Wow, has it really been over a month since I last posted?

I guess it just goes to show what a footnote cancer has become in my life these days. As the last reminders of it fade, I increasingly file it away in some faraway coda, separate and distinct from my daily life. I don’t spend much time thinking about it – I’m too busy enjoying the company of my friends, the challenges of my job and everything that New York has to offer (which is, mostly, falafel. I could eat falafel for every meal).

But I write today, dear readers, to share some really, really exciting news: the wigs have been officially retired.

I’ve always been pretty average. I don’t mean this in a disparaging way; I’ve got my own charm and quirks and I’m happy with the way I look most of the time. But physically, I’ve always blended in – a very petite girl, nothing too remarkable, long brown hair, brown eyes, a wardrobe consisting mainly of jeans and cardigans. I’ve never stood out physically, or sought to. I’m not the type of gal who’d be interested in a facial tattoo a la Mike Tyson or nipple piercings or some such – although perhaps I should consider the nip piercings, seeing as I’ve got no feeling there these days. That’s cheating, right? I feel like part of the point of intense body piercings is the outward sign that you braved the pain of having your whatsits and doodads pierced and lived to tell the tale.

The point is, I am used to being fairly anonymous and unremarkable, to conforming to Western standards of beauty and femininity. And suddenly…I don’t anymore.

Before I go any further in my musings, let’s have a look at my progress, shall we?

While I was waiting, quite impatiently, for my hair to grow back, I absolutely scoured the internet for play-by-plays of the process and came up disconcertingly short. So I hope that this post can help those of you who may be waiting for your own locks to return. Without further ado, I present to you: the prodigal coif, coming home at last.


The pictures are about two weeks apart. As you can see, once the hair started coming in, it came in fast and thick. Here’s a shot of me from last weekend, rockin’ the buzz out and about for the first time (not including the times I rocked it while running, which doesn’t count, because I was actively running away from anyone who could possibly comment on it):

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 3.44.19 PM

It’s awesome to have my head hair back, but it’s decidedly less awesome to have my body hair back. I mean, what kind of miserable force is biology when it takes three months to grow enough hair on my head to be able to step out in public without shame, yet if I shave my legs in the morning I look like a Sasquatch by dinnertime? Five o’clock leg shadow is LAME, you guys. I forgot how unbelievably unawesome it is to have to shave my armpits and get my eyebrows threaded. I mean, I’ll do it if it’s the price I have to pay to have my tresses back, but I won’t be happy about it.

Okay, okay, I’m being ungrateful. I guess I kind of masochistically missed the sting of eyebrow threading. Actually – serious time – I do kind of love getting my eyebrows threaded, because it’s like this little secret club of women taking care of our women-business, taking part in this ritual that we’ve owned and perfected for generations. I mean, not me personally. I have no idea how to thread anything. But still: No boyz allowed. Reminds me of a book I loved in high school, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Warning: It’s (tangentially) about periods and (directly) about the Bible. But it’s amazing, and you should read it.

Having a buzz cut is pretty cool. Like, literally. As in, it keeps me from overheating. The last couple of days have been quite the heat wave here in NYC, and not having anything on the back of my neck is awesome when it comes to regulating my temperature. It’s also amazing to take short showers, something I never did before my cancerventure. I’m like a dude: I can hop in the shower at 8am, and be dry, dressed, made-up and ready to go at 8:15. I can, but that doesn’t mean I do. ‘Cause I admit that there’s nothing quite like standing under the hot steam of the shower and letting the stress wash away. Until it’s time to shave my legs and armpits. Then it’s like, DAMMIT.

So back to what I was talking about at the beginning of this post: I stand out now. The buzz cut is quite the attention-grabber. I mean, I like to be the center of attention, but on my own terms – like when I’m being totally hilarious at the bar and everyone’s like, wow, that girl is so cool! (Note: This never happens except in my delusional fantasies.) Most of the time people are positive. Here’s a list of some of what I hear on a daily basis, roughly in order from most affirming to most WTF-y:

“Wow, I love your hair!”

“Your haircut is so bold.”

“Your hair is very ‘Great Gatsby.'”

“I love girls with short hair.”

“I wish I could pull off hair like yours.”

“Do you work in fashion?”

And my favorite:

“I just wanted to let you know that I think you’d be really pretty with long hair.”

That last one is actual quote from some random guy in a coffee shop. I was sitting there, minding my own business, with my headphones in – the universal signal for “DON’T TALK TO ME, I AM WORKING AND I DO NOT WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND” – when this guy came up to me and uttered that bizarre semi-compliment…thing.

I stared at him for what felt like an eternity, trying to come up with something witty to say. C’mon, brain!

Finally I just blurted out, “Yeah, cool, but I had cancer and all my hair fell out and this is what I’m working with now, so…bye.”

I honestly wish I could’ve captured the look on his face, because it clearly did not occur to him that this haircut might be a result of something beyond my control. Which is kind of cool, really, because it means my hair has come so far as to no longer be even vaguely reminiscent of Cancer Patient, but is still lame because who cares what this douche thinks?

He mumbled out some weird apology and something about herbal teas curing cancer (I wasn’t listening to him anymore), and then he walked away and I was overcome with l’esprit de l’escalier, as the French say – when you suddenly come up with all the perfect stuff to say as soon as the moment to say it has passed you by.

I wish I would have said, I don’t care if you think I’m pretty or not.

I wish I would have said, I have more important things to contribute to society than fitting into your narrow, culturally-mandated view of what is and isn’t attractive on a woman.

I wish I would have said, I just wanted to let you know that I think you would be really handsome if you had an entirely different face and a personality that didn’t suck.

To be honest, though, that moment in the coffee shop was one of the most freeing of my life. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be attractive to the opposite sex. Buying the right clothes, wearing the right makeup, denying myself that second (or fifth) cupcake, burning myself on curling irons, wasting hours of my life in front of the mirror. In facing down this coffee shop douchenozzle, I suddenly realized that beauty has no power over me. I’m ugly now – at least to some random guy in a coffee shop, who I couldn’t care less about – and it’s awesome.


  1. Congrats that your hair is growing back! You look beautiful!!! 🙂

  2. How did you know we were waiting for your hair? I thought maybe I was one of the few because my hair started coming back with my last 3 months of chemo so I’m around the same length. I have actually thought about you in the past few days and was wishing for a hair report. Thank you for always improving my vocabulary (cancerventure and douchenozzle, awesome) and you are really beautiful any old way you slice it. Btw I think the buzz looks amazing and love the headband.

  3. Marina says:

    WORD. On everything you wrote above.

  4. Katherine says:

    So glad you’re doing well. It is wonderful when life feels normal again. Love your headband! I tried to keep some of the ones I wore with my headband wig, but looked too much like a ninja to pull it off. Maybe after a few more inches . . .

  5. Ann says:

    Michelle. How could you ever, EVER be just average? I’m not buying it. You look absolutely beautiful. And I don’t think that’s because your hair is making a comeback. I think that’s just the way you are, kiddo.

    BTW, I knew Anita when she was writing The Red Tent. (She was a columnist for The Boston Globe, and at the time called it her knitting.) Our girls were in school together. She’s just as lovely in person as you’d think from reading her work. One day I expect you’ll be sitting on a panel together.

    So happy for you.

  6. Becca says:

    As much as I love your posts, I am glad that it’s been a month because it means that life is taking over your life. The hair looks awesome. Shaving does suck. I loved The Red Tent. Keep on truckin’.

  7. SDS says:

    You are so beautiful, get outta here with your average shmaverage nonsense. And I HATE when the perfect comeback comes two seconds too late.

  8. you are beatiful.. am so glad your hair is coming back at a pretty fast rate.. my last chemo was 4 weeks ago and not much of anything on my head.. I am only on Herceptin now for 18 treatments 3 weeks apart and 5 weeks of radiation and the 5 year pills.. hope none of those prevent the hair from coming in…. You have certainly come a long way and you have faced every day with spunk and courage… I admire you so much….

  9. The Sanguine says:

    When we all grow old we all would lose our hair and it won’t matter if you’ve had long hair or short hair, the only thing that matters is how you’ve lived your life and mannn I must say you’ve lived your very well. 😉
    You’re awesome, Michelle. Just wanna remind you that today.

  10. robindcole says:

    Unsolicited mansplanation – yaaaaay. Even cancer survivors aren’t immune…

    Happy post-wig life, nonetheless. You look awesome!

  11. Krys says:

    I, for one, LOVE the hair! I’m sure it’s such a great feeling for it to have started growing back, for one thing… but it also looks really awesome. Screw the coffee shop douche – he can go drink some herbal tea to cure himself of douchiness. 😉

  12. I LOVE that you put that man in hs place. Regardless of the fact that u don’t owe anyone an explanation for your hair-I hope it opened his eyes and taught him not to judge a book by its cover- u never know what someone has gone through- I hope he learned his lesson! You rock Michelle!

  13. Melanie says:

    “I don’t care if you think I’m pretty or not” is one of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever read, I’m imagining what the world would be like if every woman could say that. You’re a brilliant writer.

  14. fransiweinstein says:

    In my opinion there’s nothing average about you.

  15. walism says:

    well done.. and Looking good..!!

  16. kelli says:

    thoroughly enjoyed my stroll around your blog. you are stunning in that picture and yes, being ok with ugly is awesome. it actually makes one more beautiful in the ways that matter. (where’s the beauty in being a clone?) your illness seems to have brought you wisdom most women wait a lifetime for. thank you for sharing it here. xoxo

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