I’ve been debating donating my hair for the past while, and honestly, I’m still a bit nervous about it. From what I’ve read, you need to have a bare minimum of 8 inches of hair to be able to donate it, and it’s typically more like a foot. Since hair grows on average about a half inch a month, that would mean I’d need to grow my hair for around two years to get there. That’s . . . a long time. And it’s a particularly long time for a person who doesn’t like to do any sort of maintenance at all in terms of caring how I look. I would rather just roll out of bed and be ready to go in as little as time as possible. I don’t know much about having long hair, having never had it, but I do know it seems like it takes a lot of work. Work to wash it. Work to dry it. And work to make it actually look presentable.
I can vouch for some of this personally, as right now my hair is the longest it’s been in . . . ever. I’ve been letting it grow since I last cut it. At first it was for the normal reason (I don’t like hair cuts), but then I started to think about actually donating (more on that in a moment), and so I’ve been letting it get longer. It’s kind of a pain already. I’ve had basically the same hairstyle my entire life (conservative side part), and that hairstyle only works as long as your hair isn’t too long. I don’t really like how my hair looks at the moment, though I can’t tell if that’s because I don’t like it, or if I just am not used to change (always a possibility.)
So to commit to this for another two years or so feels more than a little daunting. And if that’s the case, why in the world do I want to donate my hair?
Two weeks ago, I found out one of my coworker’s children was just diagnosed with cancer. The boy’s only two years old. I’ve been friends with this coworker for . . . a long time. Before he was a coworker, he was a student at UMF way back in the day, and he’s a long time Magic: The Gathering player. I remember him being very kind and encouraging to Tomas right when Tomas was getting into the game, even giving him some nice cards for free to make his deck better. He’s got a young family. None of them deserve this. Chemo treatments will go on for 42 months. That’s almost twice what it will take for me to get my hair long enough to donate.
The older I get, the more people I know whose lives have been affected by cancer. My step-mother lost her life to it in a very abrupt and traumatic fashion about six years ago. My cousin had leukemia. The son of two of my writing group members got it when he was three. Several friends have had it or are going through it right now. A young girl in my local congregation died from it. Cancer is this thing that comes out of nowhere and takes everything you’ve got. You battle it not knowing what the outcome will be. You don’t have a choice.
I have given money to friends who are going through this, and I’ve donated to charities focused on curing cancer, but honestly, that feels like a cop out to me. Like I can just throw some money at the problem and then not worry about it anymore. After all, what else can I do? Well, one thing I can do is donate my hair. I can put up with not liking how it looks every day, and having to take a bit more time to get ready in the morning. These are small, first world problems. It’s still nothing compared to what cancer victims have to go through, but it’s more than just throwing money at it and forgetting about it.
I am expecting a fair number of joking remarks to head my way over the next while. Middle-aged man starts growing his hair long? Especially one who’s never done that before? But that’s okay. I’ll use those opportunities to explain why I’m doing it, and maybe that will make a bit of a difference somehow as well.
Normally I’d rather not make a big deal of something like this. I prefer to do good deeds in private, but in this case, there’s no getting around the public nature of this, so I thought it might be easier to just let as many people know what I’m doing as possible at once. I’d also love to know where a good place to donate hair is. I’d like it to go somewhere that gives wigs away for free, if possible.
Like I said, I’m still kind of nervous about this. That’s honestly one of the reasons that’s also spurring me on to do it. This is a choice. Cancer isn’t. So I think it’s worth a bit of personal discomfort and being self-conscious if it can help someone else. Wish me luck.