Before my health issues, it was just a 5k.
Before the back-to-back deaths of two close loved ones, it was just a tattoo.
I wasn't sure I was going to write about what changed surrounding donating my hair, but I think it's important to share.
When my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was my family's first experience facing the loss of someone in my parent's generation. My dad could barely get the words out; I can still remember where we were standing in the kitchen when he told me she'd been diagnosed, how he covered his mouth with his hand like he wanted to keep the truth muffled. I was proud of the way he stepped up; retired, he could accompany her to chemo appointments and visit with her while she recovered.
My aunt Vicki was always made up--she always looked really beautiful, hair coiffed, mascara just so. She was terrified of losing that. I was terrified to watch it.
My mom predictably sprang into action mode and arranged for her to try on real-hair wigs. I felt like it was an honor to be there, so met them at the salon, where our family hair stylist had arranged for her to try a few options.
The first one was vetoed--too Dolly Parton. We laughed and tried the second. I thought it looked beautiful; it was her color, it was shiny but real, and since it was real hair you could modify the cut a bit...what more could you ask?
Her face emitted hesitation, and we tried to convince her that she looked great. Tears welled in her eyes and she was silent; it was clear she was conceding to her new reality.
I think it was my dad who suggested she try on the third option, which everyone had kind of brushed off as "not Vicki". As the stylist secured it on her head, she looked up into the mirror and her hand rose to her mouth: "Oh." The tears that had collected fell. It wasn't her typical cut, but for some reason she looked like herself. Most importantly, she felt like herself. Her new reality seemed a little less scary, a little more familiar.
When I first declared I wanted to donate my hair, it was in a general, this-is-something-I-can-do-to-help kind of way. It's become a lot more than that. I want someone else to have that moment in the mirror: "Oh." A little less scary, a little more familiar.
I mean, I totally win Movember, right?
Here's where I get real and tell you that I almost didn't go through with it. Dating is hard enough as it is--you can go from confident to vulnerable with one delayed text response. Was I really ready to give away one of the only things I'm truly confident about?
But I went through with it because even if I might struggle to feel like myself for a week or so, it's going to grow back. I didn't have it taken from me without my will. I didn't have to stare down death while having my identity and femininity taken from me piece by piece.
And a wise, extremely beautiful woman once taught me that a little mascara and some good friends can go a long way in making you feel like yourself.