Saturday, 21 September 2013

A Hairy Tale

I have a multitude of shortcomings, but I’m proud that vanity is not high on the list (pride, however, is another thing.) I’m okay with my average looks, and I’m not big on fashion or make-up. If I’m a little bit vain about anything, it just might be my hair.

An early photo of me shows a child with a thick mop of blonde curls. In high school and college, when everyone was wearing smooth page-boy hairstyles or letting it hang long and straight down their backs, I hated my hair. I wanted to look like everyone else. But now I realize how lucky I am to have thick curly hair that needs a minimum of attention.

But what to do now that I’m a woman of a “certain age” whose crowning glory is fading and non-descript in colour? Fortunately, some genius invented hair dye. There’s a school of thought that says that dye jobs are the worst of age-ism and sex-ism combined and we should all go au naturel (when it comes to hair, only, of course.) Be proud of those gray hairs – you’ve earned them, they say. But au naturel for me is grizzled gray and drab brown, and those are not my colours. I don't wear them, and I don't use them in my quilts, so why should I have them on my head? I don’t mind flaunting my age, but not the depressing colours. A dye job 3-4 times a year is cheaper than therapy.

Self-portrait at 60. Really, would you want to go out in public with hair like that?
The resident sweetie, on the other hand, has no relationship with his hair. It used to be thick and curly and a lovely shade of brown. Now it’s thin and gray, but I don’t think he gives it a thought. In fact, he ignores his hair, except for giving it a good brushing every morning. When it grows long and scruffy, and sticks out in wings over his ears, the battle begins. “Time for a haircut,” I say cheerfully. He ignores me. “So which day did you say you were you going for a haircut?” I ask slyly. He glares at me and says nothing. I pull his hair back and tell him just a few more weeks of growth and he can wear a pony tail. He shakes me off with a grunt. For several weeks the stand-off continues. Then one day, he’ll come home from the barber with his ears lowered, and we’ll live in peace for another few months.

Last week we were at the apex of the hair issue. We’ll be visiting family during a holiday out east. Hair care was on the to-do list for both of us. I began reminding him early, and he ignored me early and late. But finally, one day, he came home from errands sporting a haircut. Enough time had elapsed since the last one that a full half inch of white neck was showing above the tan. But why quibble about details? He looked good, and I was chagrined, because for once, he’d beaten me to the draw. The grizzled me had emerged several weeks earlier, and I’d waited too long to hide it.

The next day I got to work. I mixed up the stuff, but when I applied it, the goop looked purple instead of the usual reddish orange. Apparently, I’d bought a different colour from my usual Mid Brown #865. Oh well, how bad could it be? When the job was done, I brushed the wet hair so it could air dry while I went about my daily work. Half an hour later, I walked past a mirror and did a double take. Who was that woman with the black wig? She looked like an old lady with a bad paint job. Surely that couldn’t be me? It was, and it was bad. The resident sweetie gasped and  raised his eyebrows in horror. It was very bad.

What’s that they say about pride? Something about it going before a fall? Yup.

Later that day, when I went for my haircut, my hairdresser told me it looks great – it really makes my eyes look bluer. (This woman deserves her tip, that’s for sure.) She suggests I tell Al he’s a lucky guy and he should take his new woman out to supper. I think that’s the line we’ll go with till the colour fades: he’s got himself a new woman.

Years from now, after we’re gone, when the grandchildren are sorting through the old photos, they’ll come across shots of us traipsing around the Maritimes, my neatly coifed sweetie with his new woman. They’ll be mystified. “Who’s that woman with Opa? That’s not Oma, is it? But it must be. She looks like she’s wearing a wig.”

And we're off on our grand adventure, the old guy and his new woman.

PS Since writing this, I’ve “come out” in public. Last Sunday, a friend sitting behind us at church tapped me on the shoulder and, with his eyebrows raised in admiration, commented, “Foxy!” Our son says I must be channelling my inner old crow. Hmm. Not so bad after all? Maybe Ash Brown #860 will be my new colour.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad I "found" you! I love your writing - gifted, humble, insightful, and filled with humour.

    Was delighted to read that you, too, love Anne Lamott.

    It looks like we may have missed each other here in the Maritimes, and I'm sorry. Henk and I moved to Halifax last year, after 38 years in Edmonton. (I now understand why you and Al moved away after 33 years in Edmonton. :-) Sometimes it's just time.)

    You mention "serendipity". That brought to mind another word which can't be defined, only it's a Dutch word - "gezellig".

    BTW, my hair used to be poker straight, and now, at this time of my life, it's turned curly!

    Blessings to you and Al, and your loved ones.