Yesterday I had my hair cut. It’s still a cause for celebration. Three years ago, I was the queen of the hand-knitted hat by day, getting chilly by night if the close-fitting cotton cap I wore to sleep in wiggled off as I turned and tossed. And even though losing my hair was the least of my worries at the time, and didn’t bother me unduly, I like the behaired me much better.
I’ve been through phases with haircuts since my hair came back. The first, faltering ones were a test of nerve, when, although I needed a cut, what I really wanted was for my hair to be longer. Every snipped follicle was a little jab to my heart. (Not literally. That would have been extremely poor hairdressing.)
The next phase was to go to the hairdresser and pretend that I was a normal person, just because I could. I’d thrill at the the thought that the hairdresser cutting my hair Didn’t Know I Had Lost It All! I felt like I imagine a confidence trickster feels. High, excited, ready to be found out an any second.
But there were problems with this approach. (1) I am inherently honest. (2) When you’ve spent most of the last year dancing with cancer but don’t want to say so, it cuts down a lot of chat-while-we-cut conversational avenues pretty fast. (3) I discovered that if a hairdresser thinks you’re an average person with an average attitude to hair, then you get an average haircut. And frankly, my friends, where hair is concerned, once you’ve had cancer yank it out, and watched it millimetre its way back, you can’t be doing with average.
So I hit on a new approach. Whenever I meet a new hairdresser, when we have The Chat that ensues from the ‘what are we doing with it today’ question, I make sure I talk about having had a cancer. ‘Just one more thing,’ I say at the end of the conversation, ‘this is post-chemotherapy hair and it’s very precious. I apologise in advance because I’ll probably be really fussy.’ I say it with a smile and a snipful of steel.
And it works. The level of focus is amazing. The amount of times that a hairdresser checks and double checks that I’m happy is way above the norm. Not, you understand, that I would normally expect them to cut my hair with a cheese knife while reading the paper and planning their Friday night out. I would expect that my carefully researched and reassuringly expensive hairdresser would normally do a good job. But once I’ve invited the spectre of chemo to supervise matters, I get an exceptional cut.
Which is good, because I am now exceptionally attached to my hair.