Chemo starts again next week. It’s been fifteen months since I last had a needle stuck into the rubber port in my chest. My oncologist, Dr. Ari has reworked the protocol hoping it won’t be as hard on my body. No pump in a fanny pack. A lower dose of the other drug to help combat the worst side effect; diarrhea. But there is one thing he can’t stop and that is the loss of my hair.
Before I had cancer, I assumed all chemo made your hair fall out. Turns out that isn’t true. Over the last three years, I have only been given one chemo regime (18 times). I lost all my nose hair and my eyebrows got really thin, but my facial hair remained intact.
I have no problem with losing all the hair on my legs, (maybe people will think I race bicycles), my ten manly chest hairs, even the hair on my head. What I’m sad about is my facial hair. Here is the history of my beloved moustache and beard.
It began on my seventh birthday. I had gotten to invite a friend to go with me to Farrell’s Ice Cream. One of those crazy places where the staff are dressed like members of a barber shop quartet, the entry way is filled with candy to buy, and when they announce your birthday, you are greeted by a bass drum, tambourines, and loud singing. It’s kind of embarrassing.
After the festivities, my friend and I stood in the parking lot. For some reason, (why seven year-olds were discussing shaving, I don’t know), we were talking about shaving. My Mom shaved, so I figured all grown-ups did. She and my Dad shared an electric razor which sat on the counter top in our bathroom. I was shocked to find out that my Mom was not normal in her grooming habits.
Unfortunately for her, she was genetically disposed to hairiness; and she had dark hair. Mom used to let my brother practice shaving. She’d take the blade out of the razor and give him shaving cream to put on his face. I wanted to practice too. She never let me. How she couldn’t see the soft blond hair all over my face and arms, I don’t know. I was as harry as she was, I was just blessed with light hair.
In my twenties the whiskers started growing. I have spent an unreasonable amount of time in my life pulling them out of my chin. When I was pregnant and feeling so uncomfortable in my own body, I grew them out as a kind of protest. Well, that just made me look even weirder. (See post, “Mommy, why is that man so fat?)
For Christmas that year, my sister, blessed, (or cursed), with the same problem, bought me an electric razor. What a relief that was. No mad plucking every night.
After I had my son, I switched to a regular razor. Electric ones are garbage. I shaved every day for three years. Then I began my gender transition.
Transgendered men, like me, are desperate for their facial hair to grow in. When you have a beard, people automatically assume you are a man. I had a head start. A wispy little ziffle. Slowly my goatee filled in. And then came the best part, sideburns.
My Dad has an amazing walrus moustache. Mine isn’t that big. Dad rarely shaved it off; but when he did, the space between the bottom of his nose and the top of his lip was a glaring empty patch of skin that I’m pretty sure was at least four inches. So maybe mine will only look like two inches. In the five years that I’ve been on testosterone, I haven’t seen that patch of skin on my own face.
Only once, early on a Christmas morning, did I shave my beard. Sleepy, getting ready to go to church, I grabbed the trimmer and before realizing that the guard was off… I went to church for the first time in seventeen or so years with a 70’s gay man ‘stache.
Over the years since my gender transition, my shaving habits have gotten lax. When my neck feels itchy, or I have somewhere to go in which shaving would be appropriate, I pull down the razor and shaving cream.
That doesn’t mean I don’t love my beard. It feels like I was born to have it. In the last ten or so years, my hair has gone from red to brown; but my facial hair is still red. I was always proud to have red hair.
So my beard is hard won and special. There is another reason I’m sad to lose it; I’m afraid I will look like a “Pat.” Remember Pat, (a horrible character), on Saturday Night Live. It was never given away if Pat was a man or a woman. Adrienne assures me it won’t happen. But just to be sure, if you see me without any hair, please throw in “virile,” “manly,” or “masculine,” in reference to my appearance. Thanks.