The Diagonal Part

Like most women, I’ve spent a lot of time and money chasing the impossible dream -- great hair. I never expected my quest to be derailed by, of all things, a visit to the hairdresser, which then led to an unexpected encounter with K-Y® Brand Jelly, a desire to avoid taller people and dogged pursuit of The Diagonal Part.

This strange and unexpected odyssey began when my hairdresser noted two dark spots atop my scalp and suggested a dermatologist should take a closer look. She did, scraping samples to send to the lab after advising “don’t be overly concerned” as she suspected they were “just’ basal cell carcinomas – the least invasive and most frequent skin cancer with 2 million cases diagnosed annually. But if she was correct, a surgeon would have to remove the nasty intruders.

To me, not being “overly concerned” meant calling her office just once a day until the pathology report arrived and fretting over how much hair I might lose to surgery. My friends ignored my whining, suggesting a cute hat could hide any shaved spots.

“I think people will notice more if I wear a hat all the time,” I grumbled.

When the official diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma came, I found a surgeon who said he didn’t shave the scalp because its “excellent blood flow” meant almost zero chance of infection.

This sounded like good news, “but how do you move the hair to make the incisions?”

“K-Y® Brand Jelly.”

My eyes widened as I contemplated its use on that part of my body. “Will it give me better hair?” I hoped.

He looked perplexed. “I don’t think so.”

But I was so relieved to avoid the razor that I didn’t worry about the state of my hair -- until a nurse said afterward: “We really ought to have hats to send people home in when they look like this.”

Surely she wasn’t talking about me, I thought. Then I looked in a mirror. A madwoman stared back, her hair exploding in multiple directions thanks to huge globs of goop with a decidedly red tint. It was only then that I realized excellent blood flow also means lots of bleeding. To make things worse, I couldn’t wash, or attempt to tame, this disaster for 24 hours.

But the immediate challenge was reaching the exit without frightening the other patients. My options: Plunge through the hospital looking like a creature from the grave or use my neck scarf as a stealthy disguise. I chose option 2.

As I skulked down the hall feeling like one of the undead, people stared at the wild hair sticking out from my pashmina. I was having the worst hair day of my life.

And it didn’t get much better despite hair-washing and time. The incisions, just two inches apart, were ugly and red – and surrounded by naked skin. No matter how I combed my hair, one was visible. Surgery had permanently parted the Red Sea on my head.

Desperate, I began avoiding taller people who might look down on me, literally and figuratively, and comment on the ugly scars.

When the surgeon proclaimed everything “looks great” at my follow-up appointment, I panicked. “Bare spots!?” I wailed.

“Hair can’t grow on scars,” he shrugged, “but I think the hair will grow back around them.”

“You THINK?” I yelped.

“Can’t be sure … but it should.”

My best hope was my hairdresser, who calmly surveyed the damage. “You really have some divots there.” She began using her magic comb to restyle my hair, but every time one scar disappeared, the other emerged. I was frantic. If she couldn’t save me, no one could.

Finally she swallowed hard. “OK, we’re going to have to try something drastic, but if it doesn’t work, you could use a spray on your scalp, sort of like a spray-on tan.”

“That sounds more like shoe polish,” I moaned. “Let’s go for drastic. What IS drastic?”

“The diagonal part,” she said solemnly.

“The what?”

“Diagonal part.”

“What the heck is that?”

She used the comb to draw a line from the left side of my head to the right, delicately traversing the valley between scars. “And because you’re right-handed, it won’t be easy. You’ll need to practice. Or you can try the spray.”

Concerned that I could do more damage with spray than a comb, I’m practicing The Diagonal Part and attempting to train my hair to follow its direction. But if these feisty follicles don’t cooperate soon, I suppose there’s always K-Y® Jelly – or maybe a cute hat.

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