I wake up from an ugly dream, more of a nightmare, out of breath. I like to think my hair loss is nothing more than a ridiculous concern and side effect of my cancer, and yet, it won't stop haunting me. I wonder why. In my dream, which I've had many of the same, always with a slight variation yet similar nevertheless, the woman hates me. She is judging me and angry, because I am skinny and my hair is pretty, but it is a wig unbeknown to her and I am skinny from a loss of appetite. I tear my wig off exposing my bald head, and throw it in her face. I scream with pain "Are you happy now?" and I wake up, breathless yet again.
Exhausted from a night of hot flashes, tossing and turning and stress dreams, I go back to bed after even a full cup of coffee, and sleep for another three hours. I wake up, hoping I will feel better, but I don't.
I spend the better part of my day organizing my employment paperwork, my resume, my cover letter, and filling out an application for a job in Oakland. I wonder if I will be as accepting as I preach, should I get the job. Will I allow myself to be enriched from the possibility of vast differences or will I run from fear? Will I be afraid when there is no need? And yet, no matter what the city, demographic, or crime statistics, I have yet to hear of library staff being shot by anyone, anywhere. Fear, for the most part, is nothing more than a response to illogical and hurtful stereotypes, more so than a means to serve a purpose, as it did in olden days. Our reptilian brains are hard wired, the most primitive part of the brain, responding to only partial representations of truth, unchanged by evolution. We share this brain with all other animals, even those who kill on instinct, yet we claim ourselves to be civilized when we kill another's spirit, because they aren't like us. This dream that I am not accepted haunts me, but it is so much more than hair.
So I take my daily walk, because clinical trials report that breast cancer recurrence is lessened by 50% in women that exercise six days a week, thirty minutes each day, simultaneously while eating healthier. I am afraid to die, and so I walk. I don't want to wear a wig, or a hat, or even a scarf, we are having a heat wave. I choose to hold my head up high, regardless...regardless of the man that responded to a comment I made with such thoughtlessness. It is easy to be cruel when one is hiding behind a monitor, without knowing the heart of another. He stated that I sound like a card carrying member of the National Association of Gals (as Rush calls em)... "or is it the National Organization of Women, also known as the National Organization of Women Who Look Like Men." He was cruel at least and ignorant to differences and my condition, at most.That is what I get for not wearing my wig in the picture; an impulsive society, I think, that judges based on what they see, not on what they know. But wasn't it I who wrote "Bald Is Beautiful" to shout out to those with hair loss that we are beautiful as we are? I choose to defy their judgment, and perhaps my own, and I walk with nothing on my head.
The man who would have ogled me not so long ago, looks quickly away. I am relieved that he doesn't stare. The woman, the one with the long pretty hair, glares at me from across the street. I continue to walk with my head held high. She doesn't know that I feel her eyes upon me. I look up, she looks away. I feel her eyes again. I look up, only this time she pierces me with her eyes until finally I choose not to look away, so she knows that I know that she is staring. I should have worn the wig. I don't look like a cancer patient, but like a woman who chooses to look like a man, now that my hair has grown short. I want to walk up to her and say "You sure have beautiful hair. I used to have hair like yours....until I got the mammogram." I want to freak her out. I want to scream that she is not exempt, that she too could look like me, but I don't. She holds the glare, then slowly looks away as if to make sure I felt her eyes upon me.
I walk back, saddened, wondering why the hair that wasn't supposed to become an issue, has become such a constant in my mind. It was easier when they knew I had cancer, as pity breeds compassion where differences breed contempt. I am sad that we all can't just accept one another as we are, regardless of our differences. I choose not to wear the wig because I refuse to so readily hand over my pride. The heat, both physically and psychologically, would be more than I could stand.
Suddenly though I am overcome with joy because I realize how far we've come. How women have the right to vote and black people no longer have to sit on the back of a bus and change, change is inevitable with diversity and education and I think that sooner or later everyone will find that they love someone that is different than they think they should be. They are no longer burdened with hatred and anger but overcome with acceptance for others, as they are.
I go back into my dream state only I'm not asleep this time, and I'm imagining a world where even beyond acceptance, we bask in the enrichment of one another's differences. I hope I get the job, I think, I know I would be perfect. And in this dream I have we are all basking, together. People of color, various religions, black and white, gay and straight, young and old; a world where no one cares, because the hatred has dissipated into the rainbow. My cousin once wrote in a song "...the world would be boring if we were all the same." I dream that we are holding hands and laughing, and I know in my heart of hearts that one day that is possible.