I was taking lots of pictures of me last summer. New to Facebook, I wanted to capture a fabulous image to post for all my refound friends. I thought I must look pretty good. People were always saying "you don't look that old" when I confessed to pushing 50. A young guy at work accused me of gross exaggeration when I said I grew up in the 60's. "You might have been BORN in the 60's... barely!" I liked telling him I was born in the 50's. Barely. The pictures told me my skin was still good, but that I needed to put up a better fight against the middle-aged chubbies. The something-else wrong that I was sensing became very apparent in a shot I did on a sunshiny day. It looked like I was wearing a hair hat. My red strands looked inorganic and stuck-on. I have had red hair so long that most who know me thought it was my original color. Born blonde, my shade deepened to a very unfortunate and dim brownish by the time I got to college. It was just... y'know... hair colored. So I thought, "Less red. More of what you were born with, perhaps." The golden blonde I tried was an improvement against my complexion, but drab. Mighty drab after being all crimsonlike for years. Lighter. No, LIGHTER. Okay. Trendier. No, shorter. Short was good, but the colors still looked as real as the wood veneer on my vintage 80's entertainment center. I decided to try real. The roots told me it was almost all grey, with a healthy dose of white. All the way to the whitest blonde for the transition then! That brought reactions from distended eyebrows on our Store Director, to a whispered "rock star" as one of the young turks at work blew past, to a derisive "Did'ja tell her how purty her ha'ar lucks?" to one of my team members from the store crumudgeon when they thought I wasn't in the break room. Almost forgot. "Marilyn!"
I was counting the days until I could whack the blonde ends completely off. I kept trimming it. It looked blonde up to the penultimate moment. See.. well... there's this boy I like. And I hadn't seen him for a long time. But I saw him then. "Wow. You look completely different. That's... really radical." I might have wondered if radical was good or bad but he looked immediately at the ground. Try this. Wrap your fist in rubber bands and try to open it. For twenty minutes. Yes. That is precisely how my heart felt. I contemplated shaving my head that night in a pure fury of contrariness, but visions of Store Director danced in my head.
It was almost time to buzz the ends off. I looked for reassurance amongst celebrities. Don't. Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez and Helen Mirren are all you get. All fabulous of course, but Emmylou is 12 years older than me and she's the youngest. Perhaps real women. In all of the "Tops in Lexington" issue that I perused, there was one woman with white hair. Octogeneric. I watched our customers. Lots of roots, but it looked like all the gals used color. Fifty is the new thirty and all that jazz. Not men so much, but it was unsettling to realize that most women color their hair, even when it isn't grey. It's just good grooming in America. But I was looking hard at those women and starting to feel about hair color the way I feel about makeup. I use a little mascara so no one asks me if I'm ill, but I think I can sell t-shirts and sox without all the rest of that mess. Face-art is for the stage and does not make me a worthier human being. Besides it couldn't possibly be fooling anyone. My hair couldn't possibly be fooling anyone. Silly me.
When I finally could stand it no longer, I set the hair trimmer to 3/4 inch and zoomed my entire head. Thrilled. Overwhelmed. Giddy. Proud. I theatrically staged the photo you see below using red to accent the silver and an overhead angle to obscure the fullness of jowl to which I am not so easily reconciled and posted it on Facebook. My vocal friends were overwhelmingly enthusiastic, save two. "I liked you as a redhead." "Where is my redheaded friend Marie?" Others were not vocal. I loved loved loved it and felt powerful and believe it or not, younger. Younger because I was free of pathetic attempts to look young. Unshackled. Wild.
Now I have lived with it for about three months.
From regularly being guessed at 10 to 15 years younger than my now fully 50 years, it is now 5 to 15 added years. Do people not see anything but your hair??? Last week a college student part-timer at the store asked me to help him by being interviewed for a paper about drivers over 65. Why should they be allowed to drive? (Well, sonny... why should you be allowed to drive? You're not very freakin' observant.) Men of all ages rush to lift things for me. Open doors. I get the most polite "Thank you, Ma'am's" a body ever heard.
It's the fault of all those other women. There are few realistic barometers out there to measure me by. Grey hair = frailty. As if you must be unable to lift your arms to apply the Colorific lotion... for why else?
I still like it. I think it suits me. There are days when I am startled at the reflection in the mirror, particularly in the morning when I look a bit like Christopher Walken did in Sleepy Hollow. I have played with the notion of letting it grow long like Emmylou, but I think glamour lies in confidence, not the length of your hair. And sparkly well cut clothes. Speaking of clothes, I have had to weed out my wardrobe. My beloved acid greens... no no. Browns... few. But orange is back. I missed orange. For the time being it makes me feel good and honest and I'm keeping it.
That boy I like is just a couple of years younger than me and doesn't have a grey hair on his head. Could he be coloring?