And so it begins...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

It's Been A Long Time. Head's Up - I'm bald now.

(Here's the thing about neglectin your blg - it's a whole lot like forgetting to call your grandmother for a few weeks. You know you're going to catch hell from someone "Well, well, well....look what the cat dragged in." I know, I know. Here it is, regardless.) It is perfectly possible that I am going bald. Admitting this will probably not help my dating chances, I know. But there it is. It all started at the hairdressers’ a few years back. ‘Wow your hair has gotten really thin!’ she fairly shouted. ‘When did this start?’ I hadn’t noticed any thinning, of my hair or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always had a good head of hair. It’s one of the very few attributes I have. You know those magazine articles telling you to focus on your good features, like your cheekbones or your lower back? I have my hair. Or I had my hair. Now my hair is everywhere. There it is in my brush. The same brush I just know I cleaned out yesterday and now, yes, it is very full of hair. Long hair too, this is something I cannot even blame on my kids. They have thick luxurious hair on their inconsiderate heads. Jack sometimes even complains to me about his thick hair and once recently, even had to have it thinned out at the barber. I watched his extra follicles drift to the ground and fantasized about a transplant with double-sided tape. I tried denial in the beginning. Tried overpriced shampoos I couldn’t afford that made promises they couldn’t keep. Tried fluffing my hair and blow drying it upside down like when I was in high school. Tried bangs and highlights and different haircuts. Tried going darker and lighter. God help me I’ve even tried parting it differently so as not to expose the general public to my exposed head flesh. Nobody tells you this can happen. Women can lose their hair. And here is the even better news – no one really has any good answers as to why this happens. Believe me, I’ve asked. People have plenty of answers but I sort of feel like these answers are attached to different agendas. After the initial denial; ‘No, you’re not losing your hair! It looks exactly the same, I swear!’ (This they tell me before I part my artfully placed comb-over and show them my baby-bare scalp.) This is what they tell me. First it was the diet. I am eating too much meat, wheat and sugar. Cut it out and presto! Here come my luxurious locks back for an encore presentation. This is what my super healthy friends have told me. I tried this for a very, very brief period of time. Goodbye hair. Then my best friend, she of the tinctures and third eye, told me I needed to try some essential oils. Rosemary oil massaged into my scalp twice a week for three months. Still balding, smelling of salad and a Sarah McLachlan concert. Next it was stress. The elusive killer. Everything can be attributed back to stress, really just about everything. So too it is with female pattern baldness. My mom was just here for a gorgeous two week visit. She cooked dinners. She did my laundry. She gave my kids hell for being lazy and leaving everything to ride on their poor mother’s martyred shoulders (that’s me). Every night I came home to a glass of wine and dinner and a clean, clean house. I felt myself relaxing, idling wondering if she might consider leaving my dad and moving in full time. And just as my stress level hit an all-time low she said, ‘You know, your aunt Cathie was saying that she noticed your hair was falling out but she figured it was just from stress. So just try not to think about how your hair is falling out. OK?’ Did you ever see A Charlie Brown Christmas? When Charlie picks out that little dying tree and all of it’s needles fall out at once? That was me. Sitting on the couch with my precious glass of wine in front of the fire, molting. So let’s bottom line this. My balding-ness could be from diet. It could be from stress. It could be from the Diet Coke I used to drink (this is Ben’s theory – I’ve since quit almost cold turkey, treating myself to the odd shot glass now and then to take the edge off. And guess what? Still balding). It could be that I’m going through premenopause as one rather cruel friend pointed out. It could be I’ll never know why I’m going bald. It could be my hair will grow back, right as rain. But I’ll tell you what. I’m not above a hair transplant. Or a fabulous wig. Whichever is cheaper.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Single And Fabulous?

A few weeks ago I was approached by a woman I’d never met. She told me she reads my column, and she wanted to tell me her boyfriend has left her,
‘For someone younger, of course. Like that isn’t the biggest cliché in the book.’ I made sympathetic noises, not sure what to say in return. While I awkwardly stirred the froth in my coffee she added, ‘I figure what the hell? I’ll take a page out of Jennifer McGuire’s book. I don’t need a man to be happy – I can do it on my own.’
I say again, I’ve never met this woman before in my life. Which, in her opinion, was neither here nor there.
She waited for me to say something, to offer her some sort of advice. To tell her that yes, my life is pretty terrific and yes, I am much happier without a man. Which is true, most days. But do you know what is more true?
There are still moments - like when I am crying in frustration about some bill or a broken whatever or the futility of ever planning a family vacation – when I am genuinely surprised there is no one there to make it easier for me. No one is stepping in and saying, OK, clearly you’ve had enough today. Let me take the reins.’
So I suppose my advice would be this; don’t mistake positivity for a perfect life. Sometimes a big smile is just a front. And I think that’s probably okay.
This has been happening a lot with me lately. I’ve gotten some beautifully written emails from women who feel connected to me through our shared experiences. One woman actually wrote to tell me she loved my book so much she finally decided to leave her husband. I think she was kidding. I hope she was kidding. I also hope her husband is not a vindictive man driving the streets of Owen Sound at night with my address clenched in his sweaty hands. Either way, my publisher and I are hard at work on a new disclaimer for the back of my book (you know, something like WARNING: Contents may make your marriage seem worse than it really is. If you experience a loss of sexual appetite or an increase in eye-rolling when your husband calls out ‘Have you seen my keys? I know I put them here...did you move my keys?’ PLEASE step away from the book for no less than forty-eight hours. However, if symptoms occur, pleases consult your nearest divorce lawyer and/or mediator depending how messy you feel things may get.
Despite the emails from moms on the brink who seem to trust me or the girls on the street who want to talk, I have fought the ‘single mother’ tag. Despite it being exactly who I am, all the time. I didn’t want to become a one-horse pony show, you know? Like how Kevin Costner could never really play anything other than a slightly funny, well-spoken accidental hero with an American accent. Even when he was playing Robin Hood. I wanted to try my hand at other roles. Matchmaker (more on THAT later), teacher. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker. I wanted to shrug out of that coat and try on something a bit lighter, like maybe a movie critic. Challenge myself. Being the boys’ mom, it’s what I know. It feels as warm and comfortable as a well worn pair of slippers at this point. We’re a team, the five of us. And not to get all gross and mushy here, but they’re it for me. The loves of my life. So why the hell do I fight my role so hard? I don’t think I want to fight it anymore.
Because there are a whole bunch of women out there exactly like me. Reinventing who they thought they’d be as women and moms. Trying to figure out how to change the stupid bathroom light bulbs (we’re down to one right now, and there is just no way I am finding replacements anywhere, they’re very weird looking) and trying to do right by their kids.
So maybe I’m not Kevin Costner. Maybe I’m more like Harrison Ford. See, he could have gone on trying to reinvent how people saw him too. Anyone remember Regarding Henry (DON’T see it)? He tried on other roles and no one wanted to see it. Instead, he embraced his role as accidental, affable hero. Made a long career out of it, in fact. He realized something – there is comfort to be found in sameness, in knowing what to expect. And there is even greater comfort in finally letting yourself be...well, yourself.
That being said, I do still plan to keep you on your toes every once in awhile. Next week – elective hysterectomies, love ‘em or hate ‘em?