The Great Fallout: My hairy days ahead
I’ve never really appreciated my hair. Growing up a little brown girl in East Birmingham, I would lament that my dirty-brown, cottony mane wasn’t long enough, straight enough or looked like that of the pretty girl in my sixth-grade class. To me, my locks were too short and too nappy, and I thought God had given me a bum deal.
At night, I would take out a pair of my black, opaque church tights and fit them on my perfectly round head. I’d twist the legs into a long braid, contort it into different styles and then prance in the mirror until my mama made me take them off.
When I’d remove my mock do, I would be thrust back into reality and deflated all over again. I wanted long, curly coils like Denise Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” and bouncy bangs like Tootie on “The Facts of Life.” Heck, I even wanted Michael Jackson’s long, twisty locks like on the “Billie Jean” video. (I’m an 80s baby.)
On Saturday mornings, when it was time to get my hair pressed for the week to come, my mama would brace herself for a fight because I am tender-headed. The kitchen would be transformed into a bootleg beauty shop with pools of Royal Crown Hair Dressing in the corner and I would scoot around in the chair while she chased me with the smoking-hot straightening comb. That earned me burn marks on the tips of my ears and my pleas for a chemical solution.
Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and got my beautician cousin to slap in a Jheri curl – those wet, cascading coils that would last, with maintenance from its shelves of products, for six to eight weeks.
But, alas, I didn’t get my hair done regularly. So, my mane would often teeter from being a crisp coiffure of curls to a scary bouquet of frizzy, lifeless crinkles. I'd take the cheaper route and go to the local drug store and pick up some of that Carefree Snap Back lotion in the red-and-yellow plastic bottle in hopes of breathing new life into my do. It promised to make your style look like it did on Day One, but I’d try to Snap Back so often that eventually my curls were snapped out.
In college, and into my career as a young professional, I lusted for bone straight hair. I wanted my locks to lay so flat on my scalp that it would resemble a lustrous, black satiny scarf. I'd subject myself to hours in the beauty shop, getting a creamy relaxer smoothed unto my head until it’d feel like a blowtorch was lighting it afire. It was worth it, I thought, so that my hair could be styled into a wrap do that would bounce when I walked.
Soon, I became addicted to hair dye and got my locks shaded into nearly every color of the rainbow. I’ve been T-Boz gold, spiced cognac, chestnut brown and some scary hombre concoction that I whipped up myself in my kitchen.
I’ve also had my hair sewn full of bountiful synthetic weave until I was almost unrecognizable. Once, after getting my hair done, my young son, who had to be around 3 years-old at the time, spotted me as I walked in the door. He bucked his eyes, burst into tears and ran into a corner.
Finally, into my late 30s’ and now in my 40s’, I tried to embrace the natural texture of my hair. I chopped off all of the chemically relaxed locks and was left with a short fro. I enjoyed it for a while, but then had many days and nights lusting again for the old “creamy crack” to achieve that bone-straight relaxed look of old.
I’ve been thinking about hair a lot lately because mine has entered into a new phase.
As the chemotherapy makes its way through my body to kill these cancer cells, losing my hair is one of the byproducts. I watched lots of YouTube videos to get a sense of the hair loss timeline and what it would be like. Just about everyone that I watched said it happens exactly two weeks to the day of my first treatment. For me, that would be on a Monday. In the days leading up to my Great Fallout, I would run my fingers through my hair; kind of like a goodbye and apology for being so ungrateful through the years.
On that Monday, like clockwork, it began to happen. I was in the shower washing my hair and clumps appeared in my hand. When I dried my head, I inspected it to see if there were bald spots. There were none yet, so I went to work and held my breath.
I have to admit, I am picker. Knowing that my hair was coming out, my hands kept reaching into my coif to see what would happen. And it would come out in hand fulls while at my desk. By the end of the day, I was scurrying home to assess the damage.
By night time, there were bald spots. I went to work the next day wearing a scarf. By the end of the week, my head looked like Fire Marshall Bill from “In Living Color.”
As the days go by, everywhere I go, my hair leaves a trail behind me – all on my pink polka-dot pillow, all over our slate gray sofas and on the floor of the wide-mouth bathtub. When I come from work and toss my scarf in a corner, my daughter always comes up to me, grabs my face and moans, “Oh, mommy.”
I tell her that the hair loss means that the medicine is working, but that still doesn’t stop her tears.
As my scalp is now nearly clean, I can’t help but reflect on how I was so neglectful of my hair, wishing it was something else. The Bible says that a woman’s hair is her glory, her covering. I fussed, complained about and didn’t honor my glory. Now when I touch it, it melts like cotton candy and when I brush it, it falls like brown snow.
I have so many regrets about how I treated my dear hair, and now I pray that when this is all over she will return back to me.
(Note: I’ll likely video when I shave my head and post it soon.)