The first time I lost my hair
, it took a little more than six months for it to come back.
In the meantime, I met lots of other breast-cancer patients and veterans, several of whom had decided that once their
hair grew back, they'd let it keep on growing.
Their reaction to spending time at one end of the hirsuteness spectrum led them to resolve—defiantly—to live the rest of their lives at the other.
Perhaps because I'd spent the bulk of my life at that other end—with lots and lots of curly hair, always thick and often long—I didn't feel the same way.
Walking around bald for six months imbued me with a kind of fearlessness, and I was reluctant to let go of it when things started sprouting again up top.
I didn't want to stay bald, but I kept my hair very short, à la Joan of Arc. It was my own sort of defiance, I guess.
Or maybe I was hedging my bets, so that if cancer and chemo ever came calling again—naaaah!
—I would have, in one very tangible way, much less to lose.
Not surprisingly, I did the same thing the second time around, leaving my hair so short that it barely skirted the tops of my ears.
Both times I've had the slightly disorienting experience of running into long-lost friends who'd look at me in disbelief—"Your hair is so short
!!!" they'd exclaim after finally putting the name to my less obscured face. Meanwhile everyone else in my life was saying the opposite—"Wow, your hair is coming in so nicely" or "Look how long it's getting"—with an equal number of exclamation points.
I had every intention of keeping it short this time, but then two things happened. First, Dave, our beloved hair stylist, started lobbying me to let it grow.
By then I'd become fairly attached to super-short hair—it was curl-free but far more manageable. I did have to get it trimmed more frequently, but other than that I didn't have to think about it. It always looked good, and I didn't even have to wash it every day. Added bonus: I could wear any earrings I wanted—nothing got lost amid the curls or waves.
Dave was unmoved by my arguments for short hair's convenience; he wanted all that curl and wave and body to reappear. Like a talented chef who'd rather cook for omnivores than vegans, he didn't want to be circumscribed by arbitrary restrictions.
I'd stared Dave down before—usually when I couldn't face "the awkward stage" or when summertime humidity turned every extra millimeter of hair into what felt like a tenfold increase in my core body temperature.
Late last summer, though, I fell behind on my regular haircut schedule. And just when I was getting fed up with how shaggy I'd become, just when I thought I would melt
under the weight and heat of all that hair, my dad started taking Dave's side.
"I love your hair like that," he'd say. Or, "Your hair's coming in so beautifully."
He said it nearly every time I visited, no matter how unkempt I thought I looked. Maybe because he started losing his own hair at 18, he'd always—ever since I was a little girl—loved my hair long. And while last fall it was nowhere near my chin, let alone my shoulders, I guess those early buds of curl gave him hope that it might get there again someday.
I've been back to Dave's twice since then, just for trims. The first time was the day before my dad's memorial service, and I couldn't bring myself to have it cut any shorter.
Four months later, my hair is legitimately down to my chin. The curls are back in full flower. And my long-held defiance has given way.
I'm not going to let it grow forever.
But I won't be so quick to shear it off again.