Friday, August 04, 2006


Handfuls of hair collect near the drain each time I wash my hair. It startles me, as if I haven’t been losing two fists worth of hair every single wash for the past several months. There’s no need to be alarmed: my hair could cloak three heads, at least, and perhaps I will notice a difference in quantity after another few months of this. Still, the sight is a strange one, something rinsing away from me. It was just a part of me, a minute ago.

My hair has always been like a fussy pet. It won’t tolerate conditions other people consider normal: normal haircuts shape my hair like a Christmas tree, or worse, like a square. A normal blow-dryer can destroy my hair until the next wash, and a curling iron or flat-iron is simply no match for my hair’s deep desire to go it’s own way. Treated just right, though, it’s become my one lasting vanity—it dresses up well, it dresses down well. As long as I treat it with care.

Bits of my hair crackled off when I lived in the pine barrens of eastern Washington for a few years—I woke each morning to find desiccated pieces of dark hair on my pillow, would buy any moisturizing product my hairdressers recommended, in hopes moisture would sink in. On those rare weekends I traveled across the Cascade Mountains toward Seattle, I could almost hear my hair (and my skin, for that matter) sigh with relief as I entered the damp curtain of humidity. For a few days, my hair would remember how to be happy again, before I returned to the desert.

Now I live by the sea, where the weather is always damp and suited to my dense curls. I pull it up and away from my face, almost every day of summer. Ponytail, braids, French twist—there are so many options. I’m good to my pet, feeding it bottles of Frizz-Ease (Extra Strength), covering it with a big straw hat at the beach.

I began a combination of supplements, a few months ago, to alleviate headaches, and the headaches left almost immediately. The doctor thought my mood would lift, and it lifted sooner than we expected. She told me I would gain weight for a few months. She mentioned I might be uncomfortable. She did not tell me the texture of my skin would change. She did not tell me I would lose hair. I’ll go back and read all of the fine print from the pharmacy and see what I learn.

Until then, I wash my exotic pet hair with the reminder to myself: I have plenty, plenty. It only looks scary, washing away like that. I wonder if each strand was connected to a headache I will not suffer, as I watch it go. I imagine all the terrible reasons people lose hair, in cancer treatments, for surgery. This is not so bad. No one sees it go, no one but me. No one sees a single hair of difference in me. No one is upset. But me.

Addendum: I wrote this a month ago—the hair loss has slowed considerably. Now I hope that little weight-gain thing also “subsides,” as the good doctor described it would.

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