Navigating the Middle

through adolescents, menopause, aging parents & other flying debris



Apparently the Pixie is In; Here’s What’s Out!

I don’t spend much time on my hair. (No surprise there.) Yesterday I learned that the pixie cut had made a comeback…again. It seems that Kristin Stewart and Katy Perry recently got new dos, so now we have permission to rush to the salon and take it all off. One stylist even commented, “The pixie looks good on every face.” I doubt it.

Still, I was kinda stoked to discover that I was actually on-trend! And to think, I nearly bought into the belief that women of a certain age couldn’t be trendy. But for the moment, my hair is on-point…that is until it grows out OR until the next celebrity hair trend craze. Bear in mind, I came by my pixie the hard way: I lost my hair three times. Thanks chemo. 

I’ve survived breast cancer, Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia , non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – twice, AND I’ve had a stem cell transplant.

The only hair style that is truly wash ‘n go is a bald head. Even a pixie cut requires hair products. So when a news story about the limited options of less-toxic personal care products marketed to black women appeared on my television, I took notice. More than 75% of products marketed to me scored high in potentially hazardous ingredients. This doesn’t mean that “our” products are the only ones with potentially dangerous chemicals. What it means is that products marketed specifically to black women offer fewer choices when it comes to selecting and purchasing less hazardous products.

Fewer less hazardous choices? Do you have any idea how much money we spend on our hair? I don’t know either, BUT I know it’s a lot. If you’re a black women, I’d be willing to bet that you have more hair-care products than most of our non-black sisters. In fact, I had no idea how many products I owned until I started counting: 20+. And I barely have hair!

Which made me question: Were my hair products making me sick?

While I am unable to answer that question definitively, I did take a look at an EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) analysis of more than 1,100 products marketed toward black women. I was especially interested in hair care products. Then down the rabbit hole I went, diving into the recesses of my under-the-sink bathroom cabinets for products I had not used since last July and beyond. They were still hanging out in tubes, jars, bottles and packets. I gathered them up and carried them downstairs to my laptop  where I opened EWG’s website. So without further delay (i.e., or boring you with my analysis), here is MY bottom line.

I am tossing about 50% of the products I researched, not because I don’t like the way they feel or that they don’t work. I am throwing them away because I don’t trust the potentially harmful effects these ingredients could have on my health. And not all of these products were marketed exclusively to African American consumers.

Cancer is complicated; a hair style is NOT. I don’t think that I “got cancer” because of my hair care regime. But I am wise enough to know that if I can avoid certain ingredients that may pose a cancer risk, I will. My pixie cut may not look as groomed, but that’s a risk I am willing to take.

*(EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.) 


It’s Not Him; It’s Me

Before checking out my thoughts, please watch the video that inspired this post.

Would you let him give you a Tattoo?

I answered the question before I watched the video. –  No, I would not let him give me a tattoo. The man has no hands. To be specific, he has no arms either.

I attended high school with a guy who didn’t have hands, and he was quite the artist. So if you’re thinking that THAT’S the reason I wouldn’t let this guy give me a tattoo, think again. My reason has nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.

I don’t like tattoos. (THERE, I said it; rather, I wrote it!)

I LIKE people who LIKE tattoos; I LIKE people who HAVE tattoos; and occassionally, I like tattoos themselves. It’s like graffitti for the body. YOUR body. I don’t think I’d let the footed man (or a handed one) draw graffitti on MY body. Not that I haven’t EVER imagined such a scenario because in truth, there have been two occassions.

The first was when I lost my breasts to cancer. My plastic surgion offered a tattooed areola as part of the reconstruction. After giving it some thought, I decided against it. Cancer makes you tired of hurting. I didn’t want to hurt any more.

The second time I considered it was more recently, after chemo took my eyebrows. I was in a MAC store, buying a brow pencil when I met a woman who had tattooed eyebrows. They looked so realistic, I thought I might give it a try. That was before I decided that tattoos were not something to TRY, despite what tat lovers may claim. I chickened out of that one too.

Like I stated: It’s me.

There’s just something about having ink injected into my skin, that makes my skin crawl. Friends I know have no problem to committing to the deed – over and over again. When I think about it, the only people I know who have a single tattoo are the ones who either (1) regret getting it in the first place (i.e., they were young, intoxicated or both); or (2) ones who haven’t made it back to get a second tattoo.

I tried to imagine being one of those people. So I visited PINTEREST for inspiration, and I started following a board dedicated to mastectomy tattoos. Some of the work was hauntingly beautiful, especially when I learned the meaning behind the art.

Afterwards, I asked myself the question that I started with at the beginning of this post: ” Would you let him give you a tattoo?”



My Alien Self

I hate mirrors.

To be precise: I hate my reflection in the mirror.

It wasn’t always like this.

BEFORE, I’d do a mirror “drive by” – you know the kind where you pause to check your hair, makeup, or make sure that you don’t have spinach in your teeth. Now I’m trying to remember the last time I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw. You’d think it was the hair. Correction: you’d think it was the bald scalp staring back at me. Men and women, complete strangers, can’t seem to stop themselves from offering:

“I like your look.”
“Are you in treatment?”
“You have a beautiful head.”
“Is that by choice or for medical reasons?”
“Do you have cancer?”
“Wish I could wear my hair like that.”

Nope. The lack of hair on my head isn’t the problem. Chalk it up to being a black women.

I know, I know – you’ve heard (or may have first-hand knowledge) that black women share a complex history with our hair. Part of that history is being able to sport just about any hairdo imaginable: straight, wavy, curly, kinky, natural, relaxed, locked, twisted, cornrowed, braided, weaved, and yes – bald, the latter style popularized by a 1970’s Ebony Magazine cover featuring Issac Hayes and model, Pat Evans.

I like to think that the bald head works for me, as well. In my mind, I am edgy, a rock-star! I’m so confident that I can walk around with a small purse AND a bald head. I don’t have time for insecurities. LOOK AT ME. I SLAYED MY CANCER! Everything is laid bare for the world to see. I am the ultimate wash-n-go-hair-girl, with no complaints about having a bad hair day.

But as much as I’ve written about it, this actually ISN’T about the hair on my head. It’s about the other hair: my MIA eyebrows and eyelashes. I am now acutely aware that I look like an alien without facial hair to frame my eyes. Whenever I go out, I have three choices:

  1. Resurrect the ET-look. (I think I may have scared a young child yesterday.)
  2. Channel my inner-celebrity via oversized sun glasses and a baseball cap.
  3. Or I can build my face, from the epidermis up.

I’m fairly comfortable with #3 if I am lunching with friends, or #2, when escorting my son to the bus stop. But ask me to glam it up, and my security fades. I have had to “pass” on formal events, in part, because no matter how much makeup I wore, or how pretty the gown, I felt like an imposter, an alien in this body.

After several weeks without eyebrows, my appearance is beginning to affect my quality of life. I am tired of waking up, looking like someone sneaked into my bedroom and took a giant eraser to my brows. Even my MAC brow pencil isn’t getting the job done these days. Imagine catching your reflection in the mirror, only to see a small part of your brow missing. You wonder: who else saw me like this?

I would never judge others by the standards to which I hold myself. I need a plan other than hiding.

Behind the Scenes of My New Hair Cut

After delaying it as long as I could, it was finally time to have my head shaved. The last time, Bonnie Grauer shaved it; this time, Jeff did the honors. He’s been bald for over a decade, so I he’s kind of an expert. (just saying)

And I think he did a pretty good job.

HAPPY 2015! 


You Are So Beautiful

Okay, I’m dating myself with this one, but when the Daily Post offered the blogging prompt – ABSOLUTE BEAUTY: Do you agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? – a familiar melody began to swim ’round my head. The song? “You Are So Beautiful.”

My husband and I have a long standing joke about this one; it goes something like this.

We’re getting ready for bed when my husband turns to me, stares into my eyes and confesses, “You know something, you are so beautiful…”

I give him that “here it comes” look before he breaks the spell with “…to me.”

Now why’d he have to go and say that? Which is precisely what I think every time I hear or think about that song.

In case you’re on the other side of forty, here are the lyrics:

You are so beautiful
To me
You are so beautiful
To me
Can’t you see
You’re everything I hoped for
You’re everything I need
You are so beautiful
To me

How writers Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher ever managed to turn those nine lines into a song lasting two minutes and 45 seconds is still a mystery to me. What’s more incredible is it reached number five on the Billboards Hot 100 Singles Chart in 1975. How did that happen? Didn’t anyone notice the backhanded compliment when Joe Cocker croons, “…to me”?

I decided to listen to the song again tonight, while I wrote this post. When Cocker reached the end of the song where his voice becomes a little shaky, I imagined him singing not to a lover but to his infant son or daughter, or to his child, sick in a hospital bed.

When I behold it in these terms, the song is indeed beautiful, to me too.


Day 14: My Hairstory

Two stories managed to catch my (albeit short) attention (span) this morning. One was about college senior, Brinton Parker, who documented reactions to a selfie she posted, wearing different amounts of make-up.  The other pictured Beyoncé and Jay Z’s two year-old daughter, Blue Ivy’s hair. In both cases, people critiqued their appearances and judged them, based on how they thought each one should look.

Reading their stories made me think about people’s reaction to my hair over the past few years. Here’s a little show & tell.

photo (28)

Chemo Head: I refused to leave the house like this for fear of what people might say. (Incidentally, this is the first time I have shown this to anyone beyond my inner circle.)

photo (30)

Pink Hair: My friend Edie mailed me this Japanese party girl wig. I was thrilled to have something besides a hat or scarf to cover my bald head. I wore it whenever I needed a lift. Not sure what people thought about this, but I thought it was fun.

photo (31)


TV Hair: Since I host a TV show, and didn’t want the audience to “know,” I wore a wig. I loved it, initially, but found myself feeling like someone else when I had it on. I sacrificed authenticity for the comfort of others.


 photo (32)  But eventually, I got tired of hiding out.

I remember having lunch with my friend, Claire. The waiter did his best to avoid looking at me. He was polite, but definitely uncomfortable. I didn’t win that day.

photo 1 (11)  photo (33)photo (35)

 By the time my hair grew to this length, everyone was pretty relaxed again.

But then, I went ahead and did this –

photo (36)

 Looks like I don’t care what you think about my hair, and I never should have.


Day 19: The Long Good-Bye for B.

Tonight I was saddened to learn that B. Smith, the former model, restaurateur, and lifestyle guru has Alzheimer’s. She is only 64.

In case you are not familiar with Barbara, or B. as she is called, she was the first African-American woman to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine in 1976. When her modeling career ended, she  became a restaurateur, with establishments in New York City, Sag Harbor, NY, and Washington D.C.

A few years back, I drove to the Union Station eatery to meet with sorority sisters that I hadn’t seen in (ahem) …decades. We chose the iconic restaurant more for its atmosphere than its food. I am glad we went. In 2013, the restaurant shuttered its doors after 20 years in business.

Watching the CBS Evening News was painful as B. unsuccessfully tried to recall the date and year. I have two very close friends whose mothers are either suffering with the condition or have recently succumb to it. The interview with B. and her husband and business partner, Dan Gasby, provided a glimpse into this incurable and cruel disease.

On January 27th, she Tweeted:

B. Smith @BSmithstyle

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Take on whatever is facing you this week with courage, faith and love!

I think she is pretty courageous for facing her illness and sharing her story with all of us. If you’d like to see the complete interview, it will air on “Sunday Morning” on June 15th, Father’s Day.





Day 49: Pretty Hurts More Now

Here I am waiting at the dermatologist’s office for my 10:00 appointment to erase the Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (or DPN) from my face. Never heard of it? I’ll bet you’ve seen it. Imagine Morgan Freeman’s face. Notice all those mole-looking spots on his cheeks? That’s probably DPN.

I know, right about now you’re probably (hopefully) thinking: you don’t look like Morgan Freeman. But it’s been more than a minute since I had those little skin lesions removed.

Which photo (14)is precisely why I am sitting in a waiting room, my face spotted with  white EMLA cream, while patients around me try not to stare. (One woman abandoned politeness all together and stared anyway. “Hey, I can see your tonsils !”)

I was given a couple of options. The doctor could use an innocuous-looking wand to deliver a current of electricity to the areas. Or she could freeze them, which might cause hyper-pigmentation. Then there was the acid option. Really…that’s an option?

I settled for the former treatment. Sure, it’s was a little painful. Honestly, it caused me to tear up a couple of times. But like my home-girl Queen Bey sings, Pretty Hurts. It just hurts more now.

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