Monday, December 17, 2012

Confessions of an Aging Writer (re-post from Feb/12)

Please do not think less of me. I lie. No, not about everything. My age mostly. I have always lied about my age. Way back when, it was such a kick the way I looked older. That was so cool. Little did I know that after I turned thirty, looking older than my age was not so cool.
Dressed to go out−makeup applied and hair freshly shampooed−I am convinced I don’t look too bad. Then again, I am getting very near sighted. If not for the extendable magnifying mirror, applying my makeup would prove challenging. On the positive side, my ever-multiplying age spots would not be as noticeable.

Since this is a confession, I might as well be brutally honest. Glancing in the mirror can still catch me off guard. Pausing to study my reflection, I pull back the loose skin on my face. I pull tighter until my jowls disappear. That makes my eyes look slightly misshapen but my face looks more like the face I remember.
It is the weight gain, of course. It is easier to believe that gaining weight in middle age is inevitable than it is to trek to the gym each morning. We should be comfortable in our own skin. I just never realized that I would have this much skin. Like Bette Davis said, Getting old ain’t for sissies.

A blonde since my teens, I had this crazy urge to discover the true colour of my hair. My friends were horrified at the very thought. As I explained to them, it takes a lot of energy to be a perky blonde. It was the conception for years that blondes have more fun. Well, I wasn’t sure if I needed all that fun anymore.
My stylist, unable to change my mind, hacked off my hair to a spiky length to ease the transition. To my surprise and delight, my hair grew in TOTALLY GREY. Everyone was shocked. I liked it! No one else liked it. Not my friends. Not my co-workers. Not my husband. I asked my son if he liked my new colour. He looked at my hair before saying, Why? Did you change it? So much for that.

Many months later, my husband still had not accepted the grey. I could tell. I went to a new hairdresser. My trusted regular had moved out west. I asked for a few dark streaks for interest sake through my grey. The grey hair that I loved. She nodded her head as if she understood what I wanted. She didn’t have a ##$% clue.
She unveiled my new do. I would have shrieked in horror had my throat not been paralyzed with shock. I could not even cry. My face in the mirror paled and then became red and blotchy. With shaking hands I pulled my debit card from my wallet.

The car made the trip home on autopilot. My husband and son stopped talking when I walked through the room. They looked at me. I know they looked. With instinctive self-preservation they did not speak. My expression alone stifled their comments.
Streaks? What streaks? The near black hair was too awful for words. I could not get rid of the colour. Even washing my hair three times a day did not reveal a trace of grey.

Let me tell you the worst of the situation. I had lectured every woman within earshot that grey hair was natural and beautiful, and women should not obsess over a younger image. It was far better to age gracefully with shining silver hair. We were middle-aged women, after all.
Naturally, horror stricken with my dyed hair, I could not look anyone in the eye. I felt like a traitor. I had actually influenced some of the women to go au naturel. How could I face them?

I wore hats and scarves each time I left the house. I apologized for my look to absolute strangers; cashiers at the grocery store, the receptionist at the vet’s office. I was utterly traumatized. Only another woman would understand my anguish.
Returning to the hair salon, I demanded my grey hair back. The stylists stood around my chair looking from one to the other. They told me there was nothing they could do. They pooh-poohed my contention that it would take years to get rid of the colour. Having finally settled into a longer hairstyle that I loved, chopping my hair short again was not an option.

Finally, after months of trimming (at a new hair shop), exposing my dark locks to the sun, and daily shampooing, what remained were streaks of different colours−with grey roots.
My new hairdresser, Giulia, understood my nightmare with the almost-black hair. She suggested lowlights. The results were pleasing. I finally had the subtle streaks of interest through my hair that I had requested back on that devastating day. This time everyone loved the new look!

Perhaps I look a bit younger now. I know I feel younger. I continue to lie about my age. Only this time I add a few years. They gasp and squeeze my arm before gushing, “You look marvellous, dear.”

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