"Two people have already asked me if your eyebrows are pretend" says Lashes staring intensely into my eyes, winding his sharp and pointy limbs around me in a suffocating embrace whilst sticking one finger up my nose. It's repulsively early and we are sharing the spare bed. It is a 'treat' for Lashes who has been asking for months if he can sleep with me. Paging Dr Freud? The CFO is extremely disapproving. To his satisfaction it turns out to be an excruciating night, at least for me. Lashes, surprisingly for one so sanguine when awake, sleeps with all the stillness of an epileptic gibbon and spends the night heaving himself around on top of me, throwing out limbs and clicking his tongue like a dolphin. Also, the spare bed is apparently made out of rock. I am feeling a little delicate this morning, like someone has been rubbing my face and most particularly my eyeballs vigorously with wire wool. I have not have the lie in I was hoping the blackout blinds would give me.
"Really?" I say, surprised and a little wounded. I think my eyebrows look fairly natural. Well, for tattoos. At least enough to fool six year olds with presumably little cosmetic expertise or interest? Surely? Time to call Sophie for a top up. I shift over so he isn't crushing my chest completely with his elbows. "Did you tell them about my hair by any chance?"
Lashes looks shifty. "Yes, but I told them it was a secret and not to tell anyone".
I shouldn't be surprised. Last year I overheard a conversation between him and a gang of his fellow reprobates outside school.
"I have 2 papas" says one of them.
"I have a new puppy" says another.
"My brother has a [Nintendo] DS!"
"My maman can take her hair off!" says Lashes, trumping them all.
Most of the time I don't really mind about being bald. I like the fact that Lashes thinks it gives him some kind of gross out kudos at school. My fake hair is nicer than my real hair ever was. I absolutely hate having no eyelashes - it makes me look like a mournful pink eyed mouse - but I think my fakey eyebrows look ok even if Patrick and Alexandro don't. I do, though, occasionally catch myself thinking 'what, forever?' Especially after a night where I have my recurrent dream about my hair growing back, enough for a cute gamine fluffy crop, like post-chemo Kylie. I can't remember what it feels like to have real hair anymore. It's been 12 years since it started falling out, covering the whole of the floor of the CFO's Normandy bedroom one summer, like a whole freakish carpet of hair. For a while it felt like the end of the world. Now, I can barely pinpoint the moment I stopped thinking it would, or might, or could conceivably grow back, but I think I have, finally, realised it won't. It's just alopecia, which is probably the best way you can go bald. My brother's hair is now growing back really well after his radio and chemo, and god knows, there's nothing to envy there.
I don't mind who knows, really but I don't want everyone to see my bare head, like Gail Porter. It feels too exposed, too naked. I couldn't cope with the staring. I tried for a while but it was like not merely going out without clothes, but going out without my skin on. On top of that, people would give me meaningful, sympathetic looks that made me feel like a fraud. Once, in the changing rooms at The Sanctuary, a girl came up to me, shook me gently by the shoulders and said "Keep fighting it, yeah?". I don't think she just meant hair loss.
I don't particularly want to be the freakish parent everyone runs away from, but hey, at least Lashes is still proud of me and my amazing removeable hair. It won't last. I remember weeping with humiliation everytime my mum came to pick me up wearing her cycling cape. "They all say you look like a witch!" I would wail. For now, at least, my son rates me as one of his most favourite people, with or without hair. It's brief, and precious.
"You are a bad bugger Lashes" I say "Now take that giant plastic grasshopper out of my ear" .