in the city, and had seated ourselves at a table in a small semi-posh restaurant. The waitress had taken our order, and as we waited for our food to be prepared, we couldn’t help overhearing the rather loud conversation at a nearby table.

Two women were going on about how hard it was to get a good hairdresser these days, all the trials they’d been through, trying this color and that style, all ending in exasperation.

I reached up and touched the bare stubble of hair on my scalp, and an evil thought crossed my mind. I leaned over and whispered to Dan, “They better STAY AWAY from my hairdresser if they know what’s good for them. I’ve been going to the Hairdresser from Hell!”

I write this as a salute to my then-self, and to all women who choose as I did, to go bald in chemotherapy. There is something powerful and good about loving yourself no matter what. Deciding to stand up for honesty, for simplicity, for not hiding or needing to hide.

Wearing a wig may be just the thing for some women, but for me it was hot and itchy, an unnatural thing on my head, when my scalp just longed to breathe free. Some women wear fancy scarves or hats, and I do not object to their choices. Of course wear a hat on a cold winter day, or if feeling especially jaunty, adorn your head with something fun. But let it be for the joy of it, and not out of fear of how you look.

When strangers noticed me on the street, I thought with my bald head and big smile I might look like a rock star, a Buddhist nun, or a chemo patient just glad to be alive. Occasionally someone would know, and just give me a smile and victory sign – those were the best.

The trials of chemotherapy are long behind me. I’ve had countless haircuts since that day. But today, when I met another bald-headed woman, it gave me such a feeling of joy to find another one unafraid to be herself. It is a sure sign of life, and I celebrate her life even as I celebrate my own.

Gail Murray 1/31/2007