I’ve always been a little vain about my hair.
Well, that’s not absolutely true. I was in high school in the early 80s before the “big hair” craze. The style then required extensive time every morning with a curling brush or hot rollers, brutalizing your hair into geometric precision, and then spritzing it into place with copious amounts of environmentally friendly pump-bottle hairspray. Forget carpal tunnel syndrome. Think about pump-spray finger syndrome. Lesser known, but twice as debilitating. There should be some sort of colored ribbon and a fundraising campaign.
My hair refused to comply. Inherited from my mother, it was very dark brown, thick, with a deep wave, moderate curl, and a mind of its own. It threatened me with social pariahship by failing to conform to acceptable social standards. It looked at all heat-based hair styling devices and laughed. But I taught it a lesson! I deployed the nuclear option and started getting big, loopy, poodle-curl perms. I totally won, because it looked good, Tom liked it (yes, we were dating then), and it saved me hours and hours every week. This left me much more time to plan important things like how to sneak out of the house, where to hide my cigarettes and birth control, and the best places to go parking where we were unlikely to be interrupted. Sadly, I was not very good at any of these.
Now in my late 40s, my hair and I were getting along pretty well – until recently. I took good care of it, hiding its gray, giving it spiffy highlights, not over-washing it, and no longer subjecting it to the horrors of giant perm rods. I guess my hair isn’t really the problem, though. In fact, we’re both suffering, lifelong companions now facing trauma together.
My scalp is trying to kill us. Prepare for a nauseating description of its tactics.
Several years ago, I began to notice the occasional sore spot on my scalp. Being a picker, I picked. Sometimes it got a little scabby, but I had no way to know whether it would have been scabby on its own, or if I made it that way. Fast-forward to now, when most of my scalp is itchy, oozy, flaky, crusty, pasty, and categorically disgusting.
I don’t know why. My father had psoriasis, so I considered this. But it affected his whole body, and I don’t recall any oozing. Other than a suspicious eczema-like patch on my hip and a general overall itchiness, I don’t see any psoriasis-like symptoms. I Googled “seborrheic dermatitis,” and this sounded like the winning condition. Except my scalp turned out to be as stubborn as my hair (long years of close association, I suppose) and refuses to respond to any over-the-counter medicated shampoo known to man. I even ordered a shampoo (available only by prescription in the U.S.) from New Zealand. Look away, FDA, I’m not talking to you. I might get half a day of partial relief, but I think I’d get the same from any shampoo, simply by scrubbing away the top layer of scalp-crud.
I guess it could also be my liver and other filtering-type organs sending out a distress signal. They are admittedly over-worked, as I seem to collect vices the same way some women my age collect Hummel figurines or anti-anxiety prescriptions. Maybe my inner HEPA filter has given up and is simply forcing toxins from my body via the scalp, like some desperately demented Play-Doh Fun Factory.
I feel like I’m going to wake up some morning resembling an over-ripe zombie from The Walking Dead, my decaying scalp and remaining hair sloughing off and draping my shoulders. My hair is worried, too. My constant digging breaks it off, leaving a stubbly undercoat beneath the visible long strands, like a disease-ridden terrier. I can feel smooth areas of probable scar tissue where hair might not even be able to grow. My hair’s texture is different, too. This might simply be a normal age-related change, but it’s a lot finer in texture, and I have to work more to encourage its natural curl. Or maybe it’s just giving up.
I know I probably should see a doctor, who would refer me to a dermatologist, who would then likely refer me to the nearest carnival freak show. They still have those. I saw it on TV. Actually, some of the freaks looked kind of fun, so maybe it wouldn’t be the worst outcome in the world. Plus, all the funnel cakes I could eat. But I don’t have a doctor, have marginal (at best) insurance, and plan to relocate in the next few months. Said relocation will be to a beach area, and Dad always said seawater cures everything. I love the ocean, and if I can swim and cure my scalp leprosy, win/win. Though our annual beach vacations didn’t cure Dad’s psoriasis, so he might’ve been full of shit.
At this point, I’m considering grabbing Tom’s beard trimmer, setting the guide to about a half inch, and going all Carol-Peletier-From-The-Walking-Dead. I’d hate to do that to my (semi-) faithful hair, but perhaps my scalp is jealous. Maybe if I make a grand gesture, it will forgive me and stop rotting off my head. Maybe it just wants to breathe, or see the sunshine, or get a sunburn which will lead to melanoma. Who knows? It’s a scalp. Scalps aren’t nearly as communicative as hair. Hair lets you know when it’s having a bad day, as evidenced by millions of women’s dramatic Facebook status updates and internet memes. Scalps keep it a secret, building up resentment, until it unleashes a blitzkrieg of pasty ooze and silvery flakes, causing you to scratch until the shoulders of your shirt look like someone dropped a bag of rice chaff on you from a fifth-story window.
I would look terrible with Carol’s hair. A gray buzz-cut would fail to cover my forehead wrinkles, badly-plucked eyebrows, and misshapen ears. My mangy scalp would be starkly visible. On the other hand, people might think I have some horrible (hopefully non-contagious) terminal disease. They would feel sorry for me, not comment on my wrinkles, eyebrows, or ears, let me go ahead of them in lines, and maybe even give me pity presents.
|Carol: Radiation victim, or bold fashion statement?|
I could always buy wigs. Wigs are fun, right? I could have short blonde ones, long red ones, purple and black punky ones, maybe even one made entirely of peacock feathers… But wigs are also sort of hot and itchy, and my scalp gets even more rebellions if it gets hot.
So I’m thinking hats. I’ve recently developed a powerful desire to buy a bunch of 1950s and 60s vintage dresses, the kind with full, swishy skirts. I think they would pair in a delightfully incongruous way with my tattoos, and would either impress people with my unconventional style or shock and horrify them. I’m fine with either reaction. Women back then did wear a lot of hats. Little pillbox hats, hats with wide brims, and the ones with a mysterious little wisp of net over the eyes (which, come to think of it, would also hide my forehead wrinkles).
Maybe I could become a gypsy fortuneteller. That way, my sparkly, vibrantly-printed head scarves would be tax deductible (IRS, go sit with the FDA; I’m not talking to you, either.), and people would pay me to sit in the dark and make shit up. Oh, yeah…I’m a writer. People already to pay me for that.
After further consideration, and the inclusion of The Daryl Dixon Factor, the Carol option is looking better and better. I might not like how it looks, but if Daryl approves, who am I to argue?
|Ooh, baby. No head lice, and the hottest guy in Georgia. Gimme my clippers and a crossbow!|