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How to Adjust to Losing Your Hair – Frances Gapper

Make an appointment with the GP, who examines your scalp and says, Hmm, only a little. At your age, a degree of hair thinning’s to be expected. While she talks, gaze enviously at her lustrous dark bob. Recall the saying a woman’s glory is her hair. Feel ashamed of your vanity and for having wasted her time. Go home and go online. Buy coconut oil, nutritional supplements and a laser gun.

Consult a sparse-haired trichologist, who used to be a barber. A stone owl on his chimney, a No Hawkers No Traders sign on his front door, a gloomy entrance hall. On your first visit he says it’s not female-pattern hair thinning, diagnoses a progressive condition. Says all you can do is manage the symptoms (itchiness and sharp tugs) and rearrange what’s left. While blow-drying it for volume, he chats about his son, who lives near Morecambe Bay and loves it there. Picture shining mud flats uncovered by the retreating tide.

Your eyebrows have gone straggly, a hairdresser says they need a trim. But when she zips her razor over them, they vanish (find a good tattooist, she’ll microblade you new ones.) Other hairdressers giggle at the back of the salon as – left facing yourself in the mirror – you pull forward your wet rat’s tails, trying to mask your forehead.

When you encounter neighbours outdoors, suppress an urge to hold your fringe in place. But no one mentions it (only one horrified stare). Perhaps they think you have cancer.

Your scalp hurts in cold winter rain (hair’s functional as well as decorative). Feel jealous of the trees, who’ll re-sprout.

The week before you turn sixty-five, get your partner to shave your head. Insist on total removal. Afterwards, look at yourself in the big mirror. Amazonian! Your partner says it was time.

Backslide. Try wigs: the Connie, the Rousseau, the Zumba. Aim for a natural look, fail repeatedly. Return the wigs to their boxes, except for the Amore Harvest Gold which occupies a wig stand in a dark corner. Keep thinking you’re being haunted by Diana Princess of Wales.

Buy hats. Partner says no to turbans.

A former friend who dropped you, a photographer who moved to the Netherlands, has the same condition, to judge from her X page. Her self-portraits are included in an exhibition.

Remember that time you gave Mum a severe haircut: job done you thought, but your sister cried, She looks like a concentration camp inmate. Remember when the care home’s visiting hairdresser left Mum sweetly smiling amid a mass of soft grey curls: pretty you thought, but your sister cried once more, It’s not her, not her.

Recall the saying either bald or bonkers. Mum never lost her hair, so maybe you won’t lose your mind?