October 12, 2008

My hair is falling out. Not in clumps, or in patches; it's an overall shedding.

About two months ago I noticed that my ponytail, which has always been thick and coarse, has now become thin. Also, there's hair everywhere.

Several people directed me to Philip Kingsley, the wizard of hair. He is a trichologist and would be able to figure out what the problem was.

I went to his clinic in Mayfair, entered his office and he shut the door. It's an old fashioned study and he took his seat behind the desk. No phones, no disturbances - it was like having a private audience with the Pope.

A long time ago, he'd met my mother. He remembered she had lovely hair. Then he did the Tug Test. He ran his finger from my scalp to the end of my hair and examined what came out. Turns out, quite a lot.

He told me on a scale of one to four - I was a four. A four? That didn't sound so bad. Until he explained four was the worst. Which means on a scale of one to ten, I was really a twelve. But instead of being upset, I felt validated.

For months I was telling anyone that would listen that my hair was coming out. No one believed me. They wouldn't accept it, dismissed my concern and offered one diagnosis: stress. Then we'd get into a disagreement where I'd have to persuade them that my hair IS thinning. I'd have to prove it. Not exactly an argument I want to win. But Philip Kingsley confirmed it.

He examined the follicles, the diameter, assessed the situation and studied my scalp. What was the problem? I'm pretty much doing everything wrong. This did not come as a surprise. I don't eat meals. I graze. Like a goat. Only a goat probably eats protein. Something I've been lacking. I have a lot of milk in my latte - does that count as protein? Apparently not.

"What do you eat for lunch?" he asked. Silence. I tried to remember what I had for lunch the last time I ate lunch.

"I only eat lunch when someone takes me," I replied.

He could tell what that meant: not often. Dinner? Cereal. Or if I'm adventurous - soup. My food inventory was depressing. Prisoners have a better diet than I do. At least they eat regular meals - with company.

Me and my lonely bag of pistachio nuts hovering over the stove while I wait for my egg to boil. I might as well be bald.

After childbirth, sometimes women lose their hair. They come to him, he told me, very upset, very worried - because as everyone knows, hair is intrinsically connected to our self-esteem. And losing it can be traumatic.

I pointed out that they have something to connect it to - giving birth. They might be losing their hair, but at least they have a child out of it. What do I have? I'm not exactly Elle McPherson. And my personality isn't all that winning. I don't have all that much to work with. If I'm ever going to meet someone, I need my hair.

He tried to reassure me that this was fixable. He could help. I would have my thick hair again, and it would grow back - it takes time.

"But how do you know?" I asked. He said he's never been wrong. I would get blood tests, and we'd find the problem.

Blood tests? I felt better when I heard that. For me, getting a blood test is more relaxing than getting a message. In the world of hair, Philip Kingsly is undefeated. He said he was certain the blood work would yield an explanation. But what if he can't help me? What if I'm that 1% whose hair loss is unexplainable?

There's a first time for everything.