There's a lot to be said for sparing someone's feelings, I think. I once winced from the touchline as a boyfriend's nose exploded at the hands of an opponent's elbow in a Sunday league grudge-match. Running over to help, the manager and I perfected our stories. Having heard the crack from the other side of the pitch, we knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but nevertheless stuck to the script upon seeing a nose that looked more like an ear. 'It's not that bad,' we assured him on the way back to the changing room. And he bought it – until catching his reflection in a car window. 'Not that bad?,' he shrieked. 'I look like Peter fucking Beardsley.'
Right now, as it goes, I wouldn't mind having hair like Peter Beardsley. He may be no Brad Pitt (I've stopped saying Dave Grohl in these circumstances for fear of a restraining order), but at least the man's got a fringe. And hair-wise, it turns out I miss my fringe more than I miss my length. (The problem is my forehead – just stick a bolt through my neck and let's be done with it.) But still, compared to the not-far-past-bald photograph from the first Barnet Bulletin, even I've got to admit that I've looked worse.
Not that P would have me believe that. He's complimentary to the point of extremes. 'I adore your short hair,' he'll tell me. 'Mind you, I adored your bald head as well.' (With that kind of misplaced kindness, it's no wonder I've got an arse the size of Japan.) And he's not the only one who's been blowing smoke up my ass lately. It's been happening so often, I'm practically farting smoke signals. My doctors tell me they're amazed at how quickly it's growing back. My folks tell me they can't imagine me with long hair. Boys tell me I'm 'rocking it', and that it makes me look cool (and believe me, I'm far from cool – my thumbs are aloft more often than Macca's and I just wrote 'later gator' at the end of an email). Girls tell me it's cute, and more fitting for my age (translation: I was trying too hard with the long blonde 'do). And my brother tells me it's the same haircut he had when he was 17 (cheers, arseface).
But there comes a point when you can't mask the truth any longer (usually when you're introduced to my brother). Whether you're laying eyes on a fast-balding head, a bent-out-of-shape nose or a forehead like a flat-screen TV, at some point you're going to have to face the truth. Which is why this Barnet Bulletin is several days overdue. Right now, there simply does not exist a single decent, current photo of me. (It's saying something that I'm wearing a wig in my Facebook profile picture, and that one of my Twitter profile pics is just a wig on a stand.) And it's not from a lack of trying. I've spent days trying to perfect the right pose, the right angle, the right light, the right tilt of my head to avoid my forehead looking like a helipad. But nada. This hair of mine just ain't behaving in front of a camera. And so the last photo in the Barnet Bulletin series (I figure I've exhausted it long enough) isn't just unflattering, but purposefully unflattering. Consider it admitting defeat. If I can't find a flattering photo of my new barnet, then I've been left with no option but to post this one instead. So please don't feel the need to feed me a load of rhubarb about how I can get away with short hair, how quickly it's grown, or how cute or cool I look. I look like a goon. A ginger goon, at that. (Almost thirty years of trying to disguise my strawberry blonde, and now I'm actively encouraging colourists to bring it back.) Your platitudes are wasted on me. Not even a mother could compliment this face.
Eleven months post-diagnosis, having lost and gained a head of hair, you'd have think I'd have stopped sweating the small stuff about how I look. So much for the zen-like me who would laugh in the face of stray greys, stubborn kinks or rain-induced frizziness. But, oddly, having a hair-mare isn't altogether a bad thing. A couple of weeks ago, our boiler went on the blink. It was only for a matter of hours, and really wasn't a big deal given the glorious spring sunshine outside, but it didn't stop me having a good old-fashioned, stomping-about-the-kitchen, snapping-at-my-husband paddy. Lying back in the bath once it had all been put right, I couldn't help but laugh. Despite having endured the Chemo Months From Hell, and more despairing depths than I care to remember, there was something oddly comforting about having a tantrum over a bit of hot water. So you'll have to take my moaning with a pinch of salt. I might be whingeing endlessly about my hair but, by 'eck, it's good to have hair to whinge about.