Fu her first 65 years, Marsha CoupÃ© had black hair. She wore it in a blunt page boy style, with red lipstick. She was attached to her look, she said. Six weeks ago, she had a # 1 shave. Next, she looked at the living room floor in her hometown of Davis, California. Seeing the scattered black strands, she brought her hands to her head. âI couldn’t believe how good it was. Like a baby’s head, âshe said, rubbing her scalp as she spoke. “Almost like you’re a newborn baby.”
CoupÃ©’s daughter, Antoinette, 48, suggested the cut. âShe said, ‘Mom, hair is an accessory. Women are making too big a deal. Every woman should shave her head at least once, âsays CoupÃ©.
At first, she didn’t agree. âI said, ‘Not all women are pretty with a shaved head. I have a very flat head behind my back. And she said, ‘No, mom. It’s not about how you see with a shaved head. what it is about come to you when you shave your head.
Antoinette knew this from experience. She shaved her head when she had a brain tumor removed three years ago. She has since done it again, by choice, but she has mitochondrial disease and cannot dye her hair silver. The fact that CoupÃ© continued to color hers made them both uncomfortable.
âWe had a great conversation,â says CoupÃ©. “I make fun of people who have [cosmetic] surgery. I like to have an inhabited face. And my daughter said, ‘Oh yeah, as long as you don’t have silver hair!’
âShe called me on how contradictory it is. On the one hand, I want to have the face that shows my life; on the other, I have the most dishonest hair you can imagine. Black hair and black at 65 years old. And that was a valid point.
CoupÃ© hated the idea of ââgrowing her color, so Antoinette circled a date for her mom’s shave on the calendar.
The two women already saw this phase of life as “the moulting season”. âI think it started with my return to the United States in 2019,â explains CoupÃ©, a website designer. Born and raised in the United States, she had moved to Kent, England 16 years earlier to join her third husband, Richard, whom she calls her “big, big, big love”. She was still mourning Richard’s death from cancer when news of Antoinette’s illness arrived.
She sold her house and her belongings. âI have come back with 13 suitcases in my entire life. Watching someone you love die is the most humbling experience. And then watching someone you love struggleâ¦ that’s OK. That’s life. It’s sinking, isn’t it? she said through tears.
The pandemic has accentuated the losses – and the gains. “It’s about getting rid of the way we used to live and adapting what we have now, which is in some ways a much smaller life, but in other ways a much richer life,” says CoupÃ©. She and Antoinette live barely a mile from each other and “have tried to create the outer life inside” between their homes.
CoupÃ© was a young mother – Antoinette was born at the age of 17. âWhen you’re so young you’re really, really interdependent,â she says. She adored combing Antoinette’s hair; shaving your head was to be not only a fraternal act, but also a maternal one. The new style helped her “feel more free emotionally and mentally”. She plans to keep it short.
âWe are living in scary times,â she said. But she hopes “to become more fearless with age.” I would like to help people not to be afraid. To this end, she is working on âa really fun activity book on deathâ. She got the idea when Richard was sick.
âI look at my life like I have maybe five, ten years left,â she says. It seems surprising. She’s not sick. But death has always felt close at hand, a legacy of growing up “with hell, fire and damnation exposed from the pulpit.”
âI don’t want to live like a very old person. I would like to encourage the people I know and love to go for whatever they desire the most – to be brave in life.