Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flashback: March 31, 2010: Gimme a Head with Hair

There is a Cancer Resource Center on the same floor as Dr. Laudi's office and the infusion center.  Since it is run by volunteers, it is not always open.   Mark has checked it out himself before when I have been waiting for labs or chemo.  Today, after visiting the clinic, Mark noticed it was open, so he, my mom and I stopped in.

The door opens into a room with a fireplace and comfortable sofa facing it. There is a table surrounded by chairs.  Books and brochures fill the shelves that line the walls.  Off to the left is smaller, closet-sized room filled with drawers and baskets filled with wigs.  A volunteer had encouraged Mark to have me take a look, because they offer one wig to each cancer patient free of charge. 

My sisters and I have grown out our hair before and donated it to Locks of Love, an organization that collects hair and makes it into wigs for people who have lost their hair. I am curious to look at the wigs.  I don't know if I really want a wig.  I don't need one.  My Aunt Connie said her wig was itchy and hot and she was always self-conscious about people staring at her.  She imagined people whispering to each other about it as she passed by.  She said she once left a grocery store in a panic, because she felt she was on display- eyes burning holes through her, inspecting her fake hair, judging her because of the obvious fakeness of her hair.

My head is bald.  It is what it is.  No more.  No less.  I actually forget about it at times.  I feel acceptance, even a sense of freedom.  My self worth is simply not bound to hair- probably to the disbelief and horror of my culture.

The reactions I see in others is an interesting study of human behavior.  When faced with a bald woman, do you:
-stare with curiosity?
-stare with disgust?
-stare as if you aren't staring?
-wonder if she has cancer? 
-look away and ignore her?
-think she is attention-seeking?
-wonder if she is part of a cult?
-feel at a loss for words, but find a way to show her you see her and care?
-stop your child from asking her about her hair?
-or do you just ask her about it?

What do I do when I see a bald woman? 

The volunteer asked me about my hair color and previous hairstyle. She pointed out a section of wigs that were similar to my own hair, then she left us alone so I could try then on. There were drawers and drawers filled with wigs, each in its own ziplock bag. There was a large mirror to look in. We started pulling out the wigs, comparing them to my old hair, trying to match it, but why should I let my DNA dictate the color of my hair now? I am bald. I am a blank slate. Soon, we were all venturing away from my usual brunette, shoulder-length bobbed hairstyle.

We took a hair adventure.....

You can imagine Mark's comments-
"just need some high heels and a street corner." 
(looks like I already have the wardrobe malfunction going on)
"And now for the 5 o'clock news.  For our first story..."
I had trouble stretching this wig around my head.
When I let go of the back to secure it in the front,
it slipped from my fingers 
and sailed through the air like a rubber band-
giving it a tossled look. 
Mrs. Claus
 or Mark said, "Oh, Mom!"
I think there's still a rat in this nest.

Our laughter filled the wig closet and spilled out into the adjoining room. The volunteer returned smiling. She asked if I had found one I liked, but I wasn't sure. She said she had another wig back in her office- a story wig, she called it- and she wondered if I would like to try it on.

"Can we hear the story?" we asked.

She told us a woman had purchased the wig for her daughter, but her daughter had died before she could ever wear it. So the mother donated the wig and asked that it be given to a young woman with cancer. I said I would like to try it on, so she went to get it. We were putting the wigs back in their respective bags and drawers when she returned and handed me the wig. I put this wig on carefully, with reverence. This wig was not just some fake hair. It had been intended for someone
The Story Wig

"What do you think?" She asked me as I looked at myself in the mirror.
I shook my head, "I don't know."

"Well, I can put this one back in my office and you can let us know what you decide."
It's a surprisingly hard decision.  To me, a wig is not something to hide beneath or replace something I have lost or pretend I am someone I am not. I am very clear about what a wig is not.  I just don't know what a wig is... to me.  
On another day, I tried this wig on
 while I waited.
Then, I tried the Story Wig on again.

Something in me was drawn to this wig,
or more likely,
to the story of this wig.

While the volunteer fussed with the strands of hair,

I decided to give this wig a home.
And that's what I did...

No comments:

Post a Comment