"How do you get a hair line like that at 50?"
Someone asked me that the other day. Or should I say a dude asked me that question. (Have you figured out he was losing his hair yet?). I get a lot of comments on my hair. I always have. It seems like people think it's their right to say something about my hair. Funny, I don't say anything to people about their hair. "Hey, how long you been a bald-headed bastard?", "you get a haircut after you finished that bowl of soup?", "what, they ran out of your regular hair color?", "do you think I don't notice that comb-over?", "how the hell you comb that thing on your head?", "can you stay out of the light, you're blinding me here!". Never once have I said any of those things to people. Never. (OK, maybe when I was piss drunk and bagging on my friends).
I was born with fire engine red hair, at least that's what my GrandMaree said. She said it looked like my hair was on fire it was so red. My hair was really red and curly when I was a kid. As I got older, it got darker. And people would ask me if I dyed it. Yeah, at 15-years-old, I'm gonna dye my hair. But I was asked that all time. Still am. And now that it's really long––pony tail long––I get even more comments. I even asked a former client one time about my hair. I said, "it's one thing not to like an ad. But if we don't know what you don't like about it, we'll keep making the same mistake over and over again. If I asked you if you liked my hair and you said no, I would ask you why." He said, "And I'd tell you, because it's messy." This from a man with a comb-over. Swear to God. I bit my tongue so hard I thought it was going to bleed. But hey, I asked him and he told me what he felt. Give him credit for that.
When I was going through radiation and chemo for head & neck cancer, my hair was falling out. It changed color, with a long white streak right down the middle. It looked like I hardly lost any hair at all. But I have a lot of hair. And I lost it in clumps. I just had so much, it wasn't noticeable to everyone. Maybe it was because it was so long. Maybe it was that I had such bad acne––not teenage acne, but that's what the Erbitux did to my face, make it break out like a teenager going through puberty––and no one noticed my hair falling out. Who knows? But I did. I also knew that I was trying to grow it as long as I could.
When I was going to radiation 5 days a week, for a full 7 weeks, I saw many others in the waiting room with varying stages of hair loss. It was a painful and visible reminder that this stuff was beating the crap out of our bodies. But the lasting image that got me the most was a little boy without any hair. He had to be about 7 or 8. He looked sad. He looked embarrassed. He looked me straight in the eye one day, looked at my long hair and looked back at me right in the eye. I knew what he was thinking. Why does he have hair and I don't? I felt for him. I felt he was probably getting picked on, just like I did when the kids on the playground called me carrot top, Woody Woodpecker or asked me if my hair was on fire.
I knew then that I would grow more hair as long as I can. Cut it and donate it so someone could use it to cover their head. Kids, actually. Give my hair to those kids who have to suffer not only the pain and after effects of radiation, but the ignorance of their friends and other kids their age who tease them. Hey, kids don't know any better. But I know better. I know that the simple act of growing my hair long and getting it cut so other cancer victims can cover up their heads, is the least I can do. So the next time someone asks me about my hair, I'll give them the hair line. I'm a cancer survivor and growing it to donate it.
I'm sure I'll see some red on their head.