Saturday, December 06, 2008

This is not the first time I've wondered about my ancestry...

Last week, my fingers turned a much darker color than usual because of the chemo. My doctor informed me that this is something they usually see in African American women. Add to that the fact that I tend to get keloid scars, also something that Black people tend to get, and that members of my family, including me, have curly kinky hair, and I just wonder.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Going commando.

So. Inspired by beautiful bald woman, and tired of endlessly adjusting scarves and hats, I am going commando. I tried it out first at my oncologist's appt today (and he and the nurse both gushed appropriately at my "gorgeous head," which I'm sure they say to everyone, but still, it gave me confidence) and in the chemo room, and then at lunch afterward. I am ready to try it out in more places. And yeah, I'm ready for questions, too. But somehow, this feels like a style choice more than a "trying to cover up my head and therefore looking vulnerable and sick" choice, you know? So the prospect of questions doesn't bother me quite so much.

Too, my doctor said that everything is going really well. That has certainly improved my mood - as has the fact that chemo this time only took one stick (last time, it took 7 or 8 to find a vein, which wasn't awful, but it sure wasn't fun).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

People will ask.

I saw a really beautiful bald woman today when I was coming out of an appointment at the alternative health center. Her head was perfectly shaped and just the right amount of shiny - she just glowed. (It occured to me later that she might have used some kind of make up on it to get it to look just right.)

My own scalp is less beautiful. I have weird bumps and lumps all over the back of my head, and the first time I saw them (because one doesn't see the back of one's head all that often, and my head *feels* smooth enough), I was shocked, and had to ask Mr. P. if he thought it looked normal. I've sort of decided that it's gross enough that it doesn't qualify for viewing - as in, I will continue to cover my head in public - but I plan to ask a panel of unbiased judges to weigh in.

I also still have random, stubbly hair, because while 99% of it has fallen out, there is 1% still scattered and still hanging on. I haven't been motivated to shave it, but after seeing this woman today, I'm thinking I should.

I'm thinking a lot about bald heads because yesterday I wore my pseudo-dominatrix cap. This is a cap that I've worn out to clubs sometimes, but mostly not worn as it always seems to change the tone of my outfit significantly. I love it, but I always worry that, on me, it sends the wrong message. (Yesterday, I wore it with a thick, wooly sweater and scarf, which muted the message considerably.)

But the cap, like all caps, sits on top of my head, making it clear that there's no hair there. And so I got a fair amount of stares and a couple of questions.

The questions that upset me came from the cashier when I went to buy my lunch. She's someone I've seen around enough to say "hi" to, but I don't know her name, and I'm sure that she hasn't heard that I have cancer. I saw her *notice*, and I knew that questions were coming, and the thing is, damn it, I just don't always want to have to explain things to people. I don't want to always talk about it, and I definitely do not want to reassure people or even deal with their shocked reaction. I sort of assumed that people would mostly not ask personal questions, and mostly they don't, but when it comes to me not having hair and interacting with a young group of people - well, they probably don't associate it with chemo. I expect they simply think, "oh, she shaved her head - I wonder why," and so they ask.

In this case, though, I stiffened immediately when she said, "wait - is your hair pulled back?" And she kept asking, though I kept deflecting, and she finally said, "oh, you just decided to shave it," and I thanked her for my food and left.

I know that in some ways, by wearing revealing headwear, I am asking for it. Of course, people will ask questions. How could I expect that they not? My colleagues, of course, know better (well, probably word has travelled to them, as well), so I see some of them looking but they don't ask me about my hair. But the students who think I've simply made a fashion decision will ask, and I will keep getting defensive and angry because I don't want to hide, but neither do I want to talk about it.

After I cut most people who ask some slack, though, I wonder about those who persist in asking personal questions. How is it possible to focus so much on one's own curiosity and need to know that the other person becomes invisible? You know what I mean:

"What happened to your (insert body part here)?"
"Did you have an accident?"
"What are you?"

And as if this weren't bad enough, the follow-up questions/comments:

"Did/does it hurt?"
"I can't imagine what I'd do if that happened to me."
"Don't you feel like you have to choose one (race, sexuality, gender)?"

America, some of you are not teaching your children that it is rude to ask personal questions. More frustrating: you are not teaching them that when someone doesn't answer their personal questions, they should stop asking.