Blind date

A day after asking Matthew Zachary and Jonny Imerman to find me a girlfriend, I was preparing to go out on a blind date. I met “Ann” a few weeks before on OkCupid, an online dating site that seems to do a pretty good job of connecting people, and last night at 8pm was the time we’d scheduled to meet for dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the Manhattan neighborhood known as Alphabet City.

I’m a pretty confident guy when it comes to my looks. I’m not model material or anything like that, but I think I look decent and I’ve gotten some nice compliments from women over the years. But there is something in the looks area that I am terribly self-conscious about, and that’s my hair.

Losing every strand of hair on your head at the tender age of 15 definitely leaves its mark on your psyche, even if some of your hair grows back. It left me with a psychological condition that I think deserves a name, like hairlossophobia. Of course, lots of guys in their thirties and beyond have thinning hair, and plenty of them are phobic about it. But my issue is with the hair I lost back then. Radiation treatment left me with a four-inch square patch of mostly hairless skin smack on the side of my head. When it’s exposed in public, like after I go swimming, I’m terribly uncomfortable. Fortunately, there’s plenty of healthy hair above my bald spot; when it’s cut and styled properly, it serves as a pretty decent wig.

A quick note for those of you who are undergoing radiation to your head or whole body and are worried about hair loss. We’re no longer in the Stone Ages of Cancer Treatment, when they pointed a radiation beam at your head and gave you a single, large energy blast. They now have a variety of advanced tools at their disposal. Some of the newer machines have multiple, lower-level energy beams that combine at the tumor location to deliver the same energy dose as the older, single-beam machines did. That means you have less energy going through your hair cells on your skin above the tumor area (the tumor is not so lucky), and you lose less hair to radiation therapy. Often, the hair you do lose grows back.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to never get my hair cut just before going out on a date. Why? Because hairstylists, even the ones who’ve done my hair over and over again, sometimes get it wrong. It’s not a huge issue or anything—I know the covering hair will grow back and the bald spot, along with my hairlossophobia-induced stress, will disappear. And I can hold off on dating in the meantime.

So yesterday, about two hours before my date, I decide to get a haircut. Not only that, but one from a hairstylist I’d never gone to before. He does a fantastic job on the top, back, and right side of my head, but how could he not—I’m not bald there! I plead with him to go easy on the left side, to take it slow, to be careful…but alas, he doesn’t listen. Out comes the razor, and, a moment later, I’m naked—at least the side of my head is—and my body is trembling.

Should I cancel the date?  If I do, she’ll think I’ve got someone else lined up, and there might not be another chance. If I go, and she sees this pale patch of skin on the side of the head of a nervous guy, what is she going to think? Yes, at some point I’ll need to tell her about my history, and she’ll have to decide if she’s cool with being together with a guy who had cancer. (If she’s not, it’s her loss, right? People like us who’ve gone through cancer know what’s really important in life, and relationships—especially love relationships—rank very high on that list.) But the thing is this: I want to decide when to tell her that, and not have the side of my head do it for me.

Ultimately, I overcame my anxiety and jumped on the F train to Delancey. I won’t go into all of the details here, but I will say that it was one of the best dates I’ve ever had. She didn’t seem to notice the bald spot. Instead, we joked and laughed, shared all sorts of stories, enjoyed some pretty decent sushi, and, a couple hours into the evening, leaned across the dinner table and gave each other a kiss.

We’ll have that conversation, of course, and most likely soon. We didn’t talk last night about what we do for a living, and I’m working on a documentary film that’s rooted in my cancer experience. Telling her what I do will reveal to her what happened to me. What I’m grateful for is a simple little thing: that I get to tell her my story on my own terms and according to my own schedule, instead of my body doing it for me.



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  1. June 20th, 2010 | Daniel Wang says:

    nice , sorry I didn’t a chance to be part of group ( CBTF) thing. Things are taking some time to be healed and I rather do that alone.

    nevertheless, I hope you had fun on your date.

  2. June 21st, 2010 | Duper says:

    Thanks, Daniel. I hope you’re feeling better and look forward to seeing you at upcoming events.

  3. June 21st, 2010 | Melanie Roberts says:

    Darling boy,

    What adventures you are having. Wish I could be there with fishie crackers, fruit rolls, string cheese and Twinkies!

    Don & your younger brothers and sisters send love from Utah- Katie from Texas,Jacob from New Orleans- Justin from Italy.

    We are proud of you-


  4. June 21st, 2010 | Chris says:

    Great stuff, Duper! I’m really glad you started this blog, and look forward to continuing to reading your stuff and hearing your perspective on life. Keep it up!

  5. June 21st, 2010 | Duper says:

    Thanks, Melanie and Chris!

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