I had long glorious hair for many years. My hair was the mark of my femininity, at least according to my self-absorbed ego. It was the one feature about me I treasured. I played around with different styles, never straying too far from the length to which I’d grown accustomed. A few months ago, I made the momentous decision to cut my hair, acquiring a style unlike anything I’d ever had in the past. To most people, this would not be a big deal – to me, the girl who always had long hair, this was a major decision. I perused hundreds of pictures before bringing an acceptable choice to my hairdresser – a photo of an inverted bob. I had read that bobs were great cuts for fine hair. I wanted a new look, but I also wanted to reduce the cumulative tufts gathering in the sink and diminish the gradual dilution of my silken tresses.
We experience hair loss due to all sorts of reasons – age, hormones, deficiencies, medical conditions, stress, excessive hair styling, family history and side effects from medication. An autoimmune disease might contribute to thinning hair as it could impact the skin where hair follicles are found, but typically hair loss or thinning is associated with certain medications. Shortly after embarking on my medication regime for Rheumatoid Arthritis, I noticed an increase of auburn strands lining the sink and gathering in the drain trap like a little “mop” party. The average healthy person is said to lose 50-100 hairs a day. No big deal right? We usually don’t even notice – but for the man or woman whose hair is their crowning glory, any medication that takes more than a normal amount can ravage the fragile remains of self-confidence left after a life-changing diagnosis.
Cutting my hair wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I imagined. In fact, my wonderful hairdresser made it downright flattering. I also discovered some practical aspects of my new style – it was easier to tuck my hair into my swimming cap; I no longer had to endure the discomfort of reaching my arms overhead and holding them there for an extended period while attempting to bind my hair into an elastic with swollen fingers; it dried faster after washing and, with less weight pulling on my fine strands, my hair became bouncy and voluminous.
We all carry a certain amount of vanity, and as long as it doesn’t cross the line or affect anyone in a negative manner, there’s nothing wrong with it. We should be proud of who we are. With my stylish new cut, I don’t see the “mop” party in the drain as often – maybe it’s because the medication has stabilized in my body; maybe with my hair being shorter, I just don’t notice the wandering strands as much. So I say, go ahead and play with your vanity. There’s a wonderful freedom and confidence to be found in treating oneself, and we deserve a little pampering because in the midst of battling chronic illness, no one wants to look as bad as they feel.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.