DEAD HEAD – Part I. The Curse of the Kanaka Fro
I’d like to take the opportunity this blog affords to explicitly apologize to all those who have been hurt by my hair.
Yes, my hair .
It took the recently experiencing hair loss from chemotherapy to realize how—though unnatural as this may sound—my former mane had been a true menace to society. Invasive, unruly and if left to its own devices utterly ridiculous, my locks broke personal-bubble boundaries as well as many manmade objects (no joke).
I should have known sooner—the evidence was everywhere (not just clogging drains and vacuum). For example, for the whole of my brother’s youth, I reigned supreme over shotgun (significant to us Kula kids as car rides to keiki can seem very long). And, for as long as my brother as been able to hold his head up, he has patiently filed complaint for being wind whipped by the dry ends of curls the length of a small child (the scarring did, eventually, fade somewhat).
So with my recent revelation, I now recognize how people at concerts, in line at the grocery store, or in the same zip code must have been likewise affected. But my apologies are not limited to those here in the 808, as my hair’s domain of disaster could not be contained to even the most isolated island chain in the world. Wherever I have traveled, it’s been a source of shock and awe (kind of like being a Carni-freak, but that’s another for another blog post…)—notably in Canada.
Many moons ago, I went kayaking off the coast of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. From a motorboat half a league away, my mom says she spotted me maneuvering along the Inside Passage’s freckling of islands. She tells of eagerly exclaiming to her vessel’s captain, “Oh look! There’s my daughter, kayaking!”
She points me out to him and—this is the part she loves to ham up—he, clearly confused, says, “What is that? A blanket on her head?”
Nope. Hair. Enough to clothe all the naked children in ^^insert name of impoverished country least offensive to you^^, and still sop up an oil spill.
Foreboding signs also came when, E.O.Y. or so, certain celestial bodies would align and I would actually get (what I think is called) a ‘haircut.’ First in line, the twin planets of Desperation and Special Occasion. Meaning, not only must I be in the throes of self-loathing, but there must also be a very important event on the very near horizon.
Then, that gaseous world called Shame. It’s hard to saunter into a salon knowing full and well that your hair could potentially disembowel your stylist’s brush—because break brushes I did. Do you know how embarrassing that is? Do you have any idea how much a professional stylist’s brush costs? Sure, I was bustin’ brushes at home all the time (alas, no joke), but I’m shopping at Longs, here.
And of course, the firey star of Gold. Having enough money to finance such an audacious venture is uncommon for me. Add in apologies and tips, and I would average a Benjamin (also, no joke).
That, coupled with my hair knocking things over so as to break them, should have been another major clue that something was definitely awry with my coiffure that even Pele would say to put a cap on.
I’ll admit it. The only reason I kept had it so long was [OK, also to hide my hunchback (sigh, no joke)], that it provided a clear—perhaps only—connection to my ethnicity. No matter what I was wearing, how I was speaking, or how pasty I might be, my hair was indisputably Hawaiian . This, for the whole of my life , was very important to me.
So, when chemo came knocking so as to break my cells, I was prepared for the ‘inevitable.’ But the inevitable did not come, exactly.
When the first few handfuls started falling out in earnest, I went for the big chop (to alleviate the mess for the hospital housekeeping, and inundate Locks of Love), brought to me by the angelic graces of Sharon Asato, a cancer survivor and volunteer for the American Cancer Society. She hooked it up, and though I’d never in my life felt scissors at the back of my neck, I also never knew I could be so happy with short hair. What was I going to do with all the extra time I saved in the shower? How many millions of dollars would be saved in conditioner alone? The possibilities were endless.
I had glorious plans for buzzing it, first sporting a Mohawk when things got too patchy, and wearing ostentatious Southern belle styled wigs in chlorine blue and apple green. Too, I’d get to see what the shape of my head was really like. Who knows? Maybe I had a birthmark I didn’t know of, or a scar or abnormality of some sort? Hell, I’d entertained the thought of taking a few funny neo-Nazi photos (George Martin’s mocha master race)… Whatever, it was going to be fantastic—my every bold fantasy come true. Not to mention, the body hair would be gone (remember the Carni-freak thing?), which I happily awaited.
Great banks of follicle clouds wafted around me when not contained by a knit cap, even with its newfound shortness. Once tentacle-like with a life of it’s own, everything went dead and I shed like a mangey dog. I pulled prize-winning-sized rats repeatedly from the drain. I filmed epic Westerns with the great tumbleweeds that formed on the floors daily. Yet somehow—though losses could recreate the Maui Humane Society—I was left with a human amount of hair.
Which kind of pisses me off. Sure, experiencing normalcy for awhile is nice, but when you’ve got cancer, baldness is a badge of honor. Beyond death or suffering, it’s the thing people harp about most–and after a lifetime of having a conjoined twin sprung from my head, I had made peace with losing it all. Instead, my dreams are denied as I lose 90% of it but look relatively normal, with the severe inconvenience of rapid hair loss is protracted over several months.
I’m convinced it’s some sort of kanaka curse. The supposed heritage to which I’d clung now clings to me; and it’s already resurging with a vengeance. Up from the visible scalp springs a field of three-quarter-inch spikes of re-growth, amidst the remainder. This makes me look like I vigorously over-brushed during a weeklong opiate binge .
At least I’ve come to the full realization of the damage I’ve done, the pain I’ve caused. Herewith, I hope my apologies are made and that bad hair and a revealed hunchback are suitable penance. If so, I can move on—resigned to the consequences of my curse—forever bound to hair that is unwilling to be anything but left to its own devices and utterly ridiculous.
 To those hurt by my more serious character flaws, I—more seriously—also apologize.
 Hmm… Hairitage [a]?
 Any 1993 Kula Elementary School yearbook will beg to differ. A third grade idolization of Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane in The New Adventures of Superman, lead to the discovery that when attempting a bob, I instead—with no effort whatsoever—achieve the electrostatic look.
 In a way, not far from the truth. Mmm… morphine.
[a] Sorry ’bout that.