If we haven’t met in real life, you might be surprised to learn that I am six feet tall.
Here’s what it means to be a very tall girl:
- Everybody assumes you play basketball (I don’t).
- You are intimately familiar with the tops of your friends’ heads.
- People look at you funny when you wear high heels.
- You almost never meet another woman who’s as tall as you, and when you do, you huddle together and marvel at each other’s tallness.
When you’re bald from chemotheraphy, a whole other world opens up for you, and in that world, everyone thinks you’re a dude.
The Double Take
When you walk into a room as a six foot bald girl, everybody, and I do mean everybody, does a double take.
Look 1: There’s a handsome fella!
Look 2: Wait…ohhhhh
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Chemo is the worst hell you can imagine, scraped onto a dry cracker with no champagne to wash it down. But it’s not without its perks. And being bald, for me, was one of them.
I loved being bald. I loved it so much, I’d choose it, if my husband weren’t so attached to my hair. Here’s why:
- I spent $0 on shampoo. Not to mention haircuts.
- I could get ready to leave the house in 45 seconds – 30 seconds once my eyelashes fell out.
- When you lose your hair from chemo, you lose all the hair on your body. BOOM-CHICKA-WOW-WOW
- You get to scare people in the ladies’ locker room at the gym.
Okay, that last one warrants an explanation.
Imagine you’re in the ladies’ locker room. Per protocol, you’re keeping your eyes on your locker and not looking around at all the other naked ladies.
Then, in your peripheral vision, you notice a shape. It’s big and pink and bald.
You think, “OH MY GOD THERE’S A NAKED MAN IN THE LADIES’ LOCKER ROOM!”
You do the double take, violently, clothes and towels and deodorant flying every which way, and there before you stands an enormous, shivering, hairless, one-boobed lady.
Trust me, it’s hilarious.
In the Club
As much as I enjoyed terrifying my gym-mates, my best day as a bald woman happened just a few weeks into chemo.
I was standing in line at Panera Bread (a place I can no longer stand to eat – thanks chemo), when the woman in front of me did the double take.
I was already used to it, so I pretended like it didn’t bother me.
But then she turned back to me and looked me squarely in the eye. She waited a beat, then said,
“I love your hairstyle.”
And that was it. I was in the club. Signed, sealed and delivered.
You see, it doesn’t take much to make a community – just two people, standing together in a shared experience.
But we’re all so desperately possessive of our stories, and so utterly afraid of everyone around us, that we refuse to show anyone who we really are.
Those four little worlds changed me. I will never forget them.
Barf Bag Sally
Yesterday, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for antibiotics. I had just gotten a dental implant and, between the swelling and the gauze stuffed in my left cheek, it wasn’t my finest hour.
As I stood in line, I noticed a woman on a nearby bench. She was obviously between chemo treatments. She wore a head covering and acupressure wrist bands to help with the nausea. She was holding one of those doctor-issue plastic barf bags and was clearly contemplating her options.
I could have pitied her from afar, uneasy in my own memories of days when I looked exactly like that.
Instead I walked over and asked her if she needed anything. Then I put my hand on her shoulder and looked her straight in the eye. “I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been there myself, right down to the wrist bands. You hang in there. It gets better.”
We both cried a little. Then she squeaked, “Thank you. That was nice of you to say.”
I squeezed her shoulder one more time, then got back in line just before I was called to the counter. The woman did not make eye contact with me again.
In one moment, a connection is made, and a community is born. We are not alone, unless we choose to be.