I was brushing the never ending locks of my mother’s auburn hair. It was a lazy moment where she wasn’t up and moving as she normally would be. She was letting me play with her hair and it was one of my few favorite moments of childhood. I’ve never seen anyone with red hair like hers ever since. I was six years old.
She laughed that deep, throaty laugh, “Well, I can’t give it to you but, who knows, maybe your color will change when you get older.”
She sat up and leaned forward so I could dangle her hair over my face and pretend it was mine. We both laughed and I spoke through the strands, “I wish I had your hair.”
Thirty-seven years later and I find myself being bedecked in hair clips, ribbons, and ties for a “makeover” session from my daughter. In mid brush stroke she stopped to ask me very solemnly, “Will I have your hair someday?”
I laughed, “Is that a BAD thing?”
A nervous giggle and a hand twirling my hair, “No…but I hope I stay blonde.”
“Because my hair looks like sunshine.”
I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or proud of her positive self-esteem. I went with proud and pet the ends of my hair silently telling them “it’s ok”.
Hair is a sensitive subject for many women. Whether you find your hair thinning after childbirth or during menopause, in a state of constant animosity towards your curly locks, resenting salons that don’t have the faintest idea how to handle your hair (true for every single person who doesn’t have stick, straight caucasian hair), or you have a hormonal imbalance like myself and feel like the long, lost urban yeti. I feel like hair is one of the last bastions of taboos that we’re not supposed to discuss as women. The expectation is that you smile with patience and good humor while comics stoop to making jokes at our expense over our follicle growth or weight.
PCOS has been part of my life since I was a teen when my sister discovered that she herself had the condition. Nothing about enduring the condition is simply cosmetic and it’s more than what most misogynistic medical professionals would like to deem a “fertility issue”. It’s an endocrinological condition that is still not completely understood and little has been done to address other than to be sure women can reproduce and, like most women with the condition, I had no idea that they were largely wrong about most of their assumptions. I was fertile just not until I was in my late thirties which is a recent discovery being made as well as many others outside of the U.S.
It wasn’t long after my sister’s diagnosis before I saw the signs in myself and a lifelong insecurity took root. My eyebrows, if left unkempt, can double as a disguise for a Greek sailor. My facial hair? Even I don’t feel the need to overshare on that one.
Some women would cringe to admit the lengths they go to but most of us have some amount of maintenance that we have to perform on our faces. Whether it’s penciling in the brows we over pruned in our teens or the full facial hair that has to be waxed, lasered, bleached, plucked, and – oh, yes, for many of us – shaved. Yet we’re all meant to feel ashamed of this despite the fact that the majority of us have to face it because there’s no hiding just that, our face. We’re all furry mammals after all and some of us are just furrier.
I’ve spent thousands over the years to manage my hair growth and have had painful consequences from ingrown hairs to scarring to temporary damage to my vision to once a palomino pattern of bruises on my legs. Always tres chic for a twentysomething on vacation to look like she received the Full-Metal-Jacket-treatment to her legs. But, hey, hair free!
The one plus side is that even when I have a bad haircut I don’t fret over it since I know it will grow out faster than a Chia pet in a greenhouse. Because of this, and the many friends and family affected by cancer over the years, I felt that my excess of hair should do some good in the world so I began donating it about twelve years ago. After all, what better therapy than to rid yourself of what plagues you.
Yet this year will be my last time. Sadly, my “sparkle” hairs (as Nora likes to call them) keep me from donating any longer and many of the charities are opting for more affordable options and donating synthetic wigs out instead. This was my final, fifth, donation and Nora came along with me to mark the occasion and take photos of my donation to Wigs for Kids.
She wanted to assist my stylist, Lisa, and it made the process a little more stressful albeit hilarious. Five large hanks of hair bundled and bagged. I looked at myself in the mirror and marveled at how quickly time folds over itself yet again. How with being a parent a single day can last an eternity while a week is but an hour and a year just a moment.
How can I possibly be this old already? Shouldn’t I have accomplished more with my life by now? Shouldn’t there be more of a sense of achievement over what I have done?
Nora interrupted my thoughts, “Mama?”
“Can I have your hair?”
It jolted me out of my self pity and I looked at her in surprise, “Well,…your hair might turn darker someday but I can’t guarantee it will look just like mine.”
She threw her head back to laugh at me, “NO, I meant can I KEEP some of your hair! Silly mama.”
“Oh,” I was a bit disappointed and shook it off realizing how stupid I was being, “Sure you can keep some of my hair. What did you want to do with it?”
“Make a wig for my bear.”
Ah, children, the reminder that your ego and feelings really don’t matter.
“Ok, I’ll set some of it aside for you.”
Lisa kept working on my hair, smiling, and we made quick eye contact at each other over my head in the mirror. We both smirked and gasped in unison as Nora surprised me again. She wrapped her arms around me and quietly told me, “I want to keep some and pet it too.”
I kissed her head and promised her that we could do that, “Ok, will I still have enough to make a wig for my doll?”
I envisioned a political effigy of myself being burned over a fire, “Sure.”
End of an era. The hair I grow out now will only be repurposed for creepy doll wigs and craft projects. Fitting really seeing that I’ve always felt like a work in progress Muppet.
“Cause Of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Discovered At Last”: APost.com