I can’t remember the day when I realized I was losing my hair. I think it was a decade ago, when I noticed I only had to shave my legs every two or three months, instead of every two or three weeks. Or it could have been when the hair ball we extricated from the shower trap grew from pea sized to ping pong ball to tennis ball. Maybe it was when I found I had to de-hair my hairbrush on a weekly basis.
I was thinking about this as I waited in line at Sam’s Club, behind a little old lady with blue hair delicately combed over her thinning scalp. This will be me someday, since I suffer from female pattern baldness. Baldness may chip at the male ego, but it completely decimates the female one.
A little back story: I used to have thick hair – long, luxurious tresses, the kind that made French braids a snap to do. In high school, it was parted down the middle and ended somewhere just above my waistline. Often I would braid beads into thin ropes at either side of my head and then pull them back – a sloppy hippie version of Bo Derek’s head. My hair was so thick back then, an ornamental activity like this one would take a couple of hours to complete.
I once had so much hair I could afford to have someone lop off most of it to achieve the windblown “Farrah Fawcett” look. Everyone wanted to look like a Charlie’s Angel back in the day, even as they were dismissing them as feathered and bubble-headed sex objects that couldn’t seem to keep a minimum of apparel on. When I was single and flush with money, I could afford occasional all-day excursions to Rocco Altobelli’s, where I had to lie down with my head dangling over a table in order to get a spiral permanent. I don’t know how many rollers it took – 100? 200? Beauty hurts, and if you’re not a natural beauty, it hurts even more.
I was proud of my head o’ hair, even though it was flat as a board and wouldn’t take to styling without help from chemical perms in order to add body and bounce. I believed I’d inherited decent head hair genes, having derived some of them from ancestors that included Native Americans, the Greeks, and the Japanese. If anything, at one point I thought I had too much hair. You know what they say about the grass being greener on the other side.
But genes aren’t everything, a strong hair ancestry means little and the Twist of Hair Fate can be crazy, erratic, and without logic. My father, who is pushing 80, still has all of his hair, and it’s mostly dark. His mother and my younger sister were both gray before they turned 20. He had one brother who was completely bald, and another who was partially bald.
When my hair began to disappear from other parts of my body – arms, eyelids, toes, nether regions – I began to freak out. Okay, I’m old, but am I that old? I took a trip to CVS and bought a bottle of Women’s Rogaine along with my favorite Garnier Nutrisse #49. It didn’t work. Not only did it not work, Rogaine has an unladylike odor and was messy.
I went to the doctor, who ran tests, poked around, but had no idea why I was losing my hair. “Stress?” Nope. “Family history?” Nope. This visit left me feeling depressed. One of my acquaintances suggested hair extensions, but I pooh-poohed the idea. At $500 they are too expensive. I also have a problem with gluing anything to any part of my body, which is why my fingernails are a mess.
Another suggested wigs, but I don’t need complete coverage, just a little assist. My hair is now so thin I can barely tie it into a ponytail with a Scrunchy. Ponytails only exaggerate my thinning hair. There are clip on extensions online, but they're expensive, from $30 – $149. My head doesn't deserve a $149 synthetic extension.
I could cut it, but with my angular face, a short "do" will not do. Besides, I'm not ready yet to give up the glory that once was. So I went back to CVS, where I found a $7 ponytail on a clip. No kidding! It’s fake, but matches my oddly colored tresses (because I use a red dye and the result is Not Really Red). I can position it over the three or four remaining strands and voila! I have a messy mop that rivals my daughter’s natural overabundance of hair. It feels natural and looks great.
Someday I might need a wig. Not today. But when the day arrives, I hope CVS comes to the rescue.