I'm starting to sound repetitive about this hair stuff, but here I go...
I'm actually getting used to facing friends and strangers with my new funny hair growth. But last Wednesday, I suddenly started fretting again, over whether or not to wear my wig.
I was getting ready to drive to Austin to meet my childhood friend. What was the big deal? Diane knew me back in my pixie cut days, so my extra short hair wouldn't be too shocking. Then again, there's a lot of gray now. It was tempting to just put a big distracting bow on my head. That's the kind of thing I would have done at age 7, back when Diane lived next door.
It was tempting to wear a cowboy hat. After all, Diane was coming to Texas all the way from New Hampshire. She would surely be delighted to spot her old friend wearing a felt hat with a cord, fastened under the chin!
Back when we were in Kindergarten, we dressed up in our cowboy gear a lot. At least that's what it says in the illustrated autobiography I wrote, when I was all grown up ... at age 11.
So I braved it and left the wig box in the car. I headed into the hotel to wait. Diane didn't have a hard time recognizing me. We gabbed for 5 hours and we could have gone on for 5 more.
Before we even had a drink, we explored and laughed our way all over the historic hotel. It felt like we were back in Iowa, acting up. But at least back when we did our kid pranks, we were smart enough to hide behind our disguises. I wish I had a photo of us back in the day with our plastic mustache & glasses combo.
I drove home to Houston that night, thinking about our shared memories, living next door as kids. I thought over what we learned about each other as we talked about our lives since 1966. And I even thought about the great internet, that reconnected us 10 years ago and has allowed us to keep in touch.
What I didn't think about... was my hair or my wig!
When I Was Bald
Suddenly this past week, I started giving myself a choice about leaving the house with my head uncovered. Numerous times this week, I grabbed the wig and stewed over my choice, before returning it to Betty-Lou, the wig stand.
I'll admit, I feel naked and vulnerable, stepping out into the world with my salt-n-pepper-shorter-than-a-crew-cut hair. It's not even in a style yet. I can't comb it or part it. But I was having a bold week...
An Important Week
It started on Monday, MLK day. I volunteered with the kids at the Women's Shelter. While talking about being different, I took off my scarf and showed the kids my funny hair. Their honest reactions were amusing!
It wasn't so scary showing my cropped, little-boy-hair to kids who don't know me. The hard part was surprising the people who do know me... and my wig look. But on Tuesday, I met a friend for lunch. I knew Terri would embrace my drastic short hair. Terri and I have different cancer experiences, but we have many common worries and frustrations. It was fitting to have my debut in the public with Terri.
On Wednesday, I walked across the street to visit my neighbor before she headed back to Africa for the next 5 months. I wore my scarf, but ended up whipping it off to show her my head. Becky's reaction gave me another huge boost. We said good-bye with big hugs and promises to get together when she returned. My hair will be so much longer then!
My book club of 15+ years has been a big support throughout all these months, so on Thursday I figured I'd leave the head coverings at home. More hugs and whoops and encouragement. Jill no longer has the shortest hair. Lorrie said I looked French! That was good enough for me!
The Women's March
On Saturday, I made a last minute decision to join the Women's March in downtown Houston. There wasn't time to make a sign or worry over wig choices. But the crowd of over 23,000 was welcoming of all kinds of hair, hats, clothing, skin color...
I didn't plan on stepping out wig-less so soon, but it turned out to be a good week for it! The wig and scarves are not in total retirement, but I'm gaining confidence!
I'm used to dreading dental appointments, because I'm the Plaque Queen. No matter how well I brush and floss, my poor hygienist gets a workout. But for some reason I almost looked forward to my appointment a few days ago.
Remembering My Last Appointment
When I walked into the office on Wednesday, I felt relaxed. 7 months earlier, I had entered the same building feeling the weight of my brand new diagnosis. I remember how it felt to update my health form and put a check next to the word cancer, for the very first time. I recall Nancy's face when I told her my news. I hoped she couldn't detect the lump in my throat when she cleaned my teeth.
But on Wednesday, I sat in that reclining chair and enjoyed telling Nancy that I was done with chemo and radiation. I lifted my wig and showed her my hair. I bragged that I'd been flossing really well. I asked if I could hum along, when the vibrating massage chair made my voice funny. And I had to show Nancy my comical cell phone pics of Don cutting my hair so many months ago.
This time it wasn't the plaque that slowed down the appointment, but our giddy chatter!
When I got home I looked at my dental goodie-bag and laughed to see the Crayola toothbrush! Was that a mistake? Maybe I was acting so goofy that Nancy forgot I wasn't a kid. Yay! I'm ready to put that green crayon to use!
My First Haircut
I didn't realize I was going to need a lot of patience for this process.
Time to Trim
Since my hair is hidden under wigs and scarves most of the time, I wasn't really paying attention. I didn't know a trim was needed, since I don't ever see the back of my head.
Plus, I've worked for months to encourage these short little hairs. How dare I shorten them?
But Don revealed the back of my neck with a cell phone pic. It was time.
Don loves my hair. He reminds me daily to be appreciative.
"Do you have any idea how excited I'd be if I woke up one morning and had as much hair as you!"
I trusted him not to butcher me, because he adores my fuzzy head. He constantly pats it. He thinks my hair is fascinating. Each hair has a mind of its own and he likes to tell me exactly what every single hair is up to.
Don trimmed the back and my sideburns. Wow! So fast and I didn't have to tip!
At some point I'll have to find a hairdresser who can help me with these complicated hairs that are growing in.
It's still a huge mystery what hair personality I'll end up with. My oncologist said he treated a white haired man, who ended up with brown hair after chemo. There are tons of people who go from straight to curly. We'll see.
The white hairs aren't exactly my favorite, but I do like how thick it's growing in. Soon, I'll be brave enough to sport my hair out in the world!
I didn't expect to be sharing a gripe so soon. After all, I'm spending time in a serene desert setting in west Texas. But after 7 months of "feeling the love" from caring friends and strangers, my people encounter yesterday was a blow. I may never be able to truly understand what it feels like to be hated for the color of my skin or my sexual orientation, but I had a tiny taste of hate.
The tiny community of Terlingua, TX is where I had my encounter. It's a quirky "town" of about 60 residents who live scattered in the hills, some in trailers and some in adobe buildings that once housed miners. Loners and wanderers moved back to the area years ago and now it's a place that attracts "off the beaten track" tourists.
yI drove up to Terlingua to catch the sunrise yesterday, after I dropped Don off at his class. I parked his new, obnoxiously shiny Toyota truck at the edge of the empty, gravel parking lot. I snapped a couple pictures of the sun rising, but the photos weren't worth my effort. I turned instead, to take a picture of Terlingua's main focus, the Starlight Lounge, where Don and I had eaten the night before.
A Cast of Characters
Don and I love the people we've met in past years at the restuarant/bar. Even the loner locals at the bar are willing to tell their stories if given a chance. As I snapped a photo of the building that had once entertained miners with movies, a white work truck suddenly pulled up, perpendicular to my Toyota. A man in dusty work clothes climbed out. He glared at my vehicle as he pulled some kind of hose out of the truck bed. I smiled, then shrugged at his non-greeting and strolled up the dirt road towards the old church. I was up the road a bit before I heard the man's angry voice. I turned to see who he was yelling at and realized it was me.
"MOVE THE TRUCK!" He sounded enraged. "I'm sorry..." I called down, in a confused tone, that seemed to anger him all the more. As I moved towards him he continued waving his arms at my truck, which suddenly looked totally out of place. It looked like it was posing for a Toyota Tundra commercial. I couldn't understand all he said, but the f-word came out loud and clear, about 5 times. I attempted to apologize for parking in the wrong place. "I didn't realize..." but he cut me off. "Just move the F-ing truck!" Then he snarled again. "You're probably from Dallas!"
Cars of Terlingua
I suddenly realized, that my brown truck with its shimmering paint was more of an issue than my parking job. (My vehicle looked nothing like the whimsical, painted car parked in the nearby scrub.) "I'm not from Dallas." I said calmly, but he refused to make eye contact. The man stomped down the hill before I had a chance to prove I wasn't some spoiled Dallas housewife, waltzing into town with my fat pocketbook. I wanted to say, "Hey, I usually drive my Honda Element with torn upholstery." I wanted to ask, "Why do you hate me, when we haven't met?" I wanted to yank off my knit cap and point to my post-chemo hair (that looks something between the hair of Caesar or President Obama, right now) and say, "Does this look like Dallas hair to you!" But he was already down the hill.
I turned towards my truck and noticed a young man, holding a steaming cup of coffee. He was moving towards a rusty jeep. The young guy looked sympathetic and pointed to the area where I should park. I reparked and hopped out and started jabbering. "How did I make him so mad? I'll bet he wouldn't have yelled at me if I'd been driving my old car..." The "drifter" who'd come to Terlingua 3 months ago, reassured me and allowed me to vent. Then he shared his own stories for a while. He sat in the jeep as he talked and reminded me of James Dean as he mumbled boyishly, and fumbled with the steering wheel. It wasn't exactly the movie Giant, but the whole morning felt like a movie scene.
The Old Cemetery
I thanked the young man, but refused to let the evil guy run me out of town. I lingered a while at the old miner's cemetery and I wandered back up to the church. But in truth, the old man did have the power to alter my mood. All day I replayed that scene in my mind. I'm not used to being yelled at. I'm not used to being judged so quickly by the vehicle I drive or the clothes I wear. I'm not used to anger aimed at me. But that's really not what bugged me the most. I spent a day wondering what it was like to be discriminated against, daily. My tiny story is nothing. There are people who face hatred for no good reason every day of their lives. There are people who don't feel comfortable traveling the country like Don and me, blending in most of the time because we are a heterosexual couple, with white skin.
This morning I woke and returned to the ghost town at the same time. I sat in the big brown truck waiting in the gravel lot for him to do his routine chores. I was going to greet him and give him a chance to show he wasn't the crabby old man I assumed he was. I was going to ask him if he liked barbecue and give him 20-bucks for the great BBQ joint down the road. But I didn't get the chance. I saw his truck heading up my way and I'm sure he saw mine, sitting alone on the lot. But he paused and turned another way.
I was mad. I headed back towards the casita, ready for a shower and breakfast. But I passed some horse stables and my brown truck just pulled in. I needed to "move on" and my 2 hour ride with Alejandro was just the ticket. We laughed and carried on and I tipped my kind guide the twenty I had in my pocket for the evil man. "Go enjoy some BBQ!" I laughed, as I left.
My horse and guide gave me the boost I needed. I will forget the grouch and remember all the good people I've met in this area over the years. Ready to move on!
Today is New Year's Day and we have left our decorations and a little bit of clutter, for 10 days. We're on a road trip once again. This is what Don and I love, meandering and exploring! We'll have time in Big Bend National Park, where Don takes a class every 2 years, and I explore and relax on my own. ( I doubt we'll see snow this year) I can think of no better way to say good-bye to 2016, than driving away from it! We'll head off towards the most beautiful part of Texas and start fresh with a new year!
My real venting is done. I hope I won't need to post many gripes in 2017. But I'll have to at least document my hair growth and a few other things. All in all, my journey hasn't been bad and I know this blog has helped!
Cancer - Covid
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. Only this time, it was affecting more than me.
Coronavirus and Cancer! Both are evil, but neither can totally get me down... if I vent! I hope with Covid, I run out of complaints before 200!