FaceOnFire: A Girl's Guide to Perimenopause

{October 3, 2011}   Hair Today, Bald Tomorrow

Last night I sneezed, and about 100 hairs fell off my head. This morning in the shower, another 300 met a sad, waterlogged fate – a sorry, tangled mass wrapped around the drain cover. It occurred to me as I was blow drying what remained that if I continue at this rate, I’ll be a dead ringer for Mr. Clean by the time I’m 49.

Of all the perimenopausal indignities I’ve suffered so far, from the weight gain to the mood swings to the still-traumatic super-absorbent tampon fiasco, nothing tops thinning hair and the impending Sinéad O’Connor “Pope Picture-Tearing Phase” look. The weight gain is under control, thanks to my sadistic personal trainer. Mood swings, I am discovering, can be fun! As for the tampon ordeal, a recent trip to my neighborhood CVS led to the earth-shattering discovery that they make extra-super-absorbency tampons that double as kitchen sponges. Yesssss!!!

Hair loss, on the other hand, makes me want to go green. Green with envy, that is. Lately I find myself fantasizing about getting Kim Kardashian in a headlock and taking the pruning shears to her disgustingly lustrous, obscenely luxuriant mane.

My own crowning glory began as a pixie cut, then moved to pigtails. Sixth grade saw me with a tragic Dorothy Hamill wedge that, paired with my beanpole frame and Super Fly coke-bottle glasses, rendered me androgynous for a year. As the 1970s waned, so did my first perm, which gave way to flippy Farrah Fawcett wings. In high school, I cut my own hair – an angled bob that complemented my beret and 80s thrift-store aesthetic. Junior year of college found me crying in a strip mall parking lot after an encounter with an Eastern European stylist who pretended she understood my request for Kelly-Mc-Gillis-in-Top-Gun waves left me with Michael-Jackson-at-age-six kinks.

As an adult, I’ve had highlights and lowlights. Teased bangs (Hey, it was the 90s! Don’t act like you didn’t do it, too).  Updos for parties. Pink streaks for concerts. The Rachel was my last celebrity hairstyle and lasted a good two years longer than it should have. Then came a sort of Dark Ages, where my hair simply…existed.  No color, no fancy treatments, no distinctive cuts. In fact, I could go a whole year and not have a trim.

Which brings us back to today. The Hot Hot Husband professes to love my hair au naturel, and he means it sincerely.

But what’s a girl to do when the hair on her head begins a mass exodus to the bathroom floor, the kitchen counter, and every surface inside the car? Four words: Go to the mall.

Determined to find a solution to my ever-thinning strands, I begin at a kiosk strategically located across from A Popular, Overrated National Lingerie Chain. The kiosk, staffed by a bubbly young Asian woman with an enviably thick head of hair, sells…hair. That’s right. Disembodied ponytails of every hair color dangle lifelessly from racks, a macabre chuck wagon of wig pieces and falls. The salesgirl smiles encouragingly, eager to make her first sale of the day. I smile tightly, eager to hide my Texas Chainsaw Massacre flashback. The thought of attaching someone’s lopped-off pelt to the top of my cranium leaves me with a sudden desire to collapse on the nearest bench and put my head between my knees.

Undaunted, my next stop is a beauty supply store. Here I ask a magenta-maned twentysomething for hair-thickening shampoo recommendations. She proceeds to walk down the aisle, scanning bottles for the word ‘thickening’ and pointing to her findings triumphantly. This gets old after about her third victory, and I don’t have the heart to tell her I actually learned how to read some time ago, so I thank her and wander the aisles on my own.

I emerge $72 poorer, with a shampoo, conditioner and serum that promise to “nurture healthy hair growth.” Stay tuned for an update. In the meantime, I think today is the perfect day to break in my Missoni for Target hat.


et cetera