Not A Pink Girl

Feeling beautiful 101 | May 26, 2008

Spoke to my friend Nancy today. She got out of the hospital & is back at her parents’ house. She sounds bone-weary, but she has a great attitude.

When she first found out she had cancer (7/2007), she was horror-stricken that she might lose her long chestnut brown hair. She’s a Civil War living history re-enactor (Confederate) & she has an exceedingly authentic look about her, especially with her undyed hair down to the middle of her back. After awhile, she got things in perspective & figured oh well, if I lose my hair it will grow back.

She was lucky in that she didn’t lose a hair through her whole first round of chemo. The second round though, she figured she’d just get a short haircut.

For Nancy to willingly submit to the hairdresser’s scissors is just something I never thought I’d ever see. But she did it. She left the hospital on Friday 5/23 & headed straight for the hair salon. She had her hair cut in a beautiful & tres chic short style that really accentuated her striking facial features (remember I told you she looks like Cher). She loved it! It helped take the edge off of her extreme fatigue.

She woke up this morning with every hair on her head having fallen out overnight.

I spoke to her on the phone a few hours ago. She said, “Kathie, do you know that I have never felt this beautiful? I looked in the mirror, scared to death at what I’d see. And I’m telling you, an inner peace spread over me. In my whole life, I’ve never felt this beautiful!”

Isn’t that stunning?

I think back on all the heartache I’ve gone through in my life to try to make myself pretty: worrying about my weight (that’s always been my number-one preoccupation with my appearance), fretting over my hair, etc. How much time & money have we spent on our hair?! I mean, Lord! When I was in second grade, my mother cut my hair in a pixie or “Sassoon” haircut (Vidal Sassoon was a celebrity hairdresser who was all the rage in the mid-1960s; he did Mia Farrow‘s hair for Rosemary’s Baby).

In my next life, I will look like this.

For some reason, my older sister (the oldest in our family & 15 months older than me) was allowed to have long hair, but my mother chopped my hair off to the point where I looked like an upside-down balloon with my pinhead as the tiny knot. I was mortified! I mean you might not think a 7-year-old really cared that much about what she looked like, but I did not want to be seen in public.

I went to a Catholic school & wore a uniform. Somehow, in my desperation to figure out how I could keep my classmates from seeing my freakish hair (or lack thereof), I remembered that our uniforms – bought at the Bo Peep Shop – came with a little plaid kerchief! The saints be praised! I wore that flippin’ kerchief on my head for months. My class picture that year shows my big-eyed, chipmunk-cheeked self with that quirky bandana on my head too. I think I was the only kid in the history of Saint Mary’s in Landover Hills, Maryland that ever wore that little triangle of fabric! I looked so doofy, but I’m telling you, my stomach was clenched with panic at the thought of going to school with that practically-bald head.

Even 40 years later I agonize over what to do with my hair. I found my first gray hair when I was looking in the mirror at school, getting ready to have my high school senior portrait taken! I was 17 years old. Do I need to inform you that now my hair is much more completely-white than salt-and-pepper gray? I’ve dyed my hair since August 1989. Back then, I used to get these dainty little blonde streaks pulled through the cap. Cap Schmap! Now I let the hairdresser slap a bucketful of color on this head from roots to ends.

When Britney Spears shaved her head, I laughed at all the reporters who said, “Britney’s had a nervous breakdown!” Ha! She finally got smart. I think she did it 1) because her flippin’ hair was probably driving her to distraction; 2) she has a whole fleet of assistants at her beck & call who can tie extensions onto the tiniest tuft of peach fuzz growing on her cueball noggin; 3) she doesn’t have to stoop to the Rachel Welch collection to find a fabulous wig; and, most important, 4) there’s a theory that a woman’s hair represents her sexuality & she just said Eff it! These men just aren’t worth it! & cut those men right out of her hair. Breakdown my butt.

So, as I sit here with my light-auburnish-strawberry blonde-highlighted-lowlighted shoulder-length hair that cost me $230 (not including a $40 tip!) to get cut & colored (in the far-out suburbs, mind you, not in Beverly Hills or something), I think of Nancy who realized in an exceedingly convoluted way that it really might be what’s on the inside that makes us beautiful.

But if I could just lose about 15 pounds by the first day of summer…

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