I was wracking my brains for inspiration on what this week’s piece would be about, feeling slightly flummoxed, when suddenly I had an epiphany (best taken on an empty stomach, avoid using heavy machinery afterwards). There is someone in my life who has been more than inspirational this week, they have been a down right pain in the arse: My eldest sister.
My sister recently discovered that she has breast cancer. Not being overly close to her, I didn’t know it was on the cards, but I am definitely fond enough of her to have had the wind knocked out of my sails at the news. Personally, if it were all happening to me, I’d probably be the biggest puddle of self-pity and woe that you ever did see but this woman is made of tougher stuff and she’s getting on with her most tricky challenge; rasing two daughters.
Now, this isn’t going to be a piece about how super-special she is or how super-awful cancer is; many women deal with cancer every day and they are all special, plus we all know that cancer is awful, otherwise it would be top of every rock star’s backstage rider. No, I’m seriously going to tell you why this woman who has just had surgery and is facing chemotherapy has been a massive pain in my posterior.
This week, my sister had her first dose of the chemicals that will play bully to any remaining cancer cells, but which will also cause her hair to fall out and leave her looking like a boiled egg with eyes. If I weren’t such a wonderfully sensitive sister, I’d even go so far as to say that she’s probably going to be getting a lot of bobble hats for Christmas, but I am, so I won’t. Anyway, that would ruin the surprise for her when she opens my gift on Christmas Day!
For anyone who has never really given it much thought before, hair is kind of a big deal to women. Not just because it can really ‘make’ an outfit, or because it can reel in the free drinks with an expertly aimed swish, it’s because hair is often something women feel helps define their femininity. Without her hair, a woman may feel as womanly as a brick. A very masculine brick playing brick rugby and scratching its brick crotch.
That’s not to say that all women hang their gender identity on their mane, or that some don’t feel fabulously girly throwing themselves around a rugby pitch, but for the majority of lasses, our crowning glory gives our Womantini that delicious feminine zest. Without my hair, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t see “myself” looking back from the mirror. Fortunately, I’m not having to look into that particular mirror.
My hair has long been a huge part of my identity and a governing factor in how attractive I feel each day on a scale of Susan Boyle to hot. I’ve had short gamine hair for the past 3 years and before that I wore it longer, but it was ironed flat more than a blind laundresses’ thumb, and way back in the dawn of PFPT, it was huge and unruly and has been through more colour changes than a chameleon with chronic multiple personality disorder. I recently decided to grow out my crop and let the curls flow once more. Easier said than done. My hair is having more “difficult” phases than a problem child on crack.
This weekend just passed, I visited my so-hip-it-hurts hairdresser to have my tresses preened and lathered, and a mere millimeter snipped off one of the strands somewhere near the back, for the princely sum of someone’s mortgage. I do this every 8-9 weeks and I see it as worth every penny, especially when one of the male salon juniors takes to massaging my head like he’s trying to break into a coconut with his bare hands. It must be the sense of danger, or maybe he cuts off the blood supply to my brain, but so help me if I don’t love it when a man tries to crush my skull. Mmm, crushed skull…
Anyway, I left the salon with my totally taken-for-granted expensive haircut and carried on with my weekend, soaking up the “ooh, had your hair done”s and the “love the hair! Are you growing it?!”s until Monday, when the salon styling (and skull crush-induced endorphins) had worn off and there, there in my Monday morning mirror was a mass of blonde mis-placed ambition, my hair waving defiantly at me with disobediant disdain, and that’s when my sister proved herself to be a pain in the arse.
When I should have been indulging in a perfectly good bad hair day, wailing and whining at my ever-tolerant Boything about the traumatic state of my hair-don’t and throwing all manner of hats, scarves and astronaut helmets at it in a bid to regain control, I was left stumped and humbled. My pain in the arse sister has ruined hair related self-pity for me and do you want to know how she did it? This woman ruined my bad hair day and all bad hair days henceforth by selfishly having all her hair cut off pre-chemo, to donate to a charity that makes wigs for post-chemo children.
So you see, the sheer audacity of my sister, who has put a random child’s chilly noggin before her own vanity and fear, has given me no option but to gratefully accept the hair that genetics and a highly priced hairdresser have given me.
To my amazing sister and all the other brave baldy femmes out there, I offer you a hirsute salute.
(If you want to know more about the charity my sister is supporting, check out Little Princess Trust)