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Growing Old and Bald Too

Posted Feb 03 2009 12:08am

EDITORIAL NOTE:Over the weekend, Elaine Frankonis of Kalilily Time sent a photograph of the workspace in her new home for the Where Elders Blog feature. It's great fun to see where bloggers whose words you know toil at their computers and everyone is invited to send their photos. Instructions are here. And you can check out the whole section of photos here. ]

It has been about four years since Crabby Old Lady stopped coloring her hair and about three years since she quit going to hair salons. The price, when she was still in Manhattan, was edging close to $250 for a cut and color in 2005, and Crabby’s not talking Frederic Fekkai – just the neighborhood stylist who happened to be a brilliant colorist too.

It was a relief for several reasons for Crabby to be done with that kind of upkeep. She never liked the ambience of salons, nor the two or three hours lost on a Saturday every five weeks, nor the price, plus 15 percent tip, even before it hit $250.

Crabby’s hair – in its variegated shades of gray - has occasionally been cut (by friends) in the past three years to remove an inch of dead ends, and has grown now halfway down her back. Not that you'll ever see it that way. Tossing one’s head back to get long hair out of one’s face is more appropriate to a nubile actress than an old woman, and now that she has finally found the kind of hair pins that allow her to twist it all up in bun that remains in place without slipping, no longer an issue.

The new hairpins, in addition to actually doing the job for which they are intended (most don’t) do not break hairs so Crabby no longer needs to use bands (which do break hairs) to keep it all out of her face. These pins are of vital importance to Crabby because – Hear Her Wail - she is GOING BALD and she doesn't want to exacerbate the progression.

Crabby sweeps up more of her own hair than the cat's. Long, gray strands are everywhere – floor, bed, shower drain, desk chair, car, the back of whatever she is wearing - she even found some clinging to her snow boots. Crabby sheds hair like a dog with mange. And until her hair was long enough to arrange in a bun, pink pate peeked through at the crown of her head.

Although her hairline is not receding yet, Crabby suspects it soon will. It’s so thin above her forehead, she gets freckles there in summer.

It is not difficult to find out why. A few trips around the web produce unanimous medical agreement about hair loss that, in the short version, states:

“The cause of the failure to grow new hair in female pattern baldness is not well understood, but it is associated with genetic predisposition, aging, and levels of endocrine hormones (particularly androgens, the male sex hormones).
- MedlinePlus

Hair loss for women is a social stigma that is not discussed as openly as male baldness. No one knows for sure, but it is thought that it affects about 15 percent of women, can begin as early as one’s 20s and increase after menopause. There is no known prevention for loss that it is unattributable to disease, chemotherapy or hormone imbalance, and no matter what the hair-growth shills tell you, the hair loss is permanent.

Oh, joy.

Most of the time, Crabby is a practical sort who doesn’t worry about what can’t be changed, and considering some of the serious things that can go wrong in old age, it is vanity, pure undiluted vanity to be disturbed about going bald. Nevertheless, there you have it – it’s taking up way too much space and time in Crabby’s brain.

The remedies are few, mostly ineffective, expensive or tedious.

  • The single drug approved by the FDA is a two percent solution of Minoxidil. It works only about 20 percent of the time and, anyway, Crabby is disinclined to smear goup on her head every day.

  • Implants are wildly expensive and as much as Crabby is whining about losing her hair, she would rather spend money in that magnitude to visit friends around the country and the world (even while bald) than undergo such an unappealing procedure.

  • Hair weaves are a lesser expense, but equally tedious, must be repeated forever and can themselves cause hair loss.

  • Wigs. Yes, well, a possibility. Crabby wore one long ago for a few months; they are hot, itchy and unless exquisitely- (and expensively-made) as in Hollywood films, mostly unattractive.

  • Embracing baldness by shaving her head is an option Crabby half-seriously considered, but it works best on an attractively-shaped head which Crabby does not own. She is no Grace Jones or Sinead O’Connor. Besides, with every public encounter, it calls attention for a wrong reason, especially on an old woman. The thought of explaining herself to any fool who asks – and many would - makes Crabby tired already.

She hadn't planned on going bald in her old age, particularly with no reasonable remedy, and that pretty well leaves Crabby with no option but to whine about it on her blog.

[ At The Elder Storytelling Place, Lois Cochran gives us a poem anyone with a cat will appreciate: Baked in a Cake. ]

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