Ringlets Down the Drain
July 20, 1994
This morning I stood in the shower, water pounding my head, until the last seventy percent of my hair fell out. I was in there a long time. I'd scoop a big handful of hair off the drain. More would fall. I'd kneel again in the pulsing water, keep scooping handful after handful onto the yellow bathroom mat, keeping the drain clear. I've saved all my hair from the last few days, set it in a pile on my dresser. I don't know why. I just wanted it. It had come back so beautiful: darker, almost black with no gray, and curlier than it had been since I was six. I went in the shower with diminished yet respectable hair, and came out almost bald. Only a few odd hunks survived--I looked comical, grotesque. All the cue-ball people came to mind (some by shaver): Yul Brynner, Sinead O'Connor, Captain Picard, Uncle Fester.
In a way, I'm excited about by cue-ball head. About the gaudy ways I will adorn it: bright African hats, silk scarves, red bandanas, and purple baseball caps from bars. I have a large selection assembled from my first time through this.
Another new experience: going to the barber. I decided to go all the way. The five percent of my remaining hair--ugly clumps on the top of my head and a Mohawk strip down the back--had to go. If I'm going to be bald, I'll be bald. No pitiful clumps and sad wisps. I'm going for the Woman of Power look.
It was odd stepping into the lime-green walled, male domain of the barbershop. It was right after lunch, 1 p.m., and he unlocked the door to let me in. "I've never had my hair cut at a barbershop before," I said.
"It's not like going to the moon," he said, then proceeded to shave off my tufts.
It was too quiet in that chair, so I told the barber how my second batch of hair, after thirteen chemos, had been so much nicer than the first.
"That's because it was healthier hair," he said, in the tone of one who really knows. Anyway, there wasn't much to work with, but he took his time, clipping it then shaving it again, using a little vacuum cleaner to suck the stubble off my head and neck, brushing off my now-pink skull. He charged me full price.
I came home and John was typing. I yelled, "I'm bald! I'm bald!" and whipped off my hat; spread my arms and started spinning in a circle. I started to dance because this has to be funny. I have to make this funny.