An e-mail landed in my in box today that linked to a lightweight trend story about how female baldness is in right now. If only I had a darker sense of humor, I would have forwarded the link to my mom. She started chemo yesterday.
The AolNews article quotes "fashion expert" Toni Love, a cosmetologist and certified barber: "For some, going bald is for fashion, and for others it is medical. Many people lose their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation and other medical conditions, so there is an advantage to these patients who are suffering because, with this new trend, they fit in, not being self-conscious of their looks." How convenient! Your chemo-induced hair loss will blend right in -- no need to worry about wigs or scarves. It really fits with the whole "beauty is pain" mantra, now doesn't it?
But the pain of losing your hair to chemo is about more than just blending in (plenty of cancer patients are visibly sick before they even start the therapy) -- it's about the loss of a body part, a part of your body. Sure, it isn't a limb -- but, for women, it's the loss of a major part of their feminine identity. And when you lose your hair because of a terminal illness, as in my mom's case, it can feel like a major step toward the end (even if it is in fact part of a measure to forestall the inevitable).
I know, I know -- I'm coming from a personal place that unfairly distorts this utterly harmless fluff piece. But I'm also coming from a personal place that uniquely elucidates how profoundly stupid this shit is. Terminal illnesses have a way of doing that, of putting everything in sharp perspective. Everything in life is relative, after all, and hardly anything seems important or valid next to a loved one's incurable cancer. Somewhere in between these polar extremes lies the truth, I'm sure -- something along the lines of: In the end, you won't regret any particular fashions but you'll wish back all the time wasted worrying about them.