Wigged Out With Kindness From A Frenchman

For many women it’s all about the hair. I know this because it’s the question I get asked the most by other women. “Will you lose your hair?” “When do they think you’ll lose your hair?” “Is there a way you can keep your hair?” I think many of us like to think we have our one thing. The bit we’re quite happy with. Maybe you’ve been blessed with a decent set of legs, or perhaps people comment on your perfect pout, or toned Michelle Obama arms. I’m not talking about women and body issues, I’m talking about growing up and discussing genetics. I often tell my second daughter that she has the same beautiful fingernails as my grandmother had. There’s no mistaking it. For me, I was always told I had the eyes and hair of my father. The tone of the conversation left no doubt that I was being paid a compliment.

Perhaps it’s thanks to his fading Chinese lineage that dad’s still fronting up at the bowls club with a full head of dark hair. When he went through his moustache years and we giggled at the ginger that made its appearance my mother pointed out that I was ‘lucky’ enough to have the same tones. “People would pay good money for that hair colour” she’d say with a streak of grey on her temples.

When I was getting ready to return to Doha from Australia I knew I had to sort out a wig before I left. I thought that my options would be limited in Doha, and I wanted the warmth of chatting in the same language about cancer and hair loss. I’d seen the women in the wig shop in an arcade in town and they looked experienced and understanding, I knew they dealt with this kind of thing all the time.

It turned out to be a bit of a disaster.

My head it appears is of gigantic proportions, or so they told me. Nothing would fit. I took my girlfriend Penny who came with me to go wedding dress shopping sixteen years earlier, we both giggled as they tried to wrestle wig after wig onto my head without success. While my giggles hid a low level anxiety of how this was all going to pan out – Penny’s giggles were scorned by the staff, one woman actually turned to her and said “it’s not funny?” which of course only made us giggle more. So that was it. I returned to the Middle East disappointed and wig-less.

I asked around when I got back to Doha and was told of a place “over near the airport, behind Lulu”. This time I took my 15 year old daughter something I’m hoping didn’t scar her for life. As expected I stood with a women who spoke neither arabic or english desperately trying to explain that I wouldn’t have any hair to clip onto the wig she was trying to sell me because I would be bald. Why do we start talking like English is our second language when we do this? “No hair, I be bald” I said more than once, and then “Chemotherapy, me no hair, hair is gone, me bald head”. She showed me the clips again. Eventually my daughter said “OH MY GOD – she has cancer!” and we all laughed, including the woman who had no idea what was said, which was what made it even funnier.

We bought one. It was long and unruly, not ready to wear, but I had an idea of where to go to get it cut. Before the summer I’d been to see a Frenchman at the salon at the Hilton here in Doha. He was the epitome of all things french. Cool, suave, a mop of curly hair and an air of alluring disinterest. The salon played french pop over the speakers while he muttered french to his colleagues and wooed his clientele with his french accent. He was a fantastic hairdresser, someone who provides the entertainment solely by doing their craft. I’d only been there once and I was fairly sure he wouldn’t remember me so when I rang I was nervous, I felt embarrassed to even have the conversation. I mean did he even do this kind of thing? When a woman answered the phone I asked meekly if he was around, I was going to have to explain what I needed. With a feeling of cement in my stomach and a lump in my throat I proceeded.

“Oh hi, David, you may not remember me, I’m Kirsty the Australian. I kind of need to book two haircuts. One for me to have my hair cut extra short as I start chemo on Wednesday – and another haircut for my wig which I’ll be bringing with me”.

There was a short silence, his voice was gentle “Kirsty, you will come tomorrow and I will cut the wig for free, I will teach you some tricks, I will look after you, don’t you worry, I will look after you.”

I can think of five times in the past month where it’s all got too much, when the tears have flowed. At the surgery on that first day of diagnosis, in the hospital when the night nurse was nasty, when the children left to return to Doha and I had to stay in Australia.

“I will look after you.” As he said it I felt the tears running down my cheek. It was going to be okay. It was all going to be okay.

What was meant to be awkward and uncomfortable turned in to giggles and silliness. He gave me what was possibly my last haircut for the next nine months or so, and it rocked.

hair rock

When it came to the wig he had tricks and ideas. Do this, try this, move it like this. As he cut it, it slowly became me. We laughed, he made jokes, I told him off, we giggled, it was two and half hours of what can only be described as wig therapy. Midway through the cut of the wig (the fringe was yet to be done so forgive the photo) he had to take a call, I decided a sneaky selfie was in order. As I pulled out my phone, hovered my finger over the button, and tried to fit my enormous head into the frame David came wheeling past me at great speed on his stool and photobombed the shot.

Daveeed

People often talk of the kindness of strangers when it comes to cancer. David is no longer a stranger. He’s a man who made me feel confident and in control of what was coming next. Without meaning to he reminded me that we all have the power to change how someone is feeling, we can eliminate fear and bring warmth with our words. The smallest act of kindness can have the largest impact on the person who needs it.

My almost black, dead straight hair now sits on a stand on my dresser. It may not have grown from my own follicles but it looks pretty much exactly the same. It’s cut into the same bob and I’m not sure how often I’ll use it/wear it, but the anxiety is gone, I now have the option if I need it.

Today when we talked cold caps at chemotherapy I confidently said I was okay with losing my hair. I have scarves I have a wig, I’m set.  All thanks to a beautiful Frenchman who probably has no idea how much he’s changed my entire cancer experience.

*If you’re in Doha you can find David at BlueBrush at the Hilton (he has no idea I’m writing this). BlueBrush are on Facebook and Instagram @bluebrushdoha

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