August 29, 2014
I notice the looks, the glances, the double-takes. And they don’t surprise me. Even though approximately half of all men and a third of all women will have cancer it’s not that often that you see someone out and about who obviously has it. And not everyone who gets chemo goes bald, and not all those who do cover it up by wearing doo-rags. That’s been my response to losing my hair – I have several great ones made by my mother-in-law. They’re just the thing for keeping my head warm when its cool and preventing a burn where the sun used to not shine. I just wish there was a term for them other than doo-rag, which sounds more like a term for a diaper, but thats another story.
I don’t mind people looking. It’s understandable that people should be curious, although they usually turn away as soon as I turn in their direction, which makes me think theyre uncomfortable rather than admiring of my head couture. Sometimes I think I should wear a t-shirt or maybe even a button that says, ”Its cool. It’s just cancer”. And there have been exceptions. One night when I was at a baseball game there was a guy a few seats in front of me wearing a doo-rag. The hair protruding from his made it clear that he was wearing it as a fashion statement rather than a matter of comfort. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If it looks good wear it has always been my philosophy, although that may come as a surprise to fashion mavens who’ve seen me out and about. As the guy at the baseball game walked by me on his way to get some nachos our eyes met. We smiled and nodded at each other. I was looking at his head and thinking, Cool flames. I think he was thinking, Cool spider web.
Then there was the time at the grocery store. The man in the checkout line ahead of me said, ”Excuse me, um, chemo?” I smiled and said yes. He took off his olive-green Marines cap, revealing a head of close-cropped silver hair. “Don’t worry. It’ll grow back.” If my white cell count hadn’t been so low I would have loved to shake his hand, but maybe at least I can learn from his example and offer the same comfort to others in the future. In the meantime I’ll take the peeps, peeks, peers, ganders, glimpses, gawks, and even the occasional rubbernecking. Heck, I don’t even mind the guy at the library desk who gives me the stinkeye every time I come in. He’s an older guy, bald, except for a fringe around the sides, and I finally realized that might be his problem. He’s looking at me and thinking, Hey buddy, for me its a lifetime commitment. If I can leave my cranium uncovered you can too. Dare to bare. If the dome is chrome go glabrous or go home. Let the knob do its job and the belfry blaze. And maybe I should take him up on that. Maybe I should strip the egg of its eclipse and enter the bibliotheque in the buff. I’ll turn to him. Our eyes will meet. I’ll be thinking, Cool crown. He’ll be thinking, I have more hair than you.