On Friday I had my once-every-eight-weeks ritual. It was time for a hair trim and style, and the customary 45 minutes in my stylist’s chair. One may think I would look forward to this opportunity of pampering and beautifying my outside. On the contrary. My heart sinks with every sharp snip of the scissors, and with every little bit falling to the floor. I honestly dread it.
My stylist is a kind, funny, patient man who has turned out to be a wonderful friend. Despite my aversion to regular maintenance, finding him was one of the best things I have ever done. I wasn’t too sure about him at first. When I met him I knew right away he was straight. I wanted to run right out the door and find someone else. I know it sounds odd, ignorant, even bad. But at that very moment I could not fathom a straight guy with the immense responsibility of maintaining my precious hair. I imagined my very straight husband taking on the task, then all my straight male friends, and even (oh God) my straight brother. I shuddered. But I managed past my doubt, took a deep breath, sat in his chair, and 45 minutes later I had the silkiest, most amazing blowout ever. So now he can’t ever quit, retire or move, because if he does I will probably have a nervous breakdown.
Here’s the root of my anxiety: every time I sit in his chair, I am reminded of what I have lost. Three years ago I had one amazing head of hair. Espresso brown and hitting right at the small of my back. Thick, lustrous and gloriously dramatic. I got comments all the time. When I went for my first wedding gown fitting, my consultant peeked into the secluded dressing room and said “God, Allyson, what exactly have you done to get that hair?” I didn’t have an answer for her. My hair just happened. It was mine in all its long, natural, shiny glory, without any effort or intervention.
My health changed dramatically, and a few years later my disease finally got around to wreaking havoc all over my head. My hair is now a good six inches shorter. I would say I have lost a third of its volume. Autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia in and of themselves can cause this to happen, but in my case I have severe nutritional deficiencies that are fueling the crisis. If only I can get all of this under control. Maybe, just maybe, that long, full and beautiful fairy-tale-princess hair can once again be mine. It is a possibility. My hair follicles are dormant, not dead.
None of those happy thoughts really help me now though. Hair matters. It has since antiquity. If it didn’t matter, all of these celebrities and even average people wouldn’t seek out expensive, mile long extensions and the drama and sensuality they bring. Long, voluminous hair is healthy. It practically screams sexy. It saddens me that it’s no longer mine. I hate how the thought can ruin a moment, even a day, and sometimes hold me back from loving how I look.
And I really hate how the outside matters so much. Because most of the time I think my inside is pretty wonderful, and it deserves my recognition. I don’t know why it has to get lost in my sadness and disappointment, over what being sick has done to my appearance.
I experienced the usual apprehension as I sat in my stylist’s chair, his hands buried in what is left on my head. I did the customary bitching and crying, and he, with the patience of a saint, dutifully and lovingly voiced his sympathy and talked me off the ledge. He trimmed just enough. In the end, and as usual, he managed to work with what I’ve got and made it beautiful. I left with a silky smooth blowout that fell past my shoulders just right. I admit I felt amazing. Even though I didn’t feel that heavy swish of hair breeze past the small of my back. I may feel it again someday. I hold on to the hope and possibility.
I know my health is primary, my outside secondary. Right now I am doing everything I can to eat well and be healthy again. Hopefully my efforts will pay off, and a calm, sound body will result. The outside will follow. And if it doesn’t, I have to remind myself every day of what I do have, what lupus and fibromyalgia can never take from me. A good heart. The sincerity of my smile. My expressive hands and their long, slender fingers. Arms and legs that work. Eyes that can see the beauty in this world.
The wisdom to recognize all that is mine.
And all that is good.
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