By Lorri Steer
blogger at Terrible and Beautiful (currently private)
I never liked hats before cancer. Somehow like Elaine on Seinfeld, I thought I had an unusually large head and hats wouldn’t fit me so I never fancied the thought of wearing one. Cancer changed that of course. Hats became the banal bread and butter of my existence for a while anyway. I had sun hats and hand knit hats and scarves of course. But there was one type of cap that had the potential to make me look like a really cool Soccer Mom – the feminine baseball cap.
You know what I’m talking about – not one of those authentic, synthetic baseball hats with a logo on the front and a plastic mesh back that you’d see on an old retired trucker. Not those. The hat I coveted was more of a cap – a softer canvas crown with the front bill curved just so to cast a flattering shadow on one’s un-makeup-ed face. The caps that make the women in line at King Sooper look like as soon as they drop off those orange slices for the team they will run their training route for the next local marathon. Those caps looked divine to me but it wasn’t the cap so much as the thick, lustrous ponytail pulled through the back opening. Those bouncy tails looked so sassy and fresh. Perhaps it was the air of youth or femininity but without its addition, the cap was more of hat than a crown.
I wore the caps after treatment even without the pony. It was a necessary transition as my hair came back. A bejeweled pink cap covered my ultra-short hair like a billboard advertising, “Just breast cancer folks. Nothing to fear.” It kept me from a sunburn that first summer and made me look healthier than a cancer turban or telltale ACS hat. But it still lacked the bouncy hair bound tightly with elastic. After a while, I gave most all my head coverings away except several favorites tucked high on my closet shelf. Time passed.
Months turned to years and hair came back. Ponytails – albeit more like pig tails really – returned. I forgot about the baseball cap and went about my life until this morning when unruly locks needed confinement. With negative 3 minutes left on the get the girls to school clock the mess of hair was combed up and secured. I raced into the closet to grab some shoes. A hurried glance in the mirror told me that I’d done better hairstyles in my life but time trumped vanity and I inwardly sighed, “Oh well.”
I spied it on my way out – the beige cotton cap from Disney World. Vintage Mickey seems to say in his squeaky Mickey voice, “Try me!” Tentatively I reached for the cap wondering if it might work – would the ponytail be long enough to pull through? Could I look more like a cool Soccer Mom than a Post Cancer Mom? Would the cap cause nauseous flashbacks like the theme song to “Let Us Sleep On It” on HGTV,the thought of the Spicy Pickle restaurant, or the smell of watermelon Soft Soap at the cancer center? Truthfully, there was no time to wonder – something had to be done and had to be done 3 minutes ago.
One hand grabbed the ponytail and one hand lifted the cap by the bill. With the quick flick of my wrist, the ponytail went through the back opening and the cap came down over my forehead. It worked. I ran down the stairs – late but smiling – with my ponytail prancing behind me. I think this either means it’s time to start training for a marathon or time to get a haircut.