Why Is My Hair Thinning In Middle Age?

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One of the greatest challenges in a woman’s life – apart from men – is to find the right hairdresser – someone who truly understands the fickleness of female hair. Once you discover your hairdresser, a bond of trust is formed that can be almost (if not more) precious than those you share with the closest members of your family. So if, (God Forbid), you decide to move, the distance to your hairdresser has to be a prime consideration. 

Although I admit that I’ve been in denial for some time, the white tiled floor of my bathroom has highlighted recently that I am losing my hair.

I was aware that hair loss is one of the symptoms of menopause but I had naively assumed that ‘thinning’ referred to the quality of the strands rather than the uglier evidence of swathes of the stuff falling on the floor whenever I brushed it.  

I’ve always had a fine head of hair considering how much I’ve abused it with chemicals, and my hair loss might be due to any number of factors such as aging, menopause, diet, the chlorine in the pool or a simple iron deficiency. The bathroom floor was the perfect canvas to ram it home to me that I might be going bald.

What started as a minor irritation, when people would brush escaped strands off my shoulders in that invasive way they do, (rather like when they wipe stray food from around your mouth), soon turned into a daily nightmare as the pools of hair began to collate on the bathroom floor. Stepping on strands of hair in bare feet is almost as unpleasant as getting old food on your hands in dirty dish water if you’re a little on the OCD side and I’m beginning to realise that this problem has the potential to turn into a real body image issue if I catastrophise about it in my usual way. I am already imagining a future with no hair on my head while the rest of my body is as hirsute as a monkey. Furthermore, I’ve studied the shape of my head in the mirror from every angle and have come to the conclusion that it unlikely I will have the sophisticated beauty of Charlize Theron in Mad Max when I am bald. 

Like the alcoholic who hides their stash of alcohol, the initial shame caused by my hair loss forced me to change the location where I brush my hair of a morning to the bedroom. There, I can camouflage the loss of my mousey strands in the darkness of the timber floor, but even I know that is not getting to the root of the problem and if I don’t find some remedy the old man could have twenty years of bald jokes to catch up on.

I’ve done my research (here) and apparently a lack of protein can be a trigger, as can stress, so I’m back eating meat and have excused myself from all housework duties on medical grounds. My suggestion that the family move out completely fell on deaf ears, but I have also discovered that heat exposure is another culprit; one that is somewhat difficult to curb in my current predicament of several hot flashes a day in spite of living in the repercussions of the latest cyclone.

In other hair news, I can recommend the movie Hackshaw Ridge as a viewing must-see, especially if you want to obsess over a head of truly marvelous hair because Andrew Garfield must have the most voluminous head of hair I’ve ever seen. It generally has its own cameo role and trailer in his movies. Rather like Donald Trump’s thatch, I have always thought that his hair appears to have a life of its own and it is easy to be distracted by it. Fortunately, his acting is good enough in this film for it not to take centre stage, unlike when it comes to Trump’s politics.

Change, Anxiety and Crazy AF Dreams

There are some exciting changes coming up in my life in the near future. Or at least I’m pretending to myself that they are wildly exciting even though inside my organs feel as though they’re dissolving in acid, something that happens each time I go through such changes and my anxiety goes into overdrive. The other byproduct of such an assault on all my senses is that I have crazy AF dreams about what can go wrong. halloween-997596_1920 (1)

 

These current changes involve my career, and if the dream I had last night is anything to go by, I’m not completely comfortable with them.

 

Last night’s dream involved my opening of a home and giftware shop (a long-term aspiration) where all the product is white. Logically, I named the shop ‘White’.

 

The best part of the dream was I can remember the tingle of anticipation I felt at the prospect of a whole shop full to the brim of calming neutrality because if I had the choice, absolutely everything in my house would be white…that is until the complication of real life intrudes such as children and dogs and men who can’t eat without getting food on the sofa. I’ve never quite understood how such schemes work outside of Home and Garden magazines unless you make a religious commitment to “Vanish”.

 

Evidently, there’s a little OCD thrown into my own particular brand of madness.

 

Anyway, as I was signing my first orders for ‘White’ branded tee-shirts and white fluffy cushions, I got a call from the police to say that I had to close the shop because its name was not politically correct and there had been complaints from the locals. They castigated me for overtly demonstrating my privilege in the neighborhood and as a result imposed sanctions on my potential customer base from buying from my dream store.

 

The dream was intense. Not as terrifying as those ones where you fall off cliffs or are being chased, but I remember one moment distinctly where I was looking at my beautiful new business cards, weeping onto their perfect white gloss card with its perfect black font and wondering if I could change the brand name to ‘Black and white’.

 

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many black schemes in beach-style, Hamptons homes.

 

Next was the stress of actually choosing the product. One of my intentions, when I chose my white theme, was to keep it simple, because something I have worked out with maturity is that simplicity is core to my mental stability, hence survival. The problem then was that I couldn’t decide whether I was allowed to veer off-piste and include all of those different shades of white that Dulux has invented – because then, I worried, my brand might not be authentic to its racist origins.

 

The final stress of this journey to the fulfillment of my dream career came about when I gave a customer’s child a white chocolate jelly bean at the front desk and they had an allergic reaction, entitling the mother to accuse me, very publicly, of being both a bad retailer and bad parent.

 

This is anxiety, folks. It’s how your stupid brain can turn even your dreams into nightmares.

Graduating With Your Child

graduation-2038864_1920Thank you to Em Rusciano for the inspiration for this post. See the video on my Facebook page about her being a NEXT LEVEL, FORMAL MUM on 2Day FM.

You see, there can be no better prize as a parent than those academic award days when your child’s achievement is unveiled publicly and you can revel in parental smug-dom and remind yourself that you made that happen. I always felt that I cheated my own father with my list of lackluster progress prizes that he was forced to witness my acceptance of, which has made it all the more gratifying an experience to have a child like NC.

At least it should be, because as many of you will be aware – and in spite of having SOME input into her gene pool – we are very different people, my daughter and I, and where I have always been a very vocal underachiever, she prefers to remain an annoyingly reserved over-achiever.

Several years ago, she omitted to tell me the date of her graduation day from Year 12 and while all her friends’ parents were gifted the opportunity to pat themselves on the back for successfully maneuvering their kids through school, I remained oblivious to the event until I saw the celebratory photos plastered all over Facebook.

I have never forgiven her, nor for one moment allowed her to forget that this was a selfish attack on my parenting prowess, and since then I have made her swear publicly on several occasions that she WILL graduate from university, preferably in the most sickeningly pink floral dress I can find as punishment, even if her circle of friends think it is uncool.

I get it. She’s just not that girl – she’s one of those anti-cool girls, from whom I had to take the reins even at her school formal, like the true stage mom that I am, while she dug her heels firmly into the ground and fought me over every minor detail. Her dress was pretty, but not the Disney floaty number I had dreamt about; her hair was tidy but she refused the expensive chignon I wanted, and such were her nerves on the day that the very ugly rash she broke out in somehow managed to compliment the scarlet tone of her dress – which was some form of Karma, I suspect.

Perhaps the skywriting was a little bit too much.

Anyway, I suspected a few months back that the date for her graduation must be coming up soon but she continued to remain vague about it. When even my poor interpretation of social cues informed me that perhaps I was stepping on dangerous territory if I continued to threaten her about it, I was left to trust that she would adhere to our negotiated “arrangement”. That is, I get the photo of her in gown and mortarboard, but she doesn’t have to wear makeup, shave her legs or buy a new dress for the occasion. Armpits remain a point of negotiation.

Presumably due to cuts in tertiary education, her university kindly provided us with about four minutes notice of the date. They must assume that we parents don’t have a life and WILL drop everything for the satisfaction of watching our prodigy walk across the stage, and that appears to be true, because although I had booked flights away to Queensland that weekend, they somehow knew that I would have sold Adele tickets or postponed my own father’s funeral to be there.

Where NC underestimated me was that she thought that this calendar clash might prevent me from attending her big day and I watched her reaction to my initial disappointment at the date – the barely contained joy, the shrug of the shoulders and the arm placed unconvincingly around my own in mock pity as she commiserated with me – with some pride, thankful that all those drama lessons had been worth the financial pain.

NC is a scientist so I will excuse her logical brain and ineptitude at interpreting the true power of a mother’s pride and dedication to her cubs. Let’s hope she’s better at interpreting climate data.

Conquering Fears and Discovering Bush In Australia

IMG_5133I conquered a few long-held fears during my holiday last week with the old man – the fear of whether we can actually spend time alone together without me wanting to kill him, because I’m aware that I won’t be able to use the PMT card as a defence in our retirement, as well as some rational, innate fears about the Australian wildlife.

Statistically, our adoptive country is proud to record that it has ten of the deadliest creatures in the world, and that’s only touching the surface because those figures don’t account for the deadly plants, animals, and insects lurking in every corner of its landscape that can make you seriously sick.

Basically, everything is out to get you.

It is my belief that the average native Australian is brainwashed as a child with the adage that ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’, so when they see dinner-plate-sized hairy spiders such as the Huntsman spider, they are able to look at them in a different light to the rest of us and appreciate them as the spiders that eat mosquitoes, unlike other arachnids such as the Redback, (and even ants), that can put them in hospital.

The less said about the Funnel Web, the better.

What I’m getting to, is that bush walking – note my ability to say the word “bush” in this context without laughing to myself like a five-year-old the first time she hears the word “penis” – is not for the faint-hearted, and completely at odds to the relaxing walks of my past in the pretty forests of the UK where my biggest worries were being stampeded by Bambi and the distance to the next pub.

We did a lot of walking this holiday, in part to witness the truly wonderful landscape that the south coast of Sydney has to offer – having reached that sad stage in our lives where we share lengthy discussions about trees and birds without boring the tits off each other or feeling like pretentious old fools – but mainly to combat the weight gain caused by a liberalness in wine consumption necessary to keep aforementioned inane conversations going, and the horrific calorie count of all the gastronomic delights we partook of (because we were on holiday).  That transitory film of dementia that descends upon the brain on holiday in regard to how easy it is to gain weight at our age really is quite wonderful.

IMG_5134In Australia, even an innocent walk to some of the whitest sand outside of Whitehaven Beach in Queensland (one of the world’s top ten beaches) has its mindfuck challenges. Where else in the world do you find “How to resuscitate” boards at each entry point to the beach? Because if the rips and sharks don’t get you, there are killer octopi, snakes and poisonous plant life, all waiting. Apparently, Jervis Bay, the last stop on our journey, is renowned for the Diamond Python, a wildlife fact the old man chose to keep to himself while I used the council “bush” toilets. Option two, of peeing behind a bush, wasn’t much better. 

IMG_5131The photo to the left represents your typical Australian bush mushroom –  hardly the type you rustle up a veg Risotto with  – and the one below is the type of daunting shape that stops you in your tracks for a second look, provoking the relaxation of your Sphincter muscle and your heart rate to increase to a dangerous level. Generally, you only remember that you’re in the middle of fucking nowhere around the same time that you discover that you only have one bar left on your phone. IMG_5132

In the bush it can feel like there are eyes on you from every direction, which is why I let the old man lead on our jaunts, indeed, the only time I allow him to assume full patriarchal, cave-man superiority before we get home and I am forced to remind him that men are to be seen but never heard.

Taking The Middle-Aged Man On Holiday

Mini breaks are what you do in middle age when the kids get too cool to come away with you (and you can’t afford to take them, anyway), and the idea of a long holiday with your other half is too daunting. They should be long enough to give you a break from the pressures of normal life, yet short enough to ensure that you don’t run out of things to talk about or start to plan your partner’s death. pots-738172_1920

The old man and I have bravely booked a couple of such mini-adventures away this year, on our own, and our first took place this week, when we ventured south of Sydney to Bowral in the Southern Highlands, and then onto Kangaroo Valley and Jervis Bay.

 

The locality of these areas is renowned for its rolling green pastures, quaint village towns, wineries, cooler temperatures, (much more agreeable, if like me you are of a certain age and become completely unreasonable in the heat), and during some parts of the year… flies. If you take out the fly factor and the fact that each little homestead we’ve stayed in has warned us not to antagonize snakes in the small print, it is very reminiscent of the British countryside.

 

The problem with dragging the old man out of his comfort zone – ie. away from home – is that he needs to acclimatise to any new and potentially threatening environment and he tends to flail awkwardly for the first few days, rather like when you take a fish out of water, while he adjusts to life without his regimented, “home” routine of work, exercise, food and annoying me.

 

I, on the other hand, have the propensity to sleep for a disconcerting number of hours on holiday, both night and day, so I’m rarely conscious long enough to help alleviate his boredom.

 

I feel no guilt. Why should I entertain him? He is a grown man and I refuse to disempower him. Perish the thought that he turns into one of those poor men you see dragged around the supermarket, tethered to an invisible leash and a nagging wife, henpecked to death because she’s lost respect for him. So in much the same way that I have tried to ignore inane conversation this holiday, I have resisted the urge to rise to trigger questions such as ‘do you think I need a jumper?’ when we go out.

 

Although in hindsight, perhaps I should have checked that he’d packed his towel before we headed out to the beach this morning.

 

This destination of the south coast was his choice, although whether he realized that outside of the arresting scenery, the highlight would be the charming, small towns, I’m not sure. Full to the brim of cute antique shops, local crafts, cafes that serve high tea and wicked flavours of home-made fudge, as well as chic homewares stores far superior to those in Sydney – in which I like to whittle away as many of my conscious hours as I dream about my Hamptons house – I imagine this week has turned out be the old man’s idea of hell.

 

Within 24hrs of our departure from civilization and the National Broadband Network, he had stalked every meter of the perimeter of our hotel, eaten every lolly (including the licorice) in the mini bar and asked me several times when we could go home.

 

Fortunately, the weather has been kind to us after the abysmal rain of the past two weeks in Sydney (see here), and thank fuck our first hotel had a pool to entice him in, (in spite of its icy temperature), where he burned off some of the scones and cream that we’ve been eating with gay abandon restlessness incurred from two hours of looking at lamps made from ginger jars and lengthy discussions with local shopkeepers about different types of Indian tea.

 

‘This is the life!’ he pronounced unconvincingly as he lay on the hotel sunbed, soaking up the afternoon sun and gazing at the unnerving sheet of ice on the surface of the pool.

 

“Shall we go back to the room now,’ he then asked, five minutes later.

 

We have mutually come to the realization that we need to plan our days from this point onwards because whereas my main aim now is to be fed, watered and to relax on holiday ie. a daily plan that ultimately leads me to a good pub, the old man needs more structure. He needs to know the time of each meal and activity between breakfast and dinner time, when he can finally unwind as he gets one step closer to our return home.

 

 

What Do Middle-Aged Adults Do On Rainy Days?

Come to Sydney, they said, the climate’s great, they said.

 

Most of the time.

 

rain-2090145_1920Since 2017 began – and remember we’re in summer here – the temperature has ranged between a pizza oven and cardie weather, with little variation in between.

 

And then came the rain; a deluge that has had the gall to wash away the old man’s latest attempt to grow grass from seed. In fact, watching the defeated look on his face each morning as he inspects its status has been the only compensation for the cabin fever of the past two weeks.

 

Each morning, NC, our resident climate scientist, has stuck her wet finger out into the air and sighed – the street’s daily broadcast that of course we’re doomed – and I have become more and more stir crazy.

 

The only benefit of being housebound with such a dire case of cabin fever is that it has forced me to become more inventive in how to entertain myself, especially when the rain was the latest excuse from Telstra, our telecommunication provider, to affect the quality of our WIFI – in much the same way that leaves and snow used to affect the entire rail network in the UK.

 

So, perhaps it was a fortuitous side effect in this age of instant gratification and my own dependency on social media, that while the old man filled his time cleaning out his bodily orifices in front of the cricket, I came up with the following interesting ideas:

 

  1. Hair removal – this (typically monthly) chore wasted at least half a day because the weeks of rain had helped me cultivate maximum growth. A symbiotic couple, the task also used up a good part of the old man’s weekend spent cleaning out the clogged drains and plastering all nicks and cuts caused by his strangely, newly blunt razor.
  2. Teaching the dog new tricks – all well and good, unless you have an eight-year-old menopausal bitch like The Princess, who at the ripe old age of 56 in human years, is tired of my requests for her to smile, take selfies with me, entertain and love me all the time.
  3. Baking a cake, or in my case, a cheesecake. Alas, the dilemma with cooking on rainy days is that there is SO much time afterwards to eat it. It calls from the fridge, and if, like me, you have the biological disorder to put on weight simply by flicking through the pages of a Delicious cookbook, (let alone daring to pause at the Baking Section), it’s not a good plan. But then I spotted the idiot’s guide to chocolate cheesecake and my brain made the connection of how I could become the perfect mother with very little effort.
  4. Cleaning the house – I managed to resist because this is the old man’s work.
  5. Washing – say what?
  6. Moaning to the old man about why the Internet wasn’t working, because in spite of my fervent belief in equality, that’s definitely his department.
  7. Changing the bed linen – sadly, the old man beat me to this when he did it a couple of months ago.
  8. Napping… never in question and took me nicely up to dinner time and the only highlight of my days, my next meal.
  9. Curtain twitching – for a car space closer to the house, and then watching the old man dodge wild weather, puddles, and scary neighbors to move it, did bring the odd smile to my face.
  10. Contemplating exercise and a long run, but then realizing that I couldn’t run because I have never run and it was raining.

 

11. And finally… Planning my To-Do List for the following week, but not having the time           to tick one damned item off it.

Those Embarrassing, Inane Conversations Of Middle Age

I’m not sure when the old man and I silently agreed that inane middle-aged conversation was acceptable now. It was probably another one of those telepathic, marital communications that we couldn’t verbalise due to the shame, but one day it was suddenly okay to talk about gibberish – about stuff like the weather or what the dentist said, or the cost of milk. peace-1754379_1920

Like many of the symptoms of ageing, inane conversation creeps up on the best of us, and our situation is more dangerous than most because we work together from home, and there are only so many intelligent conversations you can have when you get caught in the kitchen making toast in between meals.

Today, we did the food shop together, (because obviously we haven’t spent enough time together this week), and when we noticed that our supermarket is changing the position of its entry barriers, our dwindling middle-aged brains went into lock down and we couldn’t help ourselves.

‘Well, it’s about time they did that,’ I said, trying to sound cheerful about this latest progress in our community in an attempt to disguise my innate middle-aged fear of change. ‘I can’t tell you how many times I nearly scraped the car on those old barriers.’

‘I know, right?’ nodded the old man in agreement, ‘I can’t believe they didn’t think it about it before. I wonder where you exit from now?’ he added, seriously.

There it was, another inane conversation, and suddenly aware, we looked at each other with embarrassment and sealed our lips lest we say another condemning word.

As the old man pointed out, though, if we actually knew any people in our suburb, the topic of the new barriers would make for wonderful dinner-party discussion – one that I imagine could go on for most of the evening.

‘I can’t believe you wore flip flops on a rainy day again,’ I commented later, as we were leaving the supermarket and I watched the old man carefully navigate the wet steps down to the car park. ‘Don’t you ever learn?’

I was referring, of course, to that time, a year or so ago, when he slipped down some wet steps in the rain in his flip flops, and cracked two ribs. He then took the problem to building management who hastily installed some ‘Slippery When Wet’ signs – before the old geezer in 308 sued them – which he would nod at approvingly each time we walked past them.

‘At least these have some grip on them…’he replied, before he stopped himself short, looked at me guiltily and pursed his lips.

When does it happen, this swift descent down the luge to old age? When did we start doing and saying all those things we used to ridicule our parents and old people on the bus for? When did I start caring about the garden? When did the old man decide that growing grass from seed was a good idea?

We are educated, intelligent human beings who used to know and have the confidence in our relationship to keep schtum unless we had something interesting to say – something that was worth sharing. When did we start feeling the need to fill in the gaps? Is it fear of loneliness? Does it give us some hidden comfort now to share our every thought or is it simply that we’ve lost the mental ability to filter out the shit?

I Blame Trump For My Anxiety

It’s not cold here in Sydney today, thankfully, because up until the last week or so it felt like it had been thirty-fucking seven degrees since 2016. But metaphorically it feels cold, that is since Trump entered the building, threw his toys out of the pram and began to shake up the foundations of diplomacy and world politics like a small earthquake. His presence in power has created a similar feeling to that frisson you get when something doesn’t feel quite right. blizzard-1245929_1920

 

I know his type, and I truly believe he thinks his policies are for the good of the people who voted for him. But he is a Narcissist whose self-importance has blinded him to all consequences of damaging or hurting his followers during his trophy hunt.

 

It’s hard not to feel anxious when our leading politicians – the people who make those big, crazy decisions about our survival and who have their sticky fingers so temptingly close to the buttons – can’t conceal even their own personal, little boy frustrations. We’re all hugging our babies closer – Gwyneth would approve.

 

The world media has gone into free fall since Trump was elected; jubilant initially at the gift of so much fodder, and now panic stricken that he might actually shut them down. I can’t decide whether they’re loving the shit storm they’ve created or if they’re secretly thinking that this could be their last work.

 

But for us pawns of the general public, it is an anxious time when we don’t know what to believe, or where to turn to. We don’t know who we are anymore. Are we racists? Should we be scared? Should we allow that Mosque to be built? What if we can’t get Baklava anymore? Some days it feels as though there’s no positive news at all and everywhere you look Trump’s name dominates the headlines. “Breaking news” these days is always about what’s going wrong in the world, and is usually linked to analysis of his latest verbal comeback on Twitter. The Oscars fuck-up made a welcome change, but when sacred shit like that hits the fan, it’s time to take a step back and reflect. Thankfully, Ryan Gosling’s sister’s breasts distracted the media for at least 48hours afterwards.

 

Our own Prime Minister, normally a reserved, quietly confident kind of man, has looked like he wants to throw the towel in and go walkabout with his ancestors for a while now, and equally, many want to throw the towel right back at him, hard, for not standing up to the bully in the playground.

 

So how are we, the minions of society – those who never usually step out of line, don’t squeak too much, pay our taxes dutifully, put our bins out on the right bin night, and adhere to most of its demands peacefully in return for safety and security – how are we meant to cope exactly with this impending doom?

 

This week they discovered a fossil on Mars that suggests that there is other life – FFS! – in preparation for which I increased the strength of my anti-depressants.

 

It feels cold outside.

 

Not as cold as it is for those at the real coalface of inequality, racism and persecution, of course. Not as freezing as it is for those in direct risk of losing their lives, families, livelihoods and self-respect, because someone with power, (who likes to wield it a lot), likes to also talk out of context and invoke fear.

 

No, this is a first world “cold” for most of us and needs some perspective.

 

Let’s get real here: for the majority of us, it is an unsettling breeze on a mild day where you wish you’d brought your jumper. We can still watch Netflix, we can drink wine, our families are tucked up nicely in bed at night.

 

For others, the real victims, a severe weather pattern is forming.