Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This whole Gray Hair thing

Like you all do, I look online for validation of my personal choices. So, after my hair grew in gray, and when I decided not to dye it back immediately, I turned to the web to be sure that I'm still stylish and the fashionista I always used to be.

I found lots of approval. Apparently, gray hair is totally in and the new trend among the hipster set. (And, by hipster, I don't mean anybody who has broken theirs.) Gray is walking the runways and socialites such as Pixie Geldof are embracing the color. Why, even Kelly Osbourne has gray hair now!

And they have to pay! I get mine for free!

There is quite the gray movement going on, including on a fantastic website called Going Gray, Looking Great, with stories of women who have actually chosen to let their natural hair color grow out, which they call transitioning.

They didn't do it the easy way, like I did.

Looking at pictures like these, I am assured that I am right in trend:

There are beautiful names for our hair. We are silver, or icicle gray, or snowey-tipped, or sparkling pewter. Lovely sounds, all.

And yet, each time I am walking down the street or in a mall and catch a glimpse of myself in a reflection, I don't recognize myself. "Who is that old lady?" And when I look around the streets to see other women with my hair color, I am not seeing the Kelly Osbournes out there.

I mostly see this:

Needless to say, I am conflicted.

It all came to a head (har har) the other day, when I had a job interview. Now, I like my job as a middle school secretary, but I drive two cities away to get there. Because school starts so early, I have to get up at 5:00 a.m. With my tamoxifen pain and inability to sleep properly, I am thinking I'm going to struggle with that - a lot.

So, I was extremely excited to discover that a job was opening up that I am eminently qualified for, and which is a five minute drive from me. Not only is it close to my house, but it is also the high school my son will attend next year. It would be a dream come true to work there. The drive would be gone, the worry about being so far from my son would be gone.

Plus, nobody there knows I had cancer. I would be free to start fresh.

It was time for me to get a break. It's been a tough year, with cancer, two pets dying, our car stolen, the expensive medical-related expenses cancer brings, and all the associated problems that life enjoys throwing at you all at once.

Seeing the job posted at my son's future school - well, it was a sign. Things are about to get easier on me.

So, I applied. And, unsurprisingly, I got an interview.

I was confident. I was prepared. I am perfect for the job. I knew what they were going to ask because I have typed those questions for my boss before. I felt sure I would be a top candidate.

I even treated myself to new clothes. I bought a pink and gray blouse (I know, but I don't always hate pink) and a grey skirt which I felt that would match my silver hair.

I walked confidently into the interview room, and was startled to see on the panel somebody I'd worked with two years ago. She looked shocked at my appearance and commented on my hair, which immediately flustered me. "Does she know I had cancer, does she know why it looks so different?"

I sat down to the interview, suddenly plunged into cancer mode, on the defensive, wondering what they knew, would they hire me anyway?

Instead of my new mantra, "I've been through cancer, this is nothing." Or, "Hell, if Carly Fiorina can run for Senate after her treatment, than I can certainly handle a job interview" I was in scramble mode, inarticulate. I was the actress who not only went out on stage and forgot her lines, but also forgot her costume. I stood there naked, not knowing what to say, the audience feeling sorry for me.

And, it was one of those situations where instead of recovering my composure after taking a couple of deep breaths, I got worse and worse and blew it so bad that I knew before I'd walked out that I hadn't gotten the job. The only way I could have won that position was if all the other candidates look like that lady with the pipe above.

Even then, it wouldn't be assured.

This is what I looked like when the interviewer knew me

Me now

Cancer has taken a breast, eighteen months of my time, my energy and strength. And, the other day, it took my confidence and thus, a job I really wanted.

I actually like my icicle/snow/pewter hair. But, if it is going to become emblematic of my cancer experience and shake my confidence when people notice it - and it's only natural that they will - then it's going to have to go.

I'm still not "cancer girl" and never hope to be. But, I'm not the old me either, and now I know I never will be again. For now, acceptance of the changes cancer brought is something I realize I'm going to have to work on.



  1. Sorry that your interview didn't go well, it happens.
    I like grey hair, yet find it does add years to people who wear it. I think it is a decision only you can make. Health is more important than a hair color, now if you can have both I say go for it..........:-) Hugs

  2. You rock Ann! Follow up with a call to the school, own your steps, you know this job, you should call the woman who sat on the panel. It is a sign, you just need to push it forward.

    Hair has nothing to do with job performance.

  3. You know, I think you may not realize it now, but you are stunning the way you are. *YOU* define who you are, not a website, magazine, or Hollywood star. I think you look fantastic, and considering you're still here on this blue planet, and you've survived what you've gone through, I think you should not worry a wit about your hair... just my opinion though. :)

  4. Bad interviews happen and I'm sorry you had one.

    Color your hair!!!

    Life's too short to spend one second of it feeling like the lady with the pipe.

    If you don't like it, you can color it back to gray right away if you don't like the result. It's just hair.

    Do whatever makes you feel good, confident, and awesome.

    I get that you're feeling conflicted. I truly do.

    But, if you were bothered enough to blog about it, it's worth two hours in the colorist's chair.

    I love all that your write!

  5. Being a 'newbie' to your blog it has struck a chord with me. Sure there are any number of fellow readers nodding their heads while reading.
    Why is it that we allow this cancer to take so much more than we have to give?
    So hard just to be yourself.
    I do hope that the job interview was better than you realised, and you are still in the running.

  6. Yes follow up with the woman you knew on the panel. Now about your hair. Yes your appearance has changed but you don't have cancer tattooed on your forehead for every one to see. For all anyone knows, you cut your hair short and stopped coloring it which is perfectly normal! Good luck in your job hunt.

  7. You know, thinking about it, it's not really about my hair. It's about my identity as a person with cancer as represented by the sudden change in my hair. It's an identity I never wanted. Some people do, but not me. It's an overpowering feeling while you are still undergoing treatment, and you (or at least I) become sensitive to it.

    In any event, I clearly didn't do as badly as I thought, because they called me back. I am in the running for the job - one out of five. My second interview was today and I feel much better about my performance.

    I may still not get it but if I do, I did my best and I couldn't have said that last time.

    In truth, I blamed superficialities on my poor performance, when the reality was I was not prepared for the questions. I didn't practice and so when I got rattled by the hair comment, nothing came to mind. The second I was called back, I practiced and found some websites about the common questions and did much better. So, it's nice to blame my hair but I just wasn't prepared.

    Anyway, wish me luck. I will update you all via facebook, so like or fan me or whatever it is. Off to herceptin now!

  8. Love your moxie....and look at it as their loss.

  9. Just call me 'off kilter"! Don't beat yourself up about the interview. You are talented and you will shine again. It's not about the boobs nor the hair; it's about what you've (we've) been through the past year. I too have had cars blow up and have 2 twenty-some year old daughters whose throats I'd like to wring, plus not working put a dent in our already set income. You just have your mini-meltdowns and continue to strive. Humor and laughter is by far the best and that is what you provide!

  10. Whoo Hoo! Second Interview!

    Glad you did your best there!!!

  11. It takes time to figure out who you are after cancer. I was all into embracing the gray that came in when my hair started growing back, but then I saw "cancer girl" in the mirror and didn't like her anymore than you do. Cancer is a point of demarcation, and there's a fine fine between being open and honest about the experience and moving on. I dyed it for years afterward and have no regrets. I did decide to "rock the silver" almost 10 years later -- and I love it now that I've had time to process all that happened. Being a cancer survivor is part of who I am, but it doesn't define me. But as I said, that takes time.

  12. Yup!

    I even did laser treatments to remove my radiation tattoos.

  13. I've had numerous comments about my hair. A lot have been nice that the shorter style suits me ... and particularly the colour ... which is a chestnut ... rather than the black it grew instead of my usual brunette.

    Somebody has said I didn't recognise you "you've now got a funky haircut" and someone else said "hey that funky haircut knocks 10 years off you".

    I'm not ignorant or stupid ... I know lots of people are thinking "ruddy hell, what she done to her hair?"!

    Didn't need to anything with my two tattoos ... they are smaller than my freckles!

    P x

    PS Delighted to hear you got the job!!! Silver is the new brunette!!

  14. You look prettier than Jamie Lee Curtis who I thought you were posting a picture of until I looked closer! You look awesome. I don't get it. (I know you won't buy it but, personally, I think you look hotter now than BC -- before cancer.

    I'm a high-lighted blond now (used to have dark brown hair) because I want to transition to my silver but my hair dresser says I still have too much dark to do it yet. I can't wait for the rest of the silver to come in.

    But I do know what you mean about passing a mirror or reflective window and looking over and wondering who that woman is. ;)

  15. Nope! I don't care who is wearing it gray now, I refuse to. Until it is long enough for me to actually get the Clairol out and do something about, I am still wearing my wigs. And I don't care how bloody hot it gets under there. Maybe because it does in fact look like 'cancer girl' or maybe it's just because it makes me looked 'aged'. I dunno at this point.

    I knew it was gray before treatment, and there was no way I was going to allow it. But it was also long, and I didn't look like G.I. Jane. Nothings changed since then. I had been dying my hair red for over ten years... no wait, fifteen. Yea. That sounds about right... fifteen.

    I'll have to look further in your blog to see if you got the position. Good luck!

  16. I'm not sure if you will see this comment since it's months later, but you look BETTER with short, gray hair imo. It looks completely stylish and chic. No offense, but your old hair looked so average that you would blend in with the average person. The short, gray hair stands out in a pretty way.


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