The thing you will have to prepare yourself, my fellow Chemo Queens, is that when your hair does grow back you will receive many comments on it and, surprisingly, from people that vaguely know you or who don’t know you at all. Your hair is now public property! I’ve been told that my hair has changed colour, is darker, how beautiful my blonde hair “used” to be in my wedding photos, “it’s so good to see you back to normal again” and I’ve been told three times by complete strangers that because I have short hair they thought I was gay.
It has been an adjustment for me getting used to how people see me now that my hair is short. When I compare it, I felt protected and secure when I was a baldie. The baldness gave me a certain confidence and edginess, an identity that I owned that no-one would dare comment about it to my face negatively. The only comments I did get were positive and complementary. Now my hair is short, complete strangers feel comfortable to come up to me to tell me what they think of my hair. I feel that being at the mercy of inappropriate or negative comments, at a time when I have been stripped of any control I used to have over my hair, has given me a certain vulnerability during this hair transition. I think it’s because I miss my baldness, I felt more feminine with my bald head, my own reluctancy to grow my hair back and the lack of control I have over it has made me more sensitive about it than I would usually be. In a way it’s like pregnant ladies being told “Look at you, you are huuuge!” when they could be experiencing an uncomfortable body-image transition. How a comment is taken depends on the confidence of the receiver at that time and, as a result, the comment could be taken in a different way than the commenter may have intended.
My advice to those who approach a stranger to comment on her short hair is to be hair-ful with your words! Possibly her hair is short as she had chemo. Maybe she’s not loving the colour or it being short and is feeling powerless. Perhaps you have caught her at a vulnerable transition. Give it some thought if the comment is inappropriate or negative; chances are she’s probably heard it many times already! Words are the most powerful tools of communication we have so we should do them justice that they are delivered as intended and, most importantly, with sensitivity and kindness.