So last Wednesday I went for a haircut… I hopped on a train, I traveled to Toronto and I literally shook with a bad case of nerves as a handful of people looked on and took photos, documenting as my hair was cut. I cut 24 inches off of my hair, more or less, and donated it to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program. I say more or less because silly enough I didn’t think to bring along a tape measure. For me making the cut public and having them document it was important because I want to encourage others to do the same. I suspect at least half of you will think I am crazy when I say this, but it would have been a heck of a lot easier for me to just chop it off in my bathroom at home. Setting foot in a salon, and being in the spotlight, made me feel very uncomfortable.
I didn’t sleep the night before. Yes, I was that nervous. And yes, I had second thoughts. My hair has always been a huge part of my identity. But then I kept reminding myself that all of those feelings of trepidation are exactly why I wanted to do this, to help someone who is powerless in the face of losing their hair during cancer treatments. I have a choice when they do not. And hair, it grows back. The rest of it, the fear of having my photo taken, of being in the spotlight, it’s just social anxiety, right? How can that even remotely compare to the fear of someone who is facing cancer?
That’s not to say the salon wasn’t awesome. Pantene had arranged for me to get my hair cut at Shagg, the salon of their national spokesperson hairstylist Justin German. I haven’t been in a hair salon in at least 15 years, probably longer, and the idea of heading into this upscale place had me double extra nervous. But I was made to feel at home, the place was very laid back and relaxed and they treated me like royalty.
I didn’t have a clue what I wanted done with my hair, outside of cutting it off to donate it. I told stylist and co-owner of Shagg, Roxanne Chegenie, “I trust you. I trust your judgement. Please just make it something I can just wash, brush and go, ’cause that’s what I’m used to.” Ok, laugh if you will guys, but I don’t own a curling iron, or a blow drier. After twenty-some years of low maintenance hair this stay at home mom isn’t about to start keeping up a haircut that requires daily styling. I asked Roxanne to cut it to my shoulders, but she left it just a tiny bit little longer than that.
I stood in front of the salon chair and held onto the back as she divided my hair into two ponytails. And then snip, snip, so quickly, they were gone. Scooped up into a bag to safely be sent off for donation. Roxanne trimmed, and layered, and later blow dried and curled, and I walked out of their feeling like a movie star. I didn’t even recognize this girl in the mirror.
There was a break half-way through my haircut where we had some time to kill and we took the hair out of the bag, measured it and took photos. I have no words to describe how odd it felt to hold that long pony tail out at arms length. Sort of like I was holding my own amputated arm. But I love knowing it is heading to a good home. I love thinking that my hair is going to help to brighten someone’s darkest days.
Yes, my head feels lighter, like I may float off un-tethered. Yes, having so much less hair feels strange, very strange, surreal even. I have “phantom hair syndrome”, I still try and swipe it out if the way when I go to sit down, which I’m sure looks quite comical for any on lookers.
Will I grow it back? Yes, quite probably. I’ll be curious to mark how fast it grows back. Perhaps in a year or so I can donate another ponytail.
And if you’re considering cutting and donating your own hair, which I sincerely hope some of you are thinking about, you can read more about the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program at their website here.
Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog are my own.