A few months back, Susan Gubar wrote movingly about the side effects of her chemotherapy in The New York Times.
Not to compare, but when you graduate from standard formulary prescription pills dispensed by the neighborhood drugstore to clinical trial IV drips administered at the university medical center, well, you advance to a class of bizarre mental and physical after effects that make headaches and diarrhea seem like a walk in the park.
When Susan told of her frozen feet and muddled mind, I identified, though it is perhaps the case that these are just my natural tendencies and not at all related to the many and various pharmaceuticals criss-crossing my kishkes.
But it was when she mentioned her hair — no longer the “kinky black curls that drove me crazy in the past” but now a “gray hairdo [that] hangs limp and thin” — this is when I felt a true solidarity.
There was a time when women in airport restrooms around the world complimented the flowing mop of mayhem on my head.
There was a time when my hair stylist told me what kind of sacrifice other women endured in terms of torture and fortune to get my kind of coil.
There was a time when the same stylist failed to straighten my locks even with a tube of gel that looked and smelled suspiciously like Duco cement.
There was a time when men remarked my naturally messy hair was sexy — sexy! — because it always looked like I had just gotten out of bed.
Those days, long gone. These days, horrific shock.
See, I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a few years. Much as I try to avoid my own reflection in the mirror, you can’t ignore what you see on another person’s face when they are staring straight at you…
Me to Acquaintance: Hey! Oh my gosh! It’s been a long time!
Acquaintance to me: You look so different. I didn’t recognize you.
Me to Acquaintance: So, how’s it going? Still working in the city?
Acquaintance to me: Yeah, same place. You changed your hair.
Me to Acquaintance: No. So, have you been in touch with so-and-so?
Acquaintance to me: She’s having a baby. It used to be really curly.
Me to Acquaintance: Oh, I’m so glad! She’ll make a wonderful mother.
Acquaintance to me: Did you used to get it permed? To get the curls?
Me to Acquaintance: No. Did you ever find a good yoga instructor?
Acquaintance to me: I guess you still have a little bit of wave in there.
They say you can identify every drug a person has ever taken by analyzing a single strand of hair. That the poison never really gets flushed out of the system. It remains forever, even after you die.
But I don’t need a scientific explanation. It wouldn’t change the fact that what was once soft and thick and multi-hued is now just frizzy and thin and color-free.
So Ben & Jerry’s finally brought back Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz in the pint size container. You can get it at your local market. By the Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. The news isn’t all bad.
© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.