November 20th, 2008: Hair, hair, hair. As I was getting ready for bed last night, I happened to comb my hair and—sheesh!—whole clumps came out of my head with no resistance. It’s a good thing I’m not more compulsive otherwise I would have had serious patches of deforestation. Turns out that many of my good friends are bald, balding, etc. and they have asked offline about what is it with me regarding no hair on the top of the head. I did an inventory of those attitudes, and for me, it all goes back to wanting hair to cover my considerable scar left over from the surgery on my upper left forehead when I was one year old. The same surgery that took me to UCSF for the first visit back in 1947. As a little kid, I was sensitive about that scar and wanted to hide it so that I wouldn’t have to answer dumb questions about why it was there and is that where they took my brains out, etc. For me, hair was a defense, and I only really needed it on that one part of my forehead. For all of my life, my hair has covered my scar. I don’t have big overlaps with baldness and debilitated old age, lack of virility, or even: doesn’t look good. I just have one agenda and that is to use my hair to protect my vulnerability.
As I stood here staring at the clump of hair in my hand just before bed, I thought of all the times that I had started an initiation into a religious order by having my head shaved. I mean in past lives. I’ve had lifetimes in various Catholic orders where shaved heads were a symbol of belonging to the community. At least once, I was in the Shinto priesthood and that ordination included shaving my head. But what about now? I am not entering any orders. However, cancer and chemo involve rites and responses that are life changing. So I stood there with my clump of head hair and concluded, “More to be revealed.”
In the morning, there were a few strands on my pillow. Now, for my hair to come out, it needs a bit of a tug. How odd, I thought: within hours of Dr. Jahan’s surprise that I hadn’t lost my hair, a great gong went through my head and the follicles started to empty their contents. I decided to call my barber and see if he had an appointment to take the bulk off of my hair and cut it down to between 1/8th and 1/4th inch. He did have an appointment.
Geo: “Pat, my hair is falling out from chemo. Could you please shave me down really close to my scalp?”
Pat the Barber: “Oh, man, I don’t want to do that. You’ve got great hair. Keep it longer.”
Geo: “Everything changes. My great hair is leaving in clumps.” Whereupon I reach up to the crown of my head, grasp some hair and pull the entire handful out and show him.
Pat the Barber, suddenly alarmed: “God! What did you just do?”
Geo: “As I said, my hair is falling out.”
Pat the Barber: “Got it. I’ll take it way, way down.”
Which he did. However it just looks like I have a short haircut. Also, especially right on the crown, my scalp is very sensitive. It hurts to touch the skin with any pressure. It’s as if the entire area is traumatized.