Saturday, April 30, 2011

Goodbye, Hair

A few months ago I read about Pantene Beautiful Lengths, a program where you send Pantene at least eight inches of your hair and they use it to make wigs to donate to women with cancer. I wanted to do it. Sometimes, in my life as a writer, I feel very solitary and selfish, always worried about my words and my books. I spend my days thinking about things like self-promotion and selling my next book. It’s very, me, me, me. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing. But I also think it’s important to remember that there are bigger things out there. So I made a promise to myself, I guess a New Year’s Resolution of sorts, that I was going to try, this year, to focus on a few things outside of myself, a few things that would help other people.

At first, my hair wasn’t long enough. So I decided I would let it grow. Then, my hair was long enough, and I was scared to cut it all off. So I waited. And I waited. And my split ends were starting to take on a life of their own, since, by this point, it had been months and months since I had any sort of hair cut. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to call and make an appointment to get my hair cut because then I felt like I’d be going back on a promise. A promise I’d made to myself, but still. Every morning, I found myself looking at my hair, thinking that it really, really needed to be cut. But I didn't do anything about it.

Last night, I blew my hair out straight and measured it again. And yes, it was more than long enough. I bundled it in a ponytail at the nape of my neck and asked my husband to cut the ponytail off. Just cut straight, I told him. He insisted that he could not cut straight, that he was afraid of messing it up. Just do it. I told him, handing him the scissors. Just cut straight.

He was right. He could not cut straight. A few minutes later, he handed me the most crooked lopped off ponytail ever. I imagine the people at Pantene may even start laughing when they see it, trying to imagine what I look like on the other end.

One side of my hair was about two inches shorter than the other. I told you I couldn’t do it, my husband was insisting. Yes, in his defense, he had. You should’ve let me cut it, my kindergartner said. Yes, I should have. Next time, I told him.

So I took the scissors and straightened it out the best I could. My hair is curly anyway, so it’s fine. It’s just that now, it’s really really short, just below my ears.

After this whole debacle we went out last night to a concert. I kept wondering if people were staring at my slightly crooked hair, or if people who knew me where silently critiquing my way-too-short cut. I woke up this morning, searching through my drawers for cute barrettes, and when I couldn’t find any, made a promise to myself that this will be my first errand of the day. Maybe with a headband it wouldn’t be so bad, I tried to convince myself.

I packaged up my ponytail and addressed the envelope. I thought about the woman who will get this crooked ponytail, eventually. (The Pantene site says it takes six of them to make a wig, so that will mean five other people like me will also need to do this to help one woman.) I thought about her, and how maybe all her hair has fallen out from cancer treatment. How her problems cannot be solved by cute barrettes or headbands. How she has much bigger things to worry about than crooked ends.

I showed my kids the ponytail and told them I was going to send it to help someone who was sick get a wig. Cool, my kindergartener said. Then he added, Mom, you look so beautiful with your new hair.

So it’s almost summer and my hair is really short. So what?

I will grow it back, and then I’ll do this again, I promise myself.

Only next time, I will ask someone else to cut!


Kristina McMorris said...

What a wonderful gift you've just given! Thanks for the inspiration, and for making me smile about your hubby's warning. :)

Dolly said...

Jillian, I'm so proud of you, and your family for supporting you too.

Melissa Crytzer Fry said...

Oh, Jillian. This made me tear up. How brave of you and how selfless! My sister-in-law died of breast cancer when she was only 40 ... I'm sure what you've done will be so appreciated. What a great reminder to get outside of 'ourselves.'

Of course, I had to laugh at the crookedness of the cut. That's exactly how things would have happened with MY husband :-).

Jillian Cantor said...

Thanks, Kris & Dolly!

Melissa, I'm so sorry about your sister in law. We've had a few people in our family die of cancer in the past few years, too. This definitely did make me think outside myself :)

Ronel said...

Thank you! My mom has breast cancer and we just got her a wig a while ago. It was horrible when she started losing her hair, she cried so much and it fell out in strands. I took her to the wig shop and tried on all kinds of funny wigs. I tried so hard to make it fun, but even though we had a few laughs... it wasn’t and had the remaining hair shaven off and her wig trimmed to suit her face. I didn't know Pantene did this. I will definitely do the same! You rock!

Illusionfree said...

That's really great, what you did!
I have been to chemotherapy ward with my Mom who was undergoing treatment and I have heard patients discussing where to get the best natural looking wigs, with hope in their voices.

Rachel said...

What a precious gift!

I tried to grow out my hair once for Locks of Love. I lasted two months when I had to give up the ghost and admit that my hair looked like a poodle died on my head. And none of the wonderful survivors would want what I can produce -- dry thin frizz does not a generous gift make.

Good for you!

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