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.
Back in the Day
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!