#181 - Don't Like Being the Focus
Back to the Barbershop
Don and I headed to the Richmond Barber Shop a week ago.
When we walked inside, A.D. looked up from his chair with a big smile and said, "There's the star!"
A.D. had set up an interview with someone from Richmond's, Fort Bend Herald. He was pretty giddy to have me tell the story from last year, when I called and asked if he could shave my head. I insisted the focus should be on the sweet and generous barber (him!) who allowed me to be his first woman customer.
Diana from the Herald, arrived and introduced herself. She was very young, born in an era of unisex hair salons.
But she seemed intrigued as she studied the old barber chairs and framed photos that covered the walls. A.D. sat in his rolling, office chair and invited us to sit in the green chairs that lined the wall.
Back in the Day
The shop was closed and quiet on that Monday, but A.D told us how those chairs had often been filled, back in busier days.
"Sometimes there wouldn't even be anyone getting a haircut. The men would just be sitting along there, visiting and carrying on."
It was fun to realize at that moment, there were just as many women as men in the shop... the shop that has always catered to men. I was pretty content focusing on the past and imagining the atmosphere 57 years ago, when A.D. started up.
But it was time for the interview and Diana began by asking questions about my cancer. She asked when I was diagnosed and what stage of cancer I had. She wanted to know how I took the news and what was the hardest part of my cancer.
Why are we talking about this? I wondered. Everybody has cancer these days. My cancer story is nothing. I wanted to talk about my adventure last year and this wonderful barber who shaved my head with a straight edge razor, to give me a fresh start before growing hair, again!
A.D. seemed pretty satisfied sitting in his chair watching us talk, but I attempted to pull him into the conversation. "A.D., am I really the first woman who has ever had her hair cut (or shaved) in your shop?" "Oh yes!" He answered firmly, then added. "Well, sometimes if a little sister or granddaughter comes along, I might let her get up in that chair and trim her bangs as a courtesy. But you're the first woman customer!" I had to explain to Diana that I wasn't really a customer, because he wouldn't allow me to pay.
Diana wanted a picture of A.D. and me. I teased A.D. a little, so he wouldn't be too serious for the camera.
I asked him to show me the cup and brush that he used to lather my head. I took a whiff and the scent of ivory soap took me right back to my grandmother's house. So many nostalgia moments!
Steering the Interview
I felt more comfortable joking around, taking photos than I did answering questions. I kept trying to steer the conversation towards A.D.'s generosity and the shop's history.
A.D. kept putting the spotlight on me. "Last year, when Beth walked in my door with that big smile, I knew I had to do whatever she wanted... even though I was a little nervous about shaving her head."
I tried again to control the interview. "Did you know A.D. gets to the shop at 5 every morning?" But Diana had more questions for me. I found myself suddenly babbling.
"Well, shaving my head was a silly thing to do since I hardly had any hair, after chemo. But sometimes you just need to take control and do something to shake things up. When you get cancer, you suddenly feel like you lose control over everything. You have to find ways to make yourself feel empowered. Last year, I figured not many women get a chance to shave their heads in a barber shop, so I should take advantage!"
Hmmm? I listened to myself and I began wondering why I always thought I needed to take control.
When Diana asked what advice I had for other breast cancer patients, I told her that staying connected with family and friends helped more than anything. "I prefer being a hermit." I explained. But from the beginning, I forced myself to be open and out there with my cancer. Connecting on the phone, in emails, in person and even on social media was more energizing than draining.
As I spoke, I glanced at A.D. and remembered how we had laughed and carried on a year ago. We got to know each other as he shaved my head and even talked a little about cancer. I realized while talking to Diana, that connecting with others isn't just about communicating and sharing with the people we already know.
Five days after the interview, I got a call from A.D.
"Miss Beth, we made the big time! We're on the front page!"
A.D. said he'd mail me a copy, but I said I'd drop by.
I wondered a bit about what Diana had written. I never saw her taking notes. I wasn't sure what she would take away from my rambling.
I stopped by yesterday and A.D. had my paper waiting. He made sure we autographed each other's copies. A.D. was more than pleased with the write-up.
I didn't worry that Diana had gotten a few things wrong. I was just happy that my barber and his shop had a good spotlight.
After more thought, I guess I wouldn't necessarily advise getting a post-chemo head shave, to just anyone. But I would tell others, "Figure out what delights you and indulge."
Ice cream, playing piano or a new outfit can do it for some. But during my months of treatment, I got some of my biggest boosts from connecting with strangers. There was something refreshing about talking with people who didn't know me at all. Not every encounter was memorable, but I can't think of any that were negative. I let myself be open to the surprises the came about when I spent a little time with people outside of my usual world. I put down my cell phone in doctor's offices. I stopped to pat dogs on a walk. I chatted with people in the grocery line. Finding that I had things in common with strangers, always gave me a lift. Connecting with others became the thing that delighted me.
A year ago, I thought I was making an appointment with A.D. for a head shave. But without realizing it, I was making an appointment for the best "people encounter" ever!
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I started this complaining list/blog, in May 2016. I posted 200 gripes about my breast CANCER and then I was done.
On March 13, 2020, I started venting all over again, when another disease (starting with a C) interfered with my life. This time it was the invasion of COVID and it affected every person. I ranted for a year, until I got my COVID vaccine in March 2021.
CORONARY Artery Disease was the reason I restarted this blog on September 26, 2021. This time it was my hubby Don, who was dealing with a worry that started with the letter "C".
Coronavirus and Cancer, Coronary Artery Disease! All are evil, but none can totally get me down... if I vent! I usually end up feeling a little more positive at the end of each post!
Navigating This Mess!
The most recent post is at the top, from coronary posts in 2022, back to cancer posts in 2016.
To find past posts, look below the "Archives" section, to find "Categories".