Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on April 9. Photo by Abir Sultan/Reuters

Netanyahu pokes fun as his changing hair color in Twitter video


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poked fun at his changing hair color in a video clip posted on his Twitter feed.

In recent weeks Netanyahu has come under scrutiny in the Israeli media over his hair color, which went from gray, to dark gray, to brown.

In the 32-second clip released on Sunday, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are seen enjoying the scenery during a trip to the Galilee in northern Israel.

“Just look at how beautiful it is here in the nature of the Galilee. Everything is wonderful. It is all blossoming and beautiful. It is all green, and a bit brown, and I am not talking about the color of my hair, okay?” Netanyahu says as his wife laughs.

He continues:  “By the way, they say that brown is the new gray. But I assure you, if you wait a few weeks, the old gray will return.”

For Matisyahu, no beard, no entry


Since Matisyahu shaved his beard last year, the former Chasidic reggae musician has been suffering all sorts of blowback. Along with losing his facial hair, sidelocks and the love of some Jewish fans, apparently he’s lost his VIP status in the eyes of club bouncers, too.

At the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, over the weekend, Matisyahu stood outside the TAO nightclub for some 10 minutes unable to get in because the door managers had no idea who he was, according to the New York Post. He finally gained access to the club from a friend who recognized him. Had he shown up in the black hat and coat, and straggly white beard he once wore, the bouncers surely would have dug his outfit and ushered him in.

Remembering Vidal Sassoon


It was only a few weeks ago that I was sitting with Vidal Sassoon in the living room of his sprawling Bel Air home. It was a chilly early evening and we warmed ourselves by the heat of the fire that was roaring in the fireplace.  We were drinking green tea – it was always green tea for Vidal – and he’d been reflecting on his earlier years in Hollywood.

He stared at me intently across the coffee table, his eyes probing mine.  Penetratingly. And then with a sudden sigh, he leaned forward and carefully, softly, uttered the words.

“I’ve got leukaemia,” he revealed flatly.  Before I could react, he inhaled deeply and added, “I’m really quite ill.”

He saw the shock in my face and continued softly, “I’m resigned to it. I’ve had a wonderful life. A fantastic life.” He gave a slight smile that was tinged with sadness. “I can’t complain. I’m 84, I just had my birthday a short while back. It’s been a fabulous ride.

“I got diagnosed two years ago but I wanted to keep it quiet. Now it’s progressed and I have to go to the hospital for treatment a couple of times a week. My life revolves around that now. And reading.  I used to swim every day for exercise but I don’t have the energy to maintain that regimen.

“I get terribly tired. It’s very difficult for me to walk far. I have to rely on a walking stick, in case I get into trouble. Some days I’m okay, others I’m just overwhelmed by tiredness.

“But what can you say about it. I’m not in pain. I just get very tired easily.”

It was devastating news. I’d known Vidal since I was a child –  my ‘uncle’, Robert Zackham, was Vidal’s oldest friend and working colleague, and my hairdresser father had partnered Robert in his salon, where Vidal often came to visit.

Our last rendezvous took place very recently. We’d talked on the phone some days earlier and arranged that I’d go to his house a few days later. I wanted to capture some of his memories for a BBC radio documentary I was writing.  He was happy to oblige. “As long as I’m fine on the day,” he added cryptically before ringing off.

Little did I know that it would be his last interview.

His house on Mulholland Drive on the outskirts of Bel Air was partially hidden behind a clump of trees, the number barely visible from the road. Like his previous home in Beverly Hills, it could only be reached via a long, winding driveway flanked with exotic trees and plants. It felt like driving through the Botanical Gardens.

When Vidal emerged from his bedroom and walked down the long hallway, its walls showcasing exquisite sculptures, I was shocked to see him looking frail and gaunt. He was leaning on a cane. “I use it to keep myself steady,” he waved off my concerned questions and offered a swift smile. “I’m no spring chicken after all.”

He had lost weight since I’d seen him last. I put it down to his health regime. He was always a health nut. And he spoke not slowly, yet without speed. I put that down to his having had a busy day.

I was so wrong.

In the vast living room of Vidal’s architecturally-magnificent minimalist home, we sat in front of the fireplace and reminisced. He felt a tremendous pride in everything that he’d done and last year documented it all in his autobiography and a riveting documentary. Yet behind the pride lay a humility. Often self-effacing, never arrogant, Vidal’s demeanour was dreamy and reflective. 

Every now and then, Ronnie, his devoted wife, popped into the living room to check that all was fine. On one appearance she was followed by their two little grey Lhasa Apsas, Lulu and Yoyo. On another, she brought with her a blanket which she lovingly draped over Vidal’s lap in case he got cold. His faithful manservant brought tea for us and with it a plate of English biscuits.

We’d just been discussing some of the voluminous tomes on art and architecture that adorned the room. His passion for the subjects knew no bounds. And he was as knowledgeable on each as if he had made them his life’s work. He viewed hairdressing that way. As architectural shapes. Works of art.

Then he had dropped that shocking news.

There was always something about Vidal Sassoon that set him apart from other men. It wasn’t that he was the best haircutter in the business, although he was. It wasn’t that he was the most famous hairdresser in the world, although he was that too. And it wasn’t that he had turned rags into riches, which he had.

No, it was his gentleness that stood out. Moving in a world notable for being cutthroat, Vidal was that most unlikely of souls –considerate, gracious and very gentle. Devoid of arrogance, he exuded confidence, yet with it a humility, rare in one so successful and ruling over a multi-million dollar empire

In early years, I often saw Vidal (‘Viddy’ to my parents) at hairdressing functions. My father sometimes let me play truant from school and took me with him when he was entered in one of the international hairdressing shows. He knew they excited me and he harboured hopes of my following in his footsteps. I remember one occasion – I must have been about 10 – when my father was designing the hair of a beautiful blonde model and Vidal was doing the same in the next chair with a brunette Miss World. I watched him, glued to his hands, fascinated by the way he worked. Deftly and with immense concentration. Snipping creatively and running his fingers through the hair and letting it swing back naturally into shape.  Layer after layer.  Building the form. He could have been layering and designing a block of flats the way he went at it.

In later years he told me he had always approached hairdressing geometrically, like architecture which he adored. If his mother hadn’t had other plans and if he’d been able to have an education, his dream would have been to become an architect. (“To me, architecture was the extreme art form.”) But in those war years, kids from the East End didn’t have a lot of choice over their career directions. Especially when they came from a single parent home – his father had abandoned the family when Vidal was three; when he turned 5, his mother put him in an orphanage for seven years because she couldn’t afford to keep him.

She’d had a premonition that Vidal would become a hairdresser, so for her there was no question about it when she carted him off to Adolph Cohen’s Whitechapel salon where he became a shampoo boy at 14 by day, while at night vicious German bombs lit up the skies “and rearranged the streets of London”.

He secretly joined the underground Jewish group, The 43, a group determined to quell fascism and anti-semitism. Vidal was its youngest member and was horrified by some of the things he had to witness and even carry out himself. He finally dropped out when it became too violent for him but he continued throughout his life to fight against anti-semitism.

He became a dedicated friend of Israel. A devout Zionist like his mother, in 1948, at 20, wanting to do his bit in the fight for Israel’s independence, he joined the paramilitary arm of the Israeli army and fought in the Arab-Israeli War. Israel remained in his blood to the end and he visited many times. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he later established the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism. Stamping out anti-semitism remained a fervent pursuit throughout his life.

He would have stayed in Israel had his family not needed him back home. He returned to London and to hairdressing. Just a few years later, in 1954, at 26, he opened his first salon in Bond Street.

“I decided if I couldn’t change things from the hairdressing art form into what I considered architectural hair cutting art form then I would leave the craft,” he told me.

He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams and revolutionized the industry by turning hairdressing into an art with his headline-making cuts.

Vidal was the quintessential ladies’ man. With his dazzling smile and keen eye that always spotted the best in a woman’s face he was able to design a cut and style that played up her bone structure. (“You cut according to the angles of the bones, the body, the shape. You never cut to make people look pretty. That’s not what it was about. That was the old way.”)

His ‘Sassoon look’ became the fashion of the day. Movie stars and ordinary people flocked to his third floor salon.  It was there that Vidal lopped off 4 feet of Nancy Kwan’s hair. And where Mia Farrow and Lee Radziwell – “she always said she’d bring her sister (Jackie Kennedy) but it never happened” – were among his huge clientele.

After opening a salon in New York, he eventually moved to Los Angeles and landed a television talk show. It was short-lived but established his immense popularity among those who only knew him through his slogan “if you don’t look good, we don’t look good”.

Vidal was a raconteur par excellence and never failed to amuse with a story or two. One of his favourites revolved around a meal in a Moscow restaurant when a bunch of menacing looking Russians walked in.

“These guys heard us speaking English and one of them leaned across the table and said ‘Bobby Charlton!’  I’m a soccer fan you know. So I said ‘Lev Yashin!’ who was the great Russian goalkeeper. ‘Aah, Lev Yashin!’  So then they ordered vodka. And it kept on coming. Well after Pele and Bobby Moore and goodness knows who else, I finally staggered out of there. But we’d made these great friends who hugged us as we left. They couldn’t speak a word of English and we couldn’t speak a word of Russian. Just footballers’ names. And so much vodka it was ridiculous!”

Vidal had four children, the oldest of whom, Catya, died of a drug overdose. He never recovered from the pain of losing her.  But with his fourth wife, Ronnie, 23 years his junior – they met when he was 62 and she was 39 – he found a tranquility that had been previously missing. For 20 years, Ronnie was his anchor. And “my tower of strength throughout this illness.” 

His legacy will be the phenomenal contribution he made to the world of hair fashion. But it will also be his lifelong devotion to Israel and its causes. And his efforts to quell anti-semitism.

“You do what you can in this life,” he told me once. “And if what you do can make a difference then that’s all you could ask for.”

Vidal Sassoon made a difference.

Boy allegedly set Jewish girl’s hair on fire after making slurs


A Canadian teenager was arrested for allegedly setting a Jewish classmate’s hair on fire after making anti-Semitic remarks.

Winnipeg police have charged the 15-year-old boy with assault with a weapon following an investigation of the Nov. 18 incident in the hallway of a local high school. Police say he confronted a 14-year-old girl and made the slurs before pulling out a cigarette lighter and singing her hair.

The girl did not suffer any serious physical injuries.

Police weren’t notified of the incident until Nov. 25 and arrested the boy on Dec. 4, CBC News reported.

Staff at the high school told the Winnipeg Free Press that the boy was suspended immediately, and he was later withdrawn from the school by his legal guardian.

Police said a possible hate crimes charge must be approved by Manitoba justice officials.

Investigators said the boy’s Facebook page contained posts of an “anti-Semitic” and “Nazi” nature. A school official said the teens had exchanges on social media prior to the incident.

Shelley Faintuch of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg called the incident “a shocking act of violence that must not be tolerated. The allegation that the attack may have been motivated by ant-Semitism makes it of special concern to the Jewish community, but in actual fact, an attack like this affects all communities.”

Alan Yusim of B’nai Brith Canada said the incident “tears at the fabric of the community. I think there should be zero tolerance for any hate-motivated activity in our schools.”

First Person – My Upfsherin


The upfsherin (hair cutting ceremony) took place on the last day of Shevat — an auspicious time for a healing ritual. The day before Rosh Chodesh (first day of the month) is observed, in the medieval mystical practice of Yom Kippur katan (little Yom Kippur) — a day for cleansing, purification, and preparation — just what shaving my head represented, as I began my fifth week of chemotherapy.

The upfsherin fell on the cusp of the months of Shevat and Adar — also propitious. The landscape of Shevat, in which we celebrate the rebirth of the trees, is a vegetative mirror of a bald head. Yet inside those leafless trees the sap is rising, life-giving elixirs watering it back to life. While we know that spring will come, the trees of Shevat often look like brittle sticks. Healing seems unlikely. This same feeling is hard to escape amidst chemotherapy’s limitations.

But Adar comes, with its joy and celebration. Lifting the weight of winter and of the fluids that run through the trees, swelling the buds and propelling green shoots in preparation for spring, Adar is the month of reversals. In Megillat Esther, stories of gloom and doom surprise us with happy endings. Destruction that seemed determined is overturned. The Jewish people survive and flourish. I embrace these metaphors for my healing journey, linking my bodily resurrection to that of the sycamore tree in my garden.

This is not the first time I have turned to that tree for guidance. In 1995, for the year after my father died, I retreated to the company of the tree. I sat for long periods, looking at the tree, thinking about my father. Looking through the skylight in my office, the seasons’ changes in color and texture against the California sky reflected my internal changes. The tree’s efforts to hold onto its leaves, as the autumn winds pulled, became my own resistance to letting go of my father and facing the starkness of winter without his protection. The hole in the trunk, where a branch had been cut away many years before, became my early wounds, reopened with this new loss. The burst of green, that appeared overnight to propel my tree into springtime, expressed my own rebirth of energy. By the summer, I was ready to leave my tree companion to teach and to study.

Once again my tree teaches me of the paradox of constancy and change that is the grace of the seasons. Embracing my tree as a companion weds me to life — and to the life-affirming progression of the seasons. It carries me forward, on the wings of time, beckoning me to use time as a healer.

For the upfsherin, I decorated a chair with ribbons in purple, green and gold — Mardi Gras colors — to mark the mutual healing for my beloved hometown and my own body as we confront the floods of toxic chemicals. I put a sheet on the floor to catch the falling hair. I explained the ritual’s intention and plan and introduced a prayer, affirming my vision for healing, encouraging others to join in:

Dear God:
Gimme a head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair, hair, hair,
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Then the cutting began. People held a lock, made a snip and gave a blessing. I received my blessing and asked each person to cut a length of ribbon for themselves, requesting that each sight of the ribbon move them to pray for my healing, the healing of New Orleans, the planet and all those who suffer.

The blessings ran from heart-rending pleas for my safety to humor. One friend told me, that he had just purchased a tree and was going to mulch it with my cut hair. My ex-husband reminded me of my mother’s dictum, “There’s nothing more temporary than a haircut.” Between blessings, my guests chanted the short healing prayer of Moses when his sister was stricken with disease: “El na rafana la (God please heal her).” I responded — to the blessings and to each crunch of the scissors — with tears and laughter. When the blessings were finished and my hair lay in piles on the floor, Peter, my hairdresser for 25 years, swooped down with electric clippers and completed the job.

Newly a woman with a buzz cut, I spoke about being a walking testimony for the disease of the planet. I prayed for the courage to not cover the truth in order to protect those uncomfortable with the anomaly of a bald woman and perhaps in denial about the state of the earth. I spoke of the link of my healing to the healing of my city of New Orleans and to all those who suffer.

Then we took the sheet out to the garden. And while we sang the “Misheberach,” we sprinkled the hair among the roots of my tree — to nourish it as it nourishes me. I hope a bird chooses some of my hair for a nest.

Anne Brener is an L.A.-based psychotherapist. She is the author of “Mourning & Mitzvah: Walking the Mourner’s Path” (Jewish Lights, 1993 and 2001), a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a faculty member of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Keeping My Hair Under Wraps


 

Recently, I found myself spellbound while watching “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” This film, based on the excellent Tracy Chevalier novel, is a fictional account of the history behind Vermeer’s famous painting of the same name.

The novel revolves around a servant girl, Grete, who became a secret assistant to the painter in his studio. In one scene, Vermeer accidentally glimpses Grete with her hair uncovered. The moment is electric. Grete, like all women of her social station, covered her hair at all times. It was as if Vermeer had caught her unclothed.

It was odd to feel such a kinship with a fictional character, and one who lived in the 17th century at that. But, like Grete, I also keep my hair covered in front of all but family members.

Over the years, I have begun to feel that my hair is a very private part of me. Revealing it has become an almost intimate act.

I never expected to feel this way. Years ago, I wrestled with the idea of living an Orthodox life. It was the most defining and difficult spiritual struggle of my life, and one that was not made quickly. While I was captivated with the timeless truths of the Torah, I insisted that I could never fulfill the mitzvah of covering my hair after I married.

The Torah considers a woman’s hair part of her crowning beauty. Covering it after marriage symbolizes not only the woman’s modesty but also her exclusive relationship with her husband.

For a long time I considered this idea to be repressive and anti-feminist, and could not make peace with it. But I had a problem: In my new circle of Orthodox acquaintances I kept meeting Orthodox married women, bewigged or wearing scarves or hats, who failed to match my unflattering stereotype of the Jewish Stepford wife. These women were intelligent, highly educated and lively. Almost none had grown up Orthodox, so I couldn’t claim they were covering up their locks by rote. Nearly all were baalei teshuva, or returnees to the faith, and they had chosen this spiritually rich lifestyle despite myriad available choices.

Even after I married and adhered to most Orthodox standards, I did not cover my hair. I wanted to want to do it, but I couldn’t bring myself to take on this monumental obligation. I attended lectures about hair covering, but left depressed because I had not found the beauty or inspiration I had sought. What did everyone else see in this that I could not see?

However, I no longer viewed the idea of hair covering as repressive, since Jewish men, both single and married, also wear garments that remind them of their unique obligations as Jews: the kippah on their heads and the four-cornered tzitzit under their shirts. I had learned enough by then to understand that these guidelines were designed to help us incorporate spiritual awareness into the physical aspects of our lives, including how we dress.

Eventually, I began covering my hair to set a good example for my sons.

After all, how could I expect them to make blessings before and after eating, wear their little kippot and perform other mitzvot, when I failed to uphold such an obvious one?

Still, it remained a struggle. I vainly missed compliments about my hair’s beauty. I missed feeling the wind in my hair. Still searching for meaning behind the practice, I continued to drill friends about their feelings about it. When one friend said that covering her hair made her feel special, like royalty, something finally clicked. Jews are supposed to be God’s chosen people and should dress the part. Stylish, modest clothing and head coverings did the trick for her. I liked this idea of hair covering making me special.

These days, when women and girls bare so much skin in public, I know that my manner of dress makes me something of an oddity. Looking at me in my long skirt, mid-sleeve blouse, and hat or beret on my head, many can instantly identify me as an Orthodox Jew.

I like being marked this way. I appreciate how the Torah has taught me to resist the ordinary and the faddish in an effort to become exemplary. My modest attire and hair covering remind me that I must always separate the private from the public. My body, including my hair, is private. I’ve also been heartened by the book, “Hide & Seek,” an anthology of essays about hair covering, edited by Lynne Schreiber (Urim Publications, 2003). The writers in this book are an eclectic group of Jewish women — not all of them Orthodox — who came to the decision to cover their hair in many ways, some of them unexpected and dramatic. Reading these women’s stories, including their struggles with a mitzvah that they find both important yet difficult, I realized I had more company than I would have expected.

When Vermeer saw Grete’s beautiful, naked locks, it added a level of intimacy to their relationship. It took me years to realize this, but eventually, I found that reserving my hair only for the closest of family members — and especially for my husband — has done the same for me, too.

Judy Gruen is a columnist for Religion News Service and an award-winning author of two humor books. Read more of her columns at www.judygruen.com.

 

Hair Club for Jews


Hi. My name is Carin and I have a Jewfro.

Heeb hair. A Moses mop. A latke lid. I’m down with my fun
girl curls, but I can’t say the same for the men I meet. My big hair is the Mason-Dixon
Line of my L.A. dating life. Some men love the untamed, wild, bed-head look of
my natural waves. But many men prefer I play it straight.

Take lawyer dude Rich, who I picked up at The Arsenal on Pico
Boulevard on a Saturday night. I was wearing my jeans low, my heels high and
my hair straight. Rich grabbed my digits and we went out on two successful
straight-haired sit-down dinner dates. For our third date, he suggested Cabo
Cantina, margaritas with salt and the Sunday night football game. Since we
decided to skip formalities, I decided to skip the blow dry. Poor play call on
my part. I threw open my door and surprised Rich with my long, flowing,
sandy-blond curls. He gasped, grimaced, then covered his eyes.

“What happened to your hair?”

Apparently Jewish men like blow dries. And not just Rich.

One date asked me, “What’s with the curls?”

Another asked if I wanted to finish getting ready.

A third offered me the scrunchie some JDate left on his
stick shift. Great, I have bad hair and you’re seeing other women. I’d cry but
the moisture might make my hair frizz up.

I’m not alone in this hair crisis. Thousands of Jewish women
just like me face similarly challenging locks. I’m talking big, puffy,
out-of-control, coiled bird’s nest curls. We’re asked to sit behind the
mechitzah because our big hair blocks the men’s view of the bimah. Coveting J.
Crew catalog-straight hair, we brush and comb and mousse and spray. We steam
and set and wrap and treat. But we still show up to parties looking like the
Bride of “Welcome Back, Kotter.” That’s why I started the Hair Club for Jews.
Where I’m not just the hair club president, I’m also a member.

My teenage years were a blur of bad hair. I spent high
school as a frizzy triangle head with flip-up/flip-down bangs. Moviegoers
behind me switched seats and the yearbook photog took my pic with a panoramic
lens. When I hit college, I straightened my mane with a smokin’ hot flattening
iron. I blew my book money on hair spray and scorched my forehead twice, but
hey, I love the smell of burnt hair in the morning. Now, with heightened
self-confidence and a bathroom overstuffed with hair products, this Jewish babe
swings both ways.

But which do I do on a first date? One wrong tress can send
a fine man running. Do I rip off the Band-Aid and open with big curls? Should I
ease my man into the fro? Is straight sexier? Do curls have more fun? And
what’s the deal with the babushka? Curly. Straight. Curly. Straight. No wonder
Jewish women give up and wear a sheitel.

Perhaps this hair dilemma has deeper roots. Talmudic
scholars might argue that by wearing my hair curly, I am broadcasting my Jewish
pride to the single men of the 310. The great Rabbi Abraham Paul Mitchell might
argue that by straightening my hair, I am denying my Jewish heritage. I am
turning my back on a hairstyle passed down by The Matriarchs. I say anyone who
spends 10 minutes with me knows I’m a Member of the Tribe — no matter how I
wear my hair. I also say men tend to spend more than 10 minutes with me when I
wear my hair in pigtails.

Speaking of men, Rich apologized as we waited for our table.

“The curls aren’t that bad, C, I guess I could get used to
them. I just like your hair better straight ’cause I can run my fingers through
it.”

Then he gently brushed the hair out of my face, kissed my
forehead and all was forgiven — until he broke down and offered me the Yankees
hat off his head halfway through our date. But who could fit his tiny
peanut-head cap over my gargantuan hair? Things didn’t really work out between
Rich and me. And not just because he’s a Yankees fan.

When it comes to my guy, I need a man who’s in it for the
long haul, who’s up for any hair catastrophe. If a guy’s not there for me on a
bad hair day, he won’t be there for me on a bad work day. He won’t be there for
me when I spill red wine on my wedding dress, when I lose my keys, when I burn
dinner, when the kids get the flu, when I’m 75, less flexible and my hearing
aid whistles. I need a man who’s in it for richer or poorer, for curly or for
straight, who can laugh with me through a hair disaster and any disaster.

As president of the Hair Club for Jews, I urge other Jewish
women to stand up for their locks. If you embrace your big hair, you can get
ready for a date in five minutes, you can get your hair wet at the beach, you
can live in a humid climate. And, as far my dates go, I’m taking a “love me —
love my hair” attitude. Single Jewish men shouldn’t be so quick to judge my
Jewfro, ’cause I know they carefully position their kippot to hide their bald
spots. Â


Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

Fuzz


A day before I left for a vacation cruise to Alaska, I looked in the mirror and spied, atop my clean, bald head — Hair! There wasn’t much of it, standing less than one-sixteenth of an inch tall. But when I ran my hand over my crown, I felt the delicious tickle of stubble.

"It’s back!" I cried to my friend Susan, who was lending me a gown for the cruise’s formal night. We jumped up and down the way we did in high school when the latest "he" called. I’ve been a cue ball since Day 12 of my first round of chemo. All my hair is gone, including eyebrows and lashes. The only really bad part, aside from looking like a Conehead, is the way drafts of cold air make my forehead feel glacial. In Alaska, I spent time looking for bald eagles, seeking to join their minyan.

Still, the stubble signified as nothing else could that Taxol and carboplatin were leaving my system, and four months of bravery before the IV drip were at an end.

And I had been brave — if by that you mean accepting the inevitable without flinching. Brave and grateful, for the many lucky breaks of getting cancer in the 21st century, where we at least have a fighting chance of extra time. Yet my happiness at the sight of these tiny fractions of colorless cilia revealed a sullen truth: I hate wearing my wigs. They’re beautiful, probably nicer than my real hair. But they itch. And they make me feel anxious and schizophrenic, like the Cameron Diaz character in "Shrek," conventionally lovely only until sundown.

And I’m not so happy being bald, however lovely people find the shape of my skull.

The last time I wrote about hair and the cancer patient, I quoted two Hebrew definitions of female beauty, "yofi" and "chayn."

"Yofi" was my wig, conventionally pretty, phony and safe. "Chayn," the more internal attractiveness meaning "finding favor," was my bare head, either bald or wearing the baseball cap, naked but true. As I entered the world of chemotherapy, I wondered which would it be: wig or bald. But life is not either/or; it’s more complex that that.

For now, I had turned a corner. After chemo, I wanted my self back, not just my old pre-cancer self, but the new self that had grown and changed by circumstance. How to reconstitute this self post-chemo was the spiritual dilemma.

Aviva Zornberg, writing in "The Beginning of Desire," says that the biblical Joseph’s problem in reuniting with his brothers was to "remember" himself. They had ripped up his coat of many colors and sold him into slavery, depriving him of his family and tradition. Now they had to "reassemble fragments of his repressed past."

If I am to live fully in the aftermath (and shadow) of cancer, this is my task too. I can’t deny that time and security have been ripped from me. But also, I must not let bitterness cast me into the pit of paralysis. I regarded this vacation as a test: Which of these selves — wig or bald or both — would I present on the ship?

Fast forward to the good ship Statendam on its first night heading north from Vancouver to Seward into the heart of fjord country.

I’m in the library room, wearing my wig and makeup and a new dress, before dinner. True, the wig is phony, but it has panache. Two good-looking guys are talking Israeli politics and immediately invite my opinion. Before you can say "Yasser Arafat is no friend of peace," we are all best buds.

Fast forward again, it’s after midnight. We’re walking around the Promenade deck, me and one of the two fast-talkers. By now, we’ve been talking for hours, like we’ve known each other forever. Beyond Israel, we have nothing in common except that we’re both bald. Except, of course, he doesn’t know that. And if I have my way, he never will.

It’s a big if. Post-chemo, I’m alive with sensations I haven’t known since before my diagnosis. One of them is fear: If he kisses me, will my wig fall off?

And just as I’m thinking this, bathed in starlight and the soothing hum of a ship under the moon, he makes his move.

I turn to him. I prop my elbows on his shoulders and hold onto my hair for dear life. He’s a strong guy, and now I increase my grip on my head.

He moves his hand over my cheek. He goes for my hair. My wig moves, a full half-inch.

He stops breathing. He moves my wig again, this time on purpose.

"Cancer?" he says.

What have I got to lose? I take off the wig. Will he see the mark of "chayn?"

"Very sexy," he says. "You know, your hair is growing back."