When we invite stories from baby boomers, we encourage you to be frank. Santa Barbara’s Barbara Greenleaf is listening! She is going through something that probably affects more baby boomers than anyone imagines, and she has a sense of humor about it. Her story’s about Hair: the reality, not the musical.
With all the other changes taking place in this old body, why is my thinning hair my great obsession?
I liked my hair. True, it was thick and wavy and adapted easily to everything from the bouffant to the bob. But basically, like teeth until they ache or heels until they blister, hair is something one simply takes for granted. Until it falls out! Recently, mine has been falling out or, as the euphemism goes, “thinning.”
From time to time I fleetingly began to notice that my hair looked a little sparse on top, but I didn’t really pay attention to it (denial, anyone?) until that night at dinner when my husband happened to glance at my head as I bent over to cut into a lamb chop. “My God, you have a bald spot!” he blurted out. When he saw my stricken expression, he said casually, “Oh, it’s only a tiny one; no one will notice.”
That was it: I could no longer ignore the signs of imminent balding. Was it my imagination or was I suddenly growing a high forehead? I wrung my hands over every strand that came out in my comb and every wisp that fell into the sink. I began to look at ads for wigs, fantasizing about all the new looks I might try, from dreadlocks to a Mohawk.
Playing with my fast-diminishing locks became a major activity. I changed my part from the right side to the left side since the thinning seemed most noticeable on the right, all the while telling myself that this was not a comb-over. Yeah, right! I also tried criss-crossing the top layers. Maybe it worked for Raggedy Ann, but not for me. I tried dabbing brown color on my bald spots, which was about as effective as a homeowner spraying his concrete “lawn” green.
These tactics, of course, were merely cosmetic. It was time to get to the root of the problem (you should pardon the pun), so I made an appointment with a dermatologist, who prescribed 5% minoxidil, a.k.a. Women’s Rogaine. You not only have to rub this foamy substance into your scalp every day, you can NEVER STOP or your hair will fall out again. Oh, and there is one other teensy-weensy downside: you might grow unwanted hair in places other than your head. Great. Now, not only would my husband and I have matching bald spots, we’d have his-and-hers mustaches too.
The dermatologist also recommended a laser comb, which I am supposed to frog-walk over my scalp for 15 minutes three times a week, moving the comb one-quarter inch every four seconds in time to a beep, which is truly mind-numbing.
I’ve only been in the hair-growth game for five weeks and I’ve been told not to expect signs of progress for at least three to six months. Still, each night I search hopefully for the little row of fuzz that will signal a return to the old me. Hair. A woman’s crowning glory, indeed!