Hair, someone told me once, was a sure sign of life. I.e., if you’re growing hair, you are alive. (There are other signs but hair is a definite yes-I-live). I’ve even heard that any mole with hair growing out of it––mole as in the things on your skin, not the things that dig holes in your yard––is almost certainly not a suspicious mole, because hair is a sign of life.
But here I’m talking mostly about head hair, which I lost pretty much all of to chemo. As I’ve said before, if I’d been younger, I’d have been devastated. My hair has been my obsession, probably bordering on fetish. I’ve had all kinds of hair:
This is my 1986 hair. (I’m the one on the right, smartass. The one on the left is my son. Again, just FYI.) (I have no idea how gigantic this photo may be, as WordPress’s photo editor seems temperamental today.)
About a month and a half after my last round of chemo, my hair began to grow back. Not slowly, but at a natural rate, as if I had deliberately shaved it off. By August, when I was preparing to go to the world science fiction convention in Spokane, Washington, I had what could have been a pixie-cut that was just slightly too short. Ellen Datlow told me she thought it looked cute and I could probably get away without any head-coverings. I will always love her for that, truly. There’s nothing more reassuring to someone recovering from chemo than to be told she looks cute with her short hair. I mean, really. It goes a long way toward recovery–not just a physical recovery but the psychological recovering of yourself from cancer patient to Who You Are. (Yeah, you may be both but it’s important to be Who You Are first, cancer patient second.)
Still, I left the head scarves on. I wasn’t quite ready to expose my itty-bitty head with its itty-bitty hair.
A month later, however, my hair was an inch longer and it was a different story.
This is my 2015 hair, the Silver Fox. I’m afraid this is about the best shot I have at the moment, but you get the idea. Suddenly, I had thick, kinda curly, more-salt-than-peppa and although it was still quite short––shorter even than it was in high school, when I had my shoulder-length mane chopped off for the shock effect (adolescence, a weird and baffling time)––but it actually looked good.
I took it out to dinner with my son, who is much more than an armful now. He pronounced it good.
Then Chris and I took it to dinner with John and Judith Clute, where it was a total hit. “Don’t let it get much longer,” John advised me. “It looks great.” Judith agreed.
After that, I took it to TitanCon in Belfast…
Chris agrees my hair is epic. Neither of us would have thought that hair this short would actually become me but somehow, it does. My hair is like an Apple computer––it works as soon as I take it out. There’s a lot to be said for convenient hair, especially now that chemo has given me super-powers (I can walk).
If you look good, you feel even better––not exactly a profound conclusion. But cancer patients are often told they look great––and quite often, that means “You look great for someone with cancer.” That’s not an insult, cancer patients would rather hear that than see a horrified expression on someone’s face.
But when you can look good as Who You Are…well, you get the idea, right?