Bald on the Beach
Where is my hair?! I still look like a puffy, de-feathered chicken and I’ll be on a beach,like ...tomorrow! It’s been 3 and a half weeks since my final round of chemo and chemo decided it wasn’t done introducing me to new side effects. Cankles?! Never had I ever!
My once shapely, sexy, long legs, now look like those of a diabetic grandma. So long Naomi Campbell limbs, hello Campbell Soup!
My legs feel like they are being weighed down by bricks, and I could have sworn I’d become Rasputia’s light-skinned cousin seemingly overnight. Lord, help! Look out, MJ!
So let’s run down a list of how unsexy all of this is about to be:
I am hairless. (Well, that actually works in the swimsuit department.)
Not only bald, but bald bald. (The nurse said I was going to have an adorable pixie after chemo! Where is it?! Ok, she didn’t say a month after chemo, Jennifer.)
I am pale as a ghost. (Maybe Powder-chic is a thing?)
And the cherries on top (and bottom)... residual chemo rash + scarring all over my head, face, and chest, and swollen ass feet that I have to literally shove inside my work flats.
Oh and this will be my first time with my new boobs on the beach. My nip-less, not yet reconstructed teets on the beach. It’s fine. They’ve got some cleave and at the end of the day, I’ve already been chosen so...BOOM.
You know what? Forget all of that. I’m going to be bald on the beach. I’m going to let my invisible back length mane flap in the wind, let this cleavage sit up like a cute round heart under this swimsuit, prop my fat feet on some beach towels, rub some sunscreen mixed with tanning lotion all over my body and drink all the vodka sodas because I deserve this shit.
MJ and I excitedly pack our bags and grab our passports, eager to say goodbye to this cold East Coast winter for a few days and good riddance to this ugly chapter that gave us nothing but hell.
I shove my swollen feet into my lace-free, leopard vans and we catch an Uber to Baltimore Washington International airport. Paradise here we come! We make it through the security checkpoint where I am just barely able to shove my feet back into my shoes. Eek. They’re expanding!
We get the party started at the airport. We sit at the bar right outside of the gate. Me sucking down Bloody Mary’s and MJ, Stella Artois.
We board our flight, I get cozy next to my husband and close my eyes before the flight attendants can even show us where the exits are.
I wake up and we have arrived. I feel like a kid inside. I’m so excited. We’re here! This trip has so much meaning. This is our victory trip! This is the honeymoon we never got to take, albeit very far off from the destination we would have preferred; at the end of the day, this is about a celebration and an opportunity to try and get back to where we were before all of this.
We take the assigned shuttle to our resort and take in the warm weather and scenery. We sit in the backseat holding hands.We are two giddy adults.
We arrive at the resort and it's beautiful. We are offered margaritas while we check in. My friends have stayed in this hotel’s sister resort and they recommended us upgrading to the Premiere level. It's accompanied by a special wrist band, access to the kid-free pool, a more modern hotel room, a dedicated butler, etc, etc.
Meh. It's January. Aren't kids in school? The hotel room can't be that damn antique can it? It costs how much to upgrade? Gasp. No thanks! We decide to keep our original reservation and not upgrade. We are handed our keys, given directions on how to get to our room and sent on our way.
We walk, and walk, and walk, and walk...MY GOD! WHERE IN THE HELL IS IT?! They put us in back like how some of ya’ll parents do your grandmothers? As we walk we see very few people. I guess I should be thankful. But I feel sort of creeped out. It's dark over here. What in the Poltergeist hell...
Finally, we make it to our room. We fling the door open, excited to see what's behind the door. Well, this yellow ass paint on the walls definitely got our pupils dilated. Awww, they made a heart out of rose petals on our bed. I've always wanted that! I walk straight to the balcony. A view of the ocean. Ahhhhhh. The water is the color of Windex. The sound of the ocean is like music to my ears. I am so happy. I turn around to take a look at the rest of the room.
The bathroom is uh...subpar. It has one of those shower/bathtub combos. You can't just walk right in. You’ve gotta lift your leg and shit. THE FUCK IS THIS? Ok, ok, this is definitely first world problems but seriously, THIS is the basic of basic rooms. Ehhh.
I am adaptable. I can adapt. I will adapt. Nahhhhhh. Bump that. We make the long trek back to the concierge. I make sure to code switch, fluff my invisible mane while strutting to the desk to ask to speak to a manager.
“Hi, Our room is okay but when we vacay we expect our living conditions to be as nice or nicer than where we live…” I say in the most valley girl voice that I can muster up. Preparing to make a further argument I am met with the understanding and hospitality that I was hoping for in my mind.
“We would be happy to upgrade you, free of charge. We will have one of our staff go and get your belongings.”
*Looks behind me. Looks back at man*
Oh. He’s talking to me. That was easy! My invisible mane must be blonde.
He prints out our new room keys, writes our room number down on the back of the cardholder and asks us to hold out our wrists. He ties a little bracelet that should get us through the gates of heaven - eh, to the nicer side of the hotel that won’t have kids splashing all around the pool. AMEN.
We get to our upgraded wing of the hotel. It’s a shorter walk, looks more modern -- it even smells better. Oh yes. “This is what I am talkin’ about” I burst out, clapping my hands after each word. I have left my valley girl voice back at the concierge desk. I am geeked. The room still has bright paint on the walls but the furniture, bathroom and whole vibe have been upgraded. Yeasssss. Dare I say this room is sexy compared to the last?
The first thing I do as soon as I arrive at any beach vacation is I immediately change into my swimsuit. I am more excited than a kid in a candy store.
MJ and I walk to one of the restaurants on the resort and have lunch. Taking it all in. It's beautiful. A clear, sparkling blue ocean with waves making the most beautiful sounds I've heard in a long time. Beautiful palm trees all around and my handsome husband sitting right across from me (stuffing his face) and enjoying the amazing ambiance with me. THIS is the life that I was meant to live.
I sit there with the wind tugging at my baseball cap. Oh, you're trying to unmask me?! Not a damn chance. I pull my hat down tighter. Covering my lack of eyebrows, my chemo scarred skin and the insecurity behind my eyes that tells people that I don't think I belong here.
For the first half of the trip, I hide behind a hat. I rotate between a cute straw hat that I bought in the largest size they had on the Nordstrom website hat and a blue chambray Ralph Lauren baseball cap. I can't be seen without it.
What will people think???
I know what I would think if I saw me.
I don't want their pity stares. This is supposed to be about me celebrating my victory, this second chance at life and starting to love myself again. I guess that would mean I should start by not caring what anyone thinks but -- I can't. I'm not ready. I'm paranoid. I put on my big glasses and MJ and I head to the pool.
Ah. I've never been in a pool that didn't bring me pure joy. MJ and I go between the pool and the cabana. I am overjoyed. Giddy. I haven't been this ecstatic in a long time. Maybe since moving into our new home. I can't remember but it's definitely been a while.
It rains off and on but guess what? That's not stopping this celebration! Neither are these cankles that are trying to stop me from being great. Try-again-cankles! Our first night we have a romantic dinner in one of the restaurants. It’s kinda cheesy but MJ and I roll with it. We are def not that kind of couple. Neither of us are serious enough. We laugh at everything. But we enjoy the experience nonetheless. Even the chef comes out. Damn. Do they know I have breast cancer? Haha I’ve got my wig on and drawn my eyebrows on. I hate this wig. I'm back in witness protection.
We wrap up with dinner and head to the hookah bar on the resort. It’s outside right along the beach. MJ is on cloud 9. This is his favorite thing. This is how he relaxes. Hookah. We grab a hookah and sit in a huge cushy chair that fits both of us. We sit outside sipping our drinks. Him a beer and me a vodka/soda with lime. We sip on our drinks, smoke our hookah and laugh as we people watch. Almost an hour goes by. We sit there enjoying each other and the cool breeze, the music thumping quietly in the background, mixed in with the waves crashing from the ocean in the background. Ah. I could sleep right here.
Oh shit. Is that rain? It’s RAIN! My hair! Oh wait. It's a wig. What felt like a few sprinkles turned into BUCKETS of rain. Everyone is making a run for it. But not me. I’m still there trying to shove my swollen feet in these jelly flip flops that don’t give a shit if it’s rain or if I had a bucket of Crisco. My feet don’t want to go inside. I’m trying harder than a woman trying to squeeze inside too small spanx to get inside these shoes. I stick my feet in far enough, not getting the thong between my toes but close enough. MJ stands a few feet ahead looking back at me as we both get soaked with rain. Shit. My wig is sliding off.
I’m sliding around like I’m on ice skates. I start trying to run like the rest of the folks who are acting like the apocalypse is here. I run as fast as I can and by as fast as I can I mean I run only five feet before my fat ass feet slide right on out of that flip flop. I’m like a giraffe on ice skates. Literally sliding all over the place. Legs spread apart and arms in the air. I look like an X. I attempt twice more to shove them in good enough into my shoes to make a good run and then a soaked MJ turns with his hand out telling me to just take em off and run. Ahhh!! We sprint to the inside of the resort. Safe!
We head to our room to dry off and head to the club. I want to party but I am TIRED. I dance in my chair and try to be hype for MJ. We hang until there is no one left and head to our room.
The rest of the trip becomes routine. A good routine. We wake up have breakfast overlooking the beautiful beach, drinking mimosas, and receiving the best service from our favorite waiter. We head to the beach because my goal aside from relaxing and celebrating victory with my hubby is too tan this skin! Make me chocolate LAWD! Ok that may be a little far fetched, I’ll take a deep caramel though.
We leave the beach and head to a cabana that's poolside. This hat is still on. We have lunch, drink more, nap, hang in the pool and repeat.
One of last nights of our stay we decide to go to a restaurant off of the resort. I get ready in my blue floral maxi, put on my my makeup and then my wig. I’m ready. Ugh. This wig is hot and itchy. I whine to MJ.
“Well take it off babe. You don't have to wear it if you don't want to. Who cares?”
I look back at him like a baby bird whose parents are try to push them off the ledge. Encouraging them to fly.
Really? I can take this wig off? Yes. Really. I can take this wig OFF. Why the hell not? These people don't know me. And even if they did, who cares?
I stare at myself in the mirror and snatch the wig off. A weight has been lifted.I feel so beautiful. I feel brave. I feel free.The most free I've ever felt.
This is me. Time for the next chapter.