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5 Minute read

My Dark, Lush Magnificence and Its Loss

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5 Minute Read

My hair was always my ‘thing’. Thick, dark, dramatic. When I was a little girl I had a crow. Blackie. Well strictly speaking, my brother did. He shimmied up a tree and stole it from a nest, though he only admitted that recently, having said for years it had fallen out, just in time to be rescued. So Blackie would perch on my shoulder and preen and peck away at my wild nest of hair. We made quite a pair.

Now my hair is coming out. It’s all over the bathroom floor, the kitchen floor, the corridor. They’re the areas with light tiling – I can pretend it’s not all over the carpets as it is less easy to see there. So it nests in the carpet, festers till I get the vac out.

The top of my head, the ‘crown’ is no longer host to my crowning glory. It is patchy, like a mangy dog. Oh and did I mention ageing? Well, I always looked really young for my age. Not anymore – or as far as my hair is concerned.

I’m 60 in September. I just moved to London, just in time to get my ‘Freedom’ pass to the city – trains, buses, the tube. All those eyes! And I’m thinking about hats, headscarves, feathers. Well, maybe not feathers. Not that brave, just yet (Rose Rouse).  Still, I need to find some camouflage.

A woman told me recently at a party that I was very brave to come out without covering up my (lack of) hair. We all have faults, she said to my reaction of surprise, as if I should own it, grow up. Well, I was shocked because I admit I’m still in denial. I honestly thought that making a poor attempt at a double-plait at the back of my head (a piece drawn from each side) with a jewel blue slide, would hide my thinning hair. Clearly, it didn’t. On reflection, I honestly think she meant well, though she hit a a sore spot. Or more accurately, various bald spots. So what to do?

Writing this article is one way of outing myself about it. I really do want to feel more relaxed about it all.

Several comments to my venting in a Facebook post suggested shaving it off altogether. Serena Constance even posted up a pic of an elderly lady with a bald head, tattooed all over – just to complete the deal, egg the pudding and gild the lily. She looked striking. Talking of striking, Serena arrived at a recent ‘For the Flamboyant’ Advantages of Age party wearing a kind of…well, Aztec headdress and as she arrived we all clapped her down the stairs. A fabulous entrance.

Loss. I’m losing my identity. My hair has always been so ‘me’, so much of myself is bound up in visions of dark-haired beauties. ”I want to look like Elizabeth Taylor” I told a hairdresser, many years ago and he gave me an ‘urchin’ cut that was just so Liz, it was thrilling. People remarked about it on the street. 

I started to go white when I was 17 – it looked wonderful actually when my hair was silvered with ‘grey’ hairs. Then it was streaky like a badger’s coat. Then aged 30, it just began to fall out. If I hadn’t had so much to begin with I would have been bald many years ago.

The very idea that I could lose my hair – ridiculous. At my convent school in Cheshire my velour hat was something of a sensation. My friends tried it on – it came down to their noses, looked all Fred ‘Parrot Face’ Davies – remember him? A big bowler slipping down his nose was his calling-card. So I thought I still had a big head and asked the woman at the party if I could try on her amazing hat then said  – ”Oh no, it won’t fit my big head”. Which was the starting gun for my rude awakening – as she pointed out it’s just a normal size. It was my hair that made my hat so huge, that made my school friends call me ‘the girl with two heads’. Now I’m just normal – normal head, normal life. Well, if ‘normal’ is a woman going bald on top. Anyone can wear a hat. Not everyone has masses of dark hair.

So do I cling on, root by disappearing root to what I have left? I still have ‘pre-Raphaelite’ tresses at the back. Wavy, still a bit wild, almost tamed. Shall I get a ‘topper’? It’s a weave made from human hair for women with ‘male pattern’ baldness, in which over years the hair just falls out until you develop an impressive monk-like look. You have to go back every six weeks so they can rearrange it over what’s grown back. That’s a lot of time and money (it ain’t cheap) to invest in retaining your ‘real’ hair. Is it hot? Does it itch? Does it look the business? Or does it look a sorry mess?

So now – it’s ‘make your mind up’ time. Shall I go for the ‘scorched earth’ look? The shiny pate? Shall I wear a wig, wondrous hats and scarves? Or just have a topper, the ‘crown topper’ that demolishes my resistance, my determination that I’m still a girl. A wild, untamed girl with a wild, though tamed crow perched on either shoulder. Preening and pecking away at my glorious locks, my calling-card. My hair.

Going bald. I might as well have a ball.

About Eileen O'Sullivan

Profile photo of Eileen O'SullivanI'm a freelance writer specializing in the arts, design, interiors, lifestyle, travel, nutrition, health, TV, film, literature - and what I fancy taking on, depending on the brief.

3 thoughts on “My Dark, Lush Magnificence and Its Loss

  1. Hi I.m 54, have only a hand full of grey hair you cant see but over the last 2 years with the hot flushes and body changes i too have lost so much of my hair, curl and fullness. I’m a hairdresser and my hair was ok a bit too curly for my liking and not quite thick enough but always very long and over the last 2 years getting shorter. My saving grace is crimping (bring back the 80’s) It has changed everything for me. Even when I’m having my hot flushes the body holds. I dont know how thin your hair has become but learning a few hair tips could be fun and really help motivate you. Like buying a new cook book. Oh and I do have chunks of purple in my dark hair. I think as we get older we should just get crazier, well thats my plan. Hope this has been helpful.

  2. Thank you so much for your helpful response, Sharp – I know, I need to get creative with it! I’m just a bit stuck right now, when I sit under bright lights, or just focused lights (above my head) I feel embarrassed. I look at people’s eyes to see – are they looking at my scalp? Maybe I should invest in a crimper! If that’s what they’re called 🙂

    Any more creative advice very welcome!

    Eileen x

  3. Have you had any blood tests? If not then the G.P. would be top of my list, just to rule out anything other than hormonal hair loss. Apart from the shedding is the overall health of the hair good? Hair changes as we age (mine too 😥) and unless its healthy, and glossy looking, then I would consider getting a trendy crop. This would really suit you and show off your features. Are you willing to try over the counter remedies? Some do get good reports. Finally, as a product junkie, I could let you know of some products that really do work (many don’t) on making the hair look and behave better. Just let me know. Take care and be confident. X

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