The New Year, Hospitals and Hair

So far, 2013 has been an odd year, with more hospital visits than the entirety of 2012. There has been a lot on my mind, but one topic that recurs is the relationship between health and hair.

I initially wanted to blog about this after my first hospital visit of the year, visiting a five year old Palestinian boy at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. His father (who had flew sixteen hours with a dying child and was now staying with him in Pittsburgh while his two other children and pregnant wife waited worriedly in the Middle East) had happened upon my salon after dining next door at one of the nicest sushi restaurants in town. I was very touched by his story and could not imagine the stress of caring for someone so young and so sick, let alone doing so so far from home. Long story short, he gave me the number for his hospital room and told me it would mean a lot to him if I could go out and cut his son’s hair.

The boy had the most beautiful dark blue eyes, bushy lashes and the softest face. His hair was wild, overgrown, disheveled. He was in constant motion and, needless to say, it was not the perfect haircut. But his hairline was clean and he could see out of his eyes and there is no doubt that he looked just a little bit healthier. He looked just a little bit more like an average, healthy, five year old boy.

Little did I know that the next day I would be in the hospital visiting one of my own friends. Just six days prior I had seen him for lunch, his curly hair growing wild like all the college boys do. To see him suddenly with his curls shaved except for a few patched and wires and cords entangling him, it was really difficult.

Something about too much or too little hair just begs questions. Too much tends to imply neglect, too little tends to imply a loss or hardship. Recently I have met a few ladies who wear wigs for medical conditions other than cancer, and cancer is always the assumption if they let their bold heads show. I also see many women in the salon who undergo significant amounts of hair loss from different medication/hormonal changes. It is a hard thing for many women to accept, that their hair will change, and in significant ways, between texture, density and color. We expect our skin to change dramatically, but our hair we expect to remain relatively constant, except, perhaps, for the need to color it.

This month, I am proud to say that I have already had two lovely ladies come into the salon to donate their hair, which fills me with joy. Not just for the opportunity for me to give them a new style, but for the opportunity they have given to others to present the sick and the stigmatized with a new framework for their face.

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