It is nearly two am. Another night of a churning mind. Did you know the secret rule to solving insomnia is 'not minding'? Not minding not sleeping, not minding not sleeping... then suddenly, you fall asleep. Tonight, Deepak Chopra, that is not working.
Tonight's is a weighty concern. I am thinking about hair. Women's hair.
And why we care, so very much, about hair. Men care too. More deeply than they reveal. We women, we reveal.
When I tell my father I am off for a haircut, he wishes me happy tears. "Women go to the hairdresser," he theorises, "in order to get depressed." Not true! And yet, and yet. There is something deeply unempowering about having another woman (or man) cut your hair. They take your hair in their hands and with scissors and razors and a vision entirely their own, take away what belongs to you, and you give it, and you pay for your fallen locks, and you walk away. A lesser, smaller self. Until you grow it back - your hair, your self, your smile.
Perhaps other women experience this differently. Perhaps other women walk out of hairdressers bouncing along pavements, freer, sassier, colour coded to match that moment of nowness. That woman has never been me.
Many thousands of miles away, a woman named Vera, is thinking tempestuous thoughts about her own hair. She has just been diagnosed with high grade follicular lymphoma. She will start an aggressive form of chemotherapy soon. Death be damned, to hell with the needles and bruising... "My hair," she moans. "What will become of my hair?"
Grandmother, for so Vera is to me, was a raging beauty in her day...and although that day may long be past in some dry calendars, Vera is still very much that beauty, that wit, that swift lithe dancer of the waltz. She is the sort of woman who dresses for the day. Not in pearls, but in the simplicity of perfectly 'done' hair. Her age is of little matter. She is health embodied. Well, except for the unaccountably large lymph nodes extensively roosting in her body like fat goose eggs.
And those words... Cancer. Chemo. Cytotoxic. Or as one doctor merrily pointed out, "Well, it's your choice. If you don't take the treatment, you'll be dead in six months. Your choice." (I am breathing out steam as I write).
Is there ever really a choice? The choice is life. Always, life. And a woman's hair, for better or worse, reflects her life. Whether or not it is taken from her by force, she pays for its fall.
Even if it leaves, it will return Vera mama, it did return for me. But I don't think she believes me.