Remembrance of Wigs Past

October 30, 2006

In honor of the closing days of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I might say a few words about the whole “being bald” thing.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, the very first thing I thought of was not “will I die” but “will I lose my hair”. I do not delude myself into thinking that this makes me in any way uniquely vain or, for that matter, unique in any way. I believe that this is where most women (and maybe men?) reflexively “go to”, rather than the more dire thoughts of pain, debilitation and death.

Not all therapies for cancer inevitably lead to baldness. However, nearly all therapies for early stage breast cancer (which is to say, non-metastatic disease) cause total hair loss (metastatic disease is often treated with hormone therapy or biologically targeted therapy before turning to the chemo big guns because, among other things, when cancer is detectable in the organs, it is easier to determine its responsiveness to these less debilitating therapies such that if the cancer does not quickly respond, then the bigger guns can be brought out; this is a little-known “benefit” of metastatic cancer). So, essentially, it was non-negotiable. I had breast cancer, I was going to lose my hair, and it was going to happen on a specific day, namely day 15 after my first treatment. On that day, my long hair would simply detach from my scalp, piece by piece for about five minutes and then in huge clumps.

I remember the feeling of pulling the clumps of hair from my head as something akin to pulling the little, sharp, hair-like fibers out of the bowl of an artichoke bottom. My scalp tingled and ached, and pulling out clumps of hair gave me some measure of relief. It actually felt kind of satisfying, kind of good.

When I had thinned my hair down to about half of its thickness (I have very thick hair), I realized that I could actually have some fun before I went totally Kojak. And so, I wielded a pair of scissors and went from Lauren to Anna Wintour to Madonna (circa 1983) before it became clear that my hair wasn’t just falling out: it was dead. The follicles had shut down production, and whatever “hair prana” that flowed therefrom to make my hair look vibrant and lush up until that point in time was now gone. Poof. No life force to be seen. And without life force, my hair looked scary and sick.

That is when I brought out my very first wig. I had purchased it at Bits and Pieces in Columbus Circle before I began chemo, while I was still recovering from my double mastectomy and (unbeknownst to me, doomed) reconstruction. My friend Kim had gone with me. The goal was to find a wig that looked like my hair, only better. And what we settled on was really quite good. It was a strawberry blonde (which was my haircolor at the time), long layered cut, with bangs that I could brush to the side. I took it home that day, but I was to bring it back after my hair fell out for a “fitting”. Since it was late on a Friday afternoon when I took scissors to my dead hair, there was no way to get my wig fit before I was seen in public. And I had plans that night, as I did many a night back then when all I wanted to do was go out so that I wouldn’t have to look within.

With the wig kind of slipping around on my head, I had no choice but to wear a hat in order to hold it all together. I had chosen a sky-blue leather newsboy cap for just this possibility. And I debuted it that night at the Lenox Room on Third Avenue in the 70’s. I am not afraid to say that I looked totally chic. At that point, my face had not yet taken on that distinctive chemo pallor, where the eyelids turn reddish and the undereye circles turn blueish, and there’s a boniness where there should be flesh and a bloatedness where there should be sculpture. At this point, I actually looked quite good. The steroids they give you with your chemo cocktail can make your skin look quite dewy and young, can plump up the apples in your cheeks. Not to mention how they make you feel: wired, almost manic.

Okay, much as I would like to continue this, Lewis the Bagle is crying desperately to go out, and I must take him. So I must continue this later.


Boob Update

October 28, 2006

Because I know you’re all dying to hear about my boobs.

No, I got no pics to show you…too shy…but I will say that these babies are SOFT! Not soft like natural breasts, no. That is simply too much to ask for (and would I want to HAVE to wear a bra?). Rather, they’re soft the way good a pair of actual breasts with silicone implants are supposed to be.

And as for my mobility? I cannot only feel the difference, I can see it. Last night, as I was getting ready to take a nice hot bath, I leaned over the sink towards the medicine cabinet, and I saw something I haven’t seen for years, which I hope I can describe….there was a hollowness between each shoulder and the adjacent breast, where previously there had been tight, rock-hard, cord-like or tendon-like tissue connecting the space between breast and shoulder. It is absolutely amazing. After my shower, I did a little mild stretching. And by mild, I mean that I didn’t force anything; I just lengthened out. And that’s how I found myself in Kurmasana. I just sort of slid into it, and let me tell you, anyone who tells you it’s only about the hamstrings never had the “before” and “after” I’ve had. The reduction in chest tightness changed the pose dynamics completely. And remember, I was doing it without having done any preparatory postures.

Then, just out of curiosity, I decided to try my most recent nemesis: Mari A. That posture had been really getting to me in the last couple of months…I could “do” it, wrist bound, chin to shin, but it felt awful, and it never got any better. Until now. Without any warm-up, as I said, other than Kurmasana, I bent my knee, reached back and grabbed my wrist. Voila.

And now, I need to NOT do anymore of that. At least until I see my doctor on Tuesday. He did say that he did think that some stretching would be good in my particular case; however, he NOT like the way Ardha Badha Padma Paschimotanasana looked when I demonstrated it for him in the exam room. He said it distorted the breast. So, I will wait until Tuesday and see how things look then.

As for the nose, the swelling goes up, the swelling comes down. Sometimes it looks to me as if there is still a bump. Then I massage out the swelling and the bump is gone. And then two minutes later, it’s back. It’s going to be a long road. But one thing is true: it’s better than it was before.


A living legend pays a visit to the unhip part of town

October 27, 2006

According to Wikipedia, David Williams was the first non-Indian to learn the complete Ashtanga yoga series and is credited with having brought Ashtanga yoga to United States. In any event, David Williams, whom most of you Ashtangis out there have heard of, is a teacher’s teacher….and….as it turns out, the soon-to-be houseguest (!) of a close friend of mine. And by close, I mean not only someone I talk to regularly about topics that are deeper than the weather, although we are perfectly at ease with each other when talking about the weather, but ALSO someone who lives a mere four city blocks from me, and a mere ONE city block from my kids’ school.

No, no, it’s not a love connection or anything like that. It’s just that David has grown kids, one of whom, a son, resides here in NYC. David decided that he wanted to pay his son a visit in between teaching/conferencing gigs here on the East Coast. Since in the apparent tradition of Ashtangis, the doors of our homes are always open to our fellow students and teachers, my friend decided to open hers to David, whom she met when she spent a week with him at Kripalu, along with another Ashtangi named David (as in, Swenson), another Ashtangi by the name of Danny Paradise and a host of students and teachers (including the Dark and Scary Forrest and B-Cubed) who hung on the every word of the Three D’s as they took turns revealing the folklore and the deep, not-so-dark secrets that go with having learned Ashtanga from source, one Sri K.P. Jois, many a many a many an era ago. Whew, that was a mouthful. I hope it made sense.

So, David Williams will be here next week, and hopefully, assuming that my friend’s work schedule permits (!), I shall be dining with them on Wednesday evening. Caravan of Dreams? Nah, this is Uptown Ashtanga. I am sure we will find an adequate substitute here on the Upper East Side.

The day before that, Halloween, I shall be hosting a pagan ritual at my apartment, which is to say that I will be creating a real, live replica of a haunted house out of my apartment, using scraps of fabric I bought at Joes’ Fabric Discount on Orchard today (to throw over every piece of furniture, for that abandoned ghost house look), many many cotton spiderwebs (especially in doorways, so that you have to move them out of the way to pass through), lots and lots of ghoul faces and homemade ghosts (these will hang throughout the apartment), colored lightbulbs, black lights and a box full of Yartzeit (Jewish memorial) candles (I chose them because they are pretty fire-safe, enclosed as they are in glass) for creepy atmosphere. Last night, my kids and I took Sharpee pen to old sheet and created a huge mural that will demarcate the line between my foyer and my living room: “You enter, you DIE,” it says, and for emphasis, it shows numerous scenes of fearsome creatures (vampires, Frankenstein’s monster) and bloodshed (a decapitated body impaled on a stake) and lots of blood spatters. This not only will contribute to the creepy atmosphere, but will also serve to save my sanity – no kids in the living room or my bedroom!

I’m planning a Mummy-Wrapping Contest, where the kids break up into teams and work to wrap one of their teammates in toilet paper, with the timer set to five minutes or something like that. The team with the best mummy wins. I haven’t decided what the prize is – perhaps escaping with their lives….heh heh heh….cackle cackle….

Not that I will be cutting a frightening figure, myself. My costume is…Elastigirl!!! Also known as “Mrs. Incredible”. I don’t know if I’m going to add the Holly Hunter accent. But I thought that playing an aging, chicken-thighed, formerly triple-jointed super hero would be pleasantly appropriate and appropriately ironic. I assume I will be the only mom dressed up. I always am. A couple of years ago I was Princess Leia. This was when I still had a lot of wigs, and so I twisted one up into a couple of ear-hugging “cinnamon buns” and threw on a bathrobe. Voila. The next year I was a green-faced Wicked Witch. Last year, a pasty-faced Willy Wonka. Both times, I found myself really disgusted with the makeup removal process. Thus, I made the decision to go makeup-free this year.

Oh, and here’s some news: my apartment’s on the market. Anyone who checks my flickr account will know that something like that was afoot. But right now, the ad is up on the New York Times Real Estate Classifieds Website, and I am pumped! Although, I know that my emotions will quickly go from excited to demoralized. It’s always that way when you open up your home to potential buyers.


Hermione Granger’s all grown up

October 27, 2006

Ah, YouTube, what would we do without ye?


For Lost fans only

October 26, 2006

So, last week’s episode of Lost was so boring, I couldn’t bring myself to even mention it. I was downright embarassed to be a fan. I just wanted to sweep that fact under the rug and move on. However, after last night’s Sawyerific epi, I am once again proud to be a Lost maniac. I’m even inspired to put some thoughts to keyboard on the topic.

First off, any episode that is 80 percent devoted to following Locke (or anyone) through the jungle as he hunts a polar bear is simply not worthy of being aired. What is there to say about Locke’s hallucinogenic trip through an airport filled with storylines we already know? What is there to say about yet another disappointing relationship for Locke? Or about the fact that Locke likes shooting but doesn’t like murder (a la Fannee Doolley, for all you 1970’s Zoom Fans out there, box 350 Boston Mass 02134)? What IS worthy is an episode devoted to action, especially Other-action, especially Sawyer and Kate action.

I can’t help it – I just like to watch Sawyer and Kate, together, not together, doesn’t matter. Josh Holloway is just plain hot, and by hot, I mean gorgeous and witty, because in hotness, neither can exist without the other, at least in my opinion. As for Evangeline Lilly, she is not only gorgeous, but (a) she looks better without makeup, (b) she rocks wavy hair, (c) she has a compact, muscular physique, (d) she refuses to lose those last 15 pounds that she doesn’t actually really and truly need to lose in order to be gorgeous (according to her interview in the issue of Self Magazine on which she graces the cover this month), (e) she stays fit through play (surfing, most notably), rather than grueling personal-trainer-imposed work and (f) she’s dating a hobbit, and she don’t care. Oh, and she’s a terrific actress. And she plays a super-charismatic, seriously flawed, yet truly sympathetic character on Lost.

I also relish the moments on Lost when we learn more about the Others. So, Colleen was married to to Danny (aka Pickett), and he loved her very much. That sheds light on why we saw him tenderly kiss her in the middle of the jungle – it was a set-up for her death (by Sun’s gun) and Danny’s subsequent rage. And Juliet is a fertility doctor! I have no idea what to make of that, but it raises some interesting questions: where are all the children? why no pregnant Others? Is Juliet a really BAD fertility doctor? We also know that Others tend to not get sick very often, because their crash cart is on the fritz. Except that someone, and it isn’t clear yet who it is, has a big tumor on his spine and is going to need Jack’s surgical expertise. Is that the reason Jack was brought to the island? And if so, why was everyone else brought to the island? Why Sawyer? Why Kate? Why Sayid? Are they just minor players in a drama that really revolves around Jack and Ben?

As for the romance between Kate and Jack or Kate and Sawyer, it seems that Kate may or may not love Sawyer (“I only said [I love you] to stop him from hitting you”), but that Sawyer definitely loves Kate (he basically sells himself up the river in order to spare her the danger that he believes he, himself, is in). Where Jack fits in, I don’t know, but I’m going to guess that it’s with Juliet, not Kate.

And lastly, we have Desmond, who can now predict the future.

Two more episodes until the big hiatus-til-February. Cuse, Lindeloff: Please, please, give us more episodes like last nights and never ever again an episode like last week’s.


Counting Scallops

October 25, 2006

New York Magazine had a fascinating cover story this week on the practice of “CR”, or “Calorie Restricting”. The idea behind CR is that if you reduce your calories to some bare minimum (I am still not sure what that bare minimum is), you will be able to (something like) double your life expectancy. This is based on studies of lab mice (Ahimsa?) and anecdotal evidence provided by the practitioners of the CR lifestyle. Among these practitioners is April, a 31-year old woman and blogger, who looks fairly normal, and not particularly gaunt by Ashtangi, or for that matter, Hollywood, standards, at least.

In a strict CR lifestyle, every, and I mean EVERY, calorie is counted. Meals are prepared using digital scales, calculators and even software. Arugula leaves are counted. Four scallops are placed on a plate, and then one is removed when it is remembered that the meal will include a 45-calorie serving of cheese. One practitioner of CR eats exactly 639 calories for dinner each night. Each. Night. Ad infinitum. This particular guy stands approximately 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 137 pounds.

The obvious question: What is the difference between CR and anorexia? From what I can tell, it would appear that there are more similarities than differences, particularly when you factor in the high level of obsessiveness with food that both CR and anorexia involve. However, CR advocates maintain that anorexia is about appearance, while the CR lifestyle is about health, that anorexia is about deprivation, while CR is about what you put into your body (i.e. the nutrients, which are as carefully counted and measured as the calories). To wit, April does not have a single photo on her blog, from what I can tell. There is not even a hint of “thinspiration” to be found.

The CR lifestyle and the Ashtangi lifestyle appear to have quite a bit in common as well, namely eating efficiently (in order to absorb the most nutrients from the least calories), the exertion of a great deal of restraint, employing methods of fasting and cleansing, reliance upon meat substitutes for protein (CR-adherents use something called “Quorn”), as well as the begging another question: Is this actually just another manifestation of an eating disorder?

I have to admit, I am intrigued. I already am fairly restrictive in my eating. It’s a way of life that is so engrained, I hardly notice it. Last night, while watching a rerun of Sex and the City, I was shocked and appalled to see a commercial for KFC (I think that’s what they are now calling Kentucky Fried Chicken these days, which I have NEVER eaten in my entire life, I kid you not), which, get this, has created a “salad” composed entirely of fatty, starchy, kill-you-within-an-inch-of-your-life “favorites”. Imagine, if you will, a bowl into which is slopped a big ole mountain of mashed (and I am sure, reconstituted) potatoes and melted butter (or, more likely, the cheaper and more trans-fat loaded substitute therefore, margarine). On top of that, a thick layer of creamed corn. Layered over that is a layer of fried chicken “tenders” (which I am pretty sure is a euphemism for a reconstituted, extruded mixture of white meat, dark meat, organ meat, soy and breadcrumbs). Over that, I don’t know, you tell me: what’s your favorite side at KFC? Coleslaw? Potato Salad? Buttery Biscuits? It’s your choice!

This advertisement appeared twice during the Sex and the City episode. The first time, it merely skimmed the outer layers of my consciousness. The second time, my eyeballs bulged. It seemed like one of those fake commercials they use as filler on Saturday Night Live, like “Mom Jeans” or “Colon Blow”. But it wasn’t. It was real.

My mind was reeling. Do people really eat like this? If so, why? Why would anyone want to eat a gloppy mess of disgustingly fatty foods all thrown together in some satanic version of a composed salad? Then I began to wonder, a la Carrie Bradshaw (who is ALWAYS depicted scarfing junk food – strawberry milk shakes, McDonald’s apple pies, big slabs of Ray’s Original – notwithstanding muscles so shredded that my dog cowers from the t.v. screen whenever I have the show on, and whose scapula are so sharp that one time they cut a slice right through my flat-screen TV – okay, that part is not really true – I don’t actually have a flat screen TV): Am I thin because I find that sort of food repugnant….or have I merely coerced my mind into believing that that sort of food is repugnant so that I can BE thin?

All of which begs the obvious question: could I pull it off? Could I partake in the CR lifestyle? Today I saw that Yogamum is planning on participating in a Write-a-Novel-In-November event. I certainly don’t have any faith in my ability to pull THAT off. But eating less? I could DO that. Obsessing about nutrients, calories, input and output? Totally. I wrote the book on obsessing. Or one of them, at least. Many of you out there have also written quite a bit on the topic!

To tell you the truth, I would much rather write a novel in November than start counting arugula leaves and weighing Quorn on a digital scale. But what would I write about?

Nothing EVER happens to me.


All this talk about shopping…

October 24, 2006

(See, e.g., Sweaty Brain, Second Trip to Mysore, to name a few) has made me feel a bit of shopping lust. Unfortunately, I am bound by legal contract (I kid you not) to not shop until December 4, my birthday. And by “not shop”, I mean NOT SHOP. I mean, not shop for the obvious clothing and shoes and outerwear, but also not shop for household items like sheets and candles and bookends, and not succumbing to my addiction to beauty supply stores like Ricky’s and Essentials, where I can pack up a little shopping basket with nail polishes, hair gels, hair deep moisture packs, hair thingies to tie my hair back away from my face, lip glosses, face creams, iris-scented serums….Oh…I could go on…but it pains me.

In truth, it’s easy enough to stay away from handbags. I am kind of over them finally. They all start to look the same to me, and ultimately, the only bag that really works for me is a big giant one that I can sling across my chest like a messenger bag. For a while, I accomplished that with a black nylon Prada Schoolbag. But alas, it really wasn’t serviceable enough. It wasn’t large enough for all my gear. I replaced it with a Capezio dancer’s bag. For like a tenth of the price, I had a much bigger black nylon bag. Unfortunately, that one was TOO big. I could never find anything I had stashed in it. Recently, I acquired a Kooba messenger bag in gold leather. It manages my stash quite nicely, and it’s designer, and it’s comfy. So, what other bags do I really need?

It’s also easy to stay away from shoes. I already own them all. Seriously. How many more pairs of black boots and brown boots can a person have? When one gets overly worn looking, and can’t be rejuvenated at the shoemaker, I replace it. But I’ve got the spikey heels, I’ve got the platform heels, I’ve got the wedges. I’ve got the cheapies from Aldo, the designers from Stephane Kelian and Michael Kors. And ultimately, I spend 9 out of 10 days walking around in my Steve Madden Dutch shoes – vegan shoes with a four inch but incredibly comfortable platform.

Same thing with jeans. I’m over it. I got my ridiculously embroidered True Religions with the big slouchy buttoned pockets that hang well below my butt. I have the Hudsons that do what True Religion does without all the unflattering low-hanging pockets. I’ve got the serviceable Blue Cults, Citzens, Sevens, and I recently purchased my first pair of Levi’s Skinny Jeans since I threw out my 501’s a few years ago. What left is there to buy? $300 Deisels? Nah, I’ll let Linda corner that market…

Outerwear is easy – an Andrew Marc forest green hip-length peacoat was added to my selections, and now my taste for outerware has been slaked.

Shirts in general are easy. I pretty much wear a uniform of SweetPea layered mesh shirts, Michael Stars long-sleeved t’s, a few wrap sweaters and a v-neck cashmere thrown in for days where the vibe is “comfy”.

But there is one thing. What I really am lusting after, more than anything else these days, is far from the mundane, and yet incredibly plain, pure and simple. It is the perfect crisp white shirt. I know where to get it. I pass by the store every time I meander up Madison Avenue. I saw it on Saturday night walking home from Carnegie Hall. The store is Anne Fontaine, and pretty much all she sells is perfect, crips white shirts for women. Of course, the problem with me, the very obvious problem, is that I am a complete slob. Give me a crisp white shirt, and I will promptly dribble coffee on it. Or back up into a chalkboard. Or wipe my fingers on it, unconsciously, of course, after reading the New York Times.

I brought up the object of my lust at dinner the other night with The Husband, the kids and my parents. Since my birthday is coming up soon, my mom asked what I wanted. I usually have no answer, since I tend to buy everything I want, myself, as soon as I want it. But now, being under legal contractual obligation to not shop (is a contract between a husband and wife that hasn’t been vetted by actual legal representatives or signed in front of a notary even binding?) until December 4, the moment seemed ripe with possibilities. I told my mom about Anne Fontaine.

Mom: “What would you were this for? Where would you wear it?” Yeah, I thought of that. I don’t exactly have an answer. But I think that the answer will be related to how I deal with the next issue…..

Husband: “You can’t wear white. You’ll get it filthy within five minutes.”

See, I knew that. I have pondered that ever time that I have walked past Ms. Fonaine’s store. And I have finally come to the conclusion that just because I have a tendency to be a bit of a slob doesn’t mean that one day I can’t put on a perfect, crisp, white shirt and manage to focus on keeping it clean. That would mean wearing it on a day when I am not going to the dog run. That would mean wearing it on a day when I am not walking around with a cup of coffee-to-go. That would mean wearing it on a day when I am not engaged in shuttling the kids from place to place. I’d have to carefully apply my makeup. I’d have to stay away from my children’s pencil shavings and erasure dust. But I believe I could pull it off. I do. I want to. I think I owe it to myself to try.

I want that Anne Fontaine. I want to wear it untucked over a tailored black skirt, black tights and black knee-high, nylon boots that I bought at Martinez Valero a few years ago. I want to wear it on a day when I don’t need a jacket. That might be challenging if I am not getting it until December. But if I do need to wear a jacket, it will have to be cropped – shorter than the shirt.

I can do this.

And this will be happening right about the time I will be (hopefully) cleared to begin my Ashtanga practice again! So many exciting milestones! Ashtanga, a crisp white shirt. My life is filled with excitement, isn’t it?

But I prefer, no, need it, that way.