April 9, 2001
The Masked Author
Why can't a lovely and pathetic movie-like deathbed scene work with hairless actors? Sure, wearing a hat in bed may be funny, but there's pathos in involuntary humour, too.
Do you really think your family, especially your kids, will remember only the bald you, just because it was the last time they saw you? We recognize people -- remember them -- by a variety of cues, not all of them visual.
Some prefer to die as themselves, not as Cancer Patient #573607, and a bald head DEFINITELY gets in the way of their "normal" self-image. And its's easy to focus on the dismay of being bald and dying, rather than the fear and sadness of dying.
Having one's hair combed or stroked by others may be soothing, while rubbing a hairless scalp appeals more to chihuahua and sharpei owners.
Baldness does seem to be an issue, even when one isn't dying, but no one seems to be quite sure why. Maybe the visibility of the skull is just too poignant.
Losing hair can be more devastating than losing a breast. It's part of our identity and persona. When clumps fall out, we wake up with hair in our mouths, and cooking can become a nightmare. One shaves it all off... only to have the significan other freak out!
Oncology departments at hospitals sometimes offer cute/reversible hats, not just the polyester turbans that tell everyone you're on chemo, and make your head hotter when it's hot from the treatment already! Many stores may offer infinities of cheap hats, some very comfortable.
Of course, on the bright side, no more bad hair days! You save small fortunes on hair appointments, shampoo, styling gel, razors! And unlike men with pattern baldness, yours might even grow back!!
We use our hair to make statements about ourselves. So be really daring, and have your head tattooed. Just remember, the tattooing needle is not painless, and it takes a while. Still, the tattoo won't show when you have hair -- and you can really blow people away when you don't! Tattooists have a slightly unsavory reputation, but you can ask for references from a plastic surgeon. James Brown, the great singer, lost his eyesbrows in a youthful indiscretion, and after many years of drawing them on for shows, took the plunge -- and was glad he did!
And if the needle does put you off... there's always henna. For thousands of years, people painted their heads with the stuff. There are volumes full of designs, and it'll give your 5-year-old something entertaining to do with you. Be your own easter egg! I guarantee, they'll never forget it!
Fingernails can substitute for hair, if the issue is self-adornment. Nail art is widely varied, and suggestive of many different cultures.
Some may wonder, why not just get a wig? The whole wig experience can be fun. Let your creativity go wild with outrageous colors and styles. A different you every day. For others, though, a wig or a hat would be the same thing -- a reminder of cancer in the mirror. Even though, wearing hats or wigs are normal fashion choices anyone might make, irrespective of health.
And if all else fails, put a lightbulb in your mouth and change your name to Fester Addams.
Contributors to this article include: Melanie Aguillard, Cheri Alford, Lana Bakk, Kim Farrell, Merry Holley, Karolen Paularena, Sheila Werner, Ruth Wolf, Chris Wong