This past weekend I had the pleasure of reuniting with one of my dearest gal-pals from High School. We were on the same weapon-wielding squad, sort of speak, in our senior year, and we had a great time, back then, so it was fun to catch up and embrace our friendship anew. I will not say how long it had been since we had graduated. I fear my body would finally succumb to gravity and hasten itself back to dust should I even utter my age to myself or to the public. Barbara was on the Banner & Saber team and I was on the Riffle twirling team at Glendora High school in Southern California. She carried the letters in front of the marching band and twirled actual (blunted) sabers when the band performed at competitions and halftime shows at football games. I was one of the six maniacs who tossed heavy mock-rifles around and the Riffles and Sabers were always intermingling our acts. At our high school the Saber girls had to be a certain height and, that year especially, they were all athletic and gorgeous. And we were the very first Riffle squad and most of us were on different athletic teams so we were treated like cheerleaders with guns. Not to mention: most of the band members were award-winning & talented musicians, as well as lunch-time parking-lot stoners, so all of us were not unpopular. We met at the famous Drake Hotel for high tea and Barbara, who had taken the trip from Glendora to Chicago with her sister, caught me up on her family and children and her husband’s business etc. My partner, David, and me, talked about our dogs and jobs and my book which was just published. Our time together reaffirmed our like and love for each other and I know we will be in touch and see each other again soon. When David and I got home, David mentioned how I had “side swept” the conversation when it was brought up that Barbara had just been treated for breast cancer. I told him that I would have talked about it if I felt that it was something she wanted to talk about, or if it interested me while I was enjoying her company, fancy scones and Chai tea. Now, don’t judge too fast here: You see, as I explained to David, I hear the words breast cancer almost every day in my line work. As a hairdresser, most of my women clients have come into contact with the subject, directly or indirectly in some form or fashion. I’m not shy to the subject but I think I know when someone wants to talk about it or not. In fact, Barbara, who was sporting a very cute short do at Tea asked if I liked it (loved!), and that’s when she told me she had just been able to grow some hair back after the loss of it due to radiation and chemo treatments. Frankly, I went straight to the gushing about her hair because it had only dawned on me, just then, that she always had had long hair in high school. What had she been waiting for to go short? Cancer? I said that too and she laughed and then the dis-ease subject did never surface again. In retrospect, I can only hope that Barbara knows that I am aware of what she has gone through. While I may not have had cancer I know all the steps she had to go through to be healthy and to be able to visit Chicago and I’m aware of the emotional toll her health journey has taken on her and her family.
Feeling like I do not need to actually talk about the elephant in the room stems form being a haidresser. It’s my job to see the person one is on the “inside.” Not the outside nor what is litterally reflecting back to me in the mirror. I don’t see hair, daily drama and certainly not cancer; and most people are not of the words they choose. I look and listen and then my job is to reflect back to my client the real person inside — and I try to make the hair represent that too. At the Drake, I was talking to and enjoying my friend who had been living a great life and who, just recently, had battled cancer. She is the sum of her whole life and she is delightful.
If you ask me my age, I hope that you see the person on the inside, not the number. I can tell you that I’m a lucky guy who has never had a life threatening illness but I can support you if you do. I’m a great listener to whatever you are going through because I know, whether you make it through this lifetime to a ripe age, or get stopped in your tracks, I know you are the always-perfect timeless spirit-person on the inside and everyone is beautiful.
Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to call my friend, Barbara, right now, to ask her how she is doing. I won’t be walking this year but I always give to my friends and clients who ask me. The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer is such a great event. “IN IT TO END IT” June 4th and 5th in Chicago http://www.avonwalk.org/chicago/ Go to the website for your city.