Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Buzz Cut

Tuesday March 15, 2011

Who knew that losing hair can be so messy? After approximately ten days to two weeks of receiving certain chemotherapies, you start to lose your hair. Once it falls out, it falls out rapidly. Not in clumps, but in large amounts of strands that shed on pillows during sleep. It covers your body during showers. Rubbing your palm against the head will inevitably result in a fistfull of hair strands.

At some point you need to do something about it. Losing your hair is just plain messy. And the scalp hurts. It's as if the hair follicles have had enough and they just want to push the hair out. Your head feels sensitive, and short hair starts to stand up straight before falling out.

My decision at this point but to take some action and just get rid of the problem. So after days and nights of thinking of the inevitable, I decided that shaving is the answer. And I couldn't do it myself. There was too much hair left, and the thought of nicking my head with a razor and having to deal with blood as well as baldness would be too much to handle.

So, on on the spur of the moment while driving back to work after I meeting, I ran into Ann's Hair Salon and Manicure in Goshen New York. I had never been in this old-fashioned salon in a little building shared with a plumbing contractor. It was tucked away on a one-way street, and the sign outside said in fading light blue letters, in cursive, "Ann's Hair Salon." The fact that none of my colleagues or friends would likely be walking in, was a big factor in my selection of this hair salon.

I saw a woman with greyish-blue hair under one of those large hairdryers from the 1960's that covers your whole head. A woman in her late 60's, apparently the owner, was cutting the few strands of hair left over on the scalp of a man who was virtually bald. That seemed to be very similar to the haircut I sought. When I told Ann my predicament, she agreed to stay overtime for me since the shop closed in five minutes.

While waiting, I browsed her bulletin board. In addition to photos of lots of little children, surely her grandchildren, there was a 1996 certificate from American Cancer Society thanking the store for its donations. On the bookshelves, among the trashy romance novels, there were brochures displayed for a breast cancer walk, and an American Cancer Society wig catalog. A coincidence that this was the storeowner’s chosen cause, or fate?

She took me in a chair, and gave me a brochure from TLC, the American Cancer Society’s brochure with cheap wigs and head coverings for sale, and gave me a business card from the organization that teaches cancer patients how to look good and feel better during treatment. Actually, it really is called “Look Good Feel Better.”

She offered to bring me in the back room. I looked around and saw the only other customer was the elderly woman with greyish blue hair at that point. She eyed me curiously, while I eyed her back. Here is fine, I said. Low odds that a colleague would come bounding in this little old lady salon at 4pm on a Tuesday.

She then took my glasses off and started shaving my round itchy head. I couldn’t look. Thank goodness I can’t see a thing without my glasses, and she turned the chair so I was not facing the mirror.


Up to now, I felt at peace with the idea of losing my hair, and actually had looked forward to wearing my scarves and getting it over with. But once the buzzer started doing its job, I was overcome with emotion - well almost. Last thing I wanted to do was cry in the barber chair. So I held my ground.

When she was done, I got my wallet. She waved her hand at my wallet and said “this one’s on me.” I gave her a big hug and left. . She made a potentially traumatic experience very painless.

So now I have a Sinead O’Connor hairdo. Looking in the mirror, you can suddenly see features, such as cheekbones and ears and nose. Eyebrows. Glasses. I don’t look half bad. Then again I don’t look half good. But I can live with it. Just hope that people around me don’t start thinking I’m sick. Because I’m not.

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