Shearing Day

Posted on College Confidential

MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 2011 8:20 PM, EST

It’s been four weeks since my chemo treatment started. A weekly chemo schedule is rather intense. I am very fortunate that I have not developed any side effects so far. In fact, I haven’t felt this good in months! Back to my full aerobic schedule. No nausea. However, there was one side effect I could not escape from; my hair falling out. Yes, it was anticipated. Yes, it’s only vanity. Yet, seeing clumps of hair falling out during a shower has a visceral impact on one’s psyche. So, like most women going through a chemo treatment, I decided to shave my head.

Yesterday was the “shearing day;” a time to be a sheep. Amir was ready to do this for days now, and, I suspect, was looking forward to it. I guess it’s his idea of adding some sparks of variety and excitement to a marriage to the same woman for 25 years. He has way too much predatory interest in this, and I get suspicious. But, between this and philandering with a blue eyed blonde 21 year old secretary, my lot in life isn’t too bad.

He had all the equipment since Jon likes his hair really short and has relied on his father to do the deed when he wanted to keep it within an inch during the summer. So, I meekly submitted myself to his unsteady, amateurish barber hands. I couldn’t bear to watch it done, so I stipulated no mirror in front of me. I was sobbing as I heard the snip snip sound of what little hair that was gallantly hanging onto my increasingly inhospitable scalp being razored away. He kept saying, how beautiful and sexy I was and gently caressed my rapidly balding head in between sweeping motions of running the razor like a bulldozer. This would have been such a touching, hallmark moment.

Except….. I blurted out. “There is a pervert for every deformity!”

That just ruined the magic moment….. This mouth of mine, I can’t help it.

Speaking of a perversion, I must confess this was not the first time I suspected him of something like this. I remember that lazy summer on empty campus, when we just started to get to know each other some 26 years ago. One day, we were supposed to see a movie together. He called earlier and said he was playing softball and since my apartment was just around the corner, could he come and take a shower before we go out. I said yes. He came over and went straight to the bathroom. This was the first time he was in my apartment.

He was in the bathroom close to two hours. I heard the sound of water running for a few minutes. Then silence for a few minutes. Then again the sound of water running. This went on interminably. I was pacing back and forth in the living room, convinced that this man had a problem. God knows what’s going on in there!!! I wondered “What amazing luck of mine! I thought I found a pretty decent guy, and he turned out to be pervert!!!”

Finally he came out. He said, well, your bathtub tiles were all covered with dirt and slime, and I cleaned it all out for you. I murmured something to the effect that I am nearsighted and when I take a shower, I take my glasses off, so I did not notice….. He then went on to my kitchen. He must have noticed that all the light bulbs were on strike and made a mental note of it, because next time he came to my apartment, somehow all the light bulbs were miraculously back at work.

People stay together for different reasons. When somebody asks me what the secret for our long, and apparently, well functioning marriage is, I say “we have matching pathologies”.

After the deed was done, I stood in front of a mirror and surveyed the wreckage. I have never felt so naked in my life. Like a larvae prematurely taken out of a cocoon, I felt exposed and defenseless. But it’s not just hair. My whole body tells a story of a woman who is no longer intact. There is a chemo port a quarter sized cap inserted near the collarbone for easy administration of chemo drugs. Since I am thin and bony, it sticks out a mile high. Then there is a 14 inch vertical abdominal scar. How appropriate it is that it has a shape of a question mark (with a line bending around the navel!). “To be or not to be” is that what it’s trying to ask me? Given a very poor prognosis associated with my diagnosis, it’s a fair question to ask.

With a bald head, a protruding port, and a prominent scar, I am Exhibit A of modern gynecological cancer treatment options. Not exactly an arousing sight. Though my body is in an excellent shape and form due to a life long healthy life style and good genes, my days as a femme fatale with a sultry come hither look are definitely over. Certainly, a strip tease is out of question, even if I were ever to be so inclined. But, my husband’s perverse fascination with my bald head is giving me an interesting idea. Instead of Salome’s dance of seven veils an ancient form of a strip tease, perhaps, I should develop a routine called a dance of seven scarves. I can just picture his knees going weak as one scarf after another is slowly cast away with an artful, sensuous gesture. It’s good to know when most of what makes me a woman was taken out, there is still something that I can use for feminine guile and charm that will work for at least one perverted customer!

MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 2011 11:01 PM, EST

I sent email update to friends regarding how I was doing. The latest one about my “shearing day”. My husband was copied to. This is what he wrote in “reply to all” response….
Usually I refrain from commenting about my wife’s writing. I came to realize a while back that for a couple to try and agree on what they experience together is futile. But on this occasion I will tell you something that only I saw: 
She looks beautiful in her sheared head! 
And I’m not saying this just to make her feel good. She looks quite younger, wise and serene. I recognize that some of it comes from the association that I have between a shaved head of an Asian and the Buddhist monks and nuns that we saw in the Far East. But it goes beyond that. Her head is perfectly shaped and looks like the sculpture of a Buddha, rectangular yet with very soft curves. She looks sooo profoundly wise, and it almost feel like the removal of the hair allowed me to look closer into her soul, to see her true self. Which, needless to say, I enjoyed. 
I can go on forever describing it, but I’m thinking of organizing a petition, having people demand to see her picture. I doubt this will help, she may be shaved, but she is still strong headed, but hope springs eternal. 

Fast forward five month later. Two months past the last chemo infusion, my hair is hesitantly coming back. My head is no longer completely bald as it is covered with soft fuzz. During the whole time I was bald, my husband had to beg and plead to have me take the cap off at home, and I would never do it in the public space in the house like a living room or a kitchen only in the bedroom. These days, I am magnanimously generous with him. I spend a good amount of time with my cap off in his presence. He has so little time left to indulge his perversion, I take pity on him. He holds my head in his hands with anticipated nostalgia as if he were caressing a melting ice sculpture of Venus.