Living the Good Life 11-1-10
“I like your new haircut,” my adopted niece, Erica, said shortly after fetching me at the airport. “Looks a whole lot better than the one you had last year.”
“Yes, it’s finally growing out again,” I told her, adding with a sigh, “now, if only I could lose the grays.”
“Eh, you still look good … for an old lady.” She grinned at me mischievously as she started her car, but for a moment I could only stare before responding. Now in her 30s – wearing round, silver earrings, lip gloss, and a retro-’70s style shirt – Erica looked almost exactly like her mother, Mindy, once had. When I told her that, she giggled, “Weird, huh?” … but she didn’t know the half of it.
Mindy, Debbie, Missy, Leigh and Chrissy, my best friends since grade school, and I are each turning 50 this year. All of us have changed dramatically over time. Attempting to camouflage the extra weight, for example, Leigh has switched to loose-fitting (but elegant) summer dresses; I wear baggy pants; and Missy lives in sweat shirts. The grays, however, have been nearly impossible to camouflage. We joked about it last month during my yearly visit home, this time while soaking up the sunshine on Mindy’s spacious, farmhouse porch.
“Lookee here, Carolinee,” she beckoned with one hand while lifting up her bangs with the other. Her scalp line was completely white. Pointing to it, Mindy chortled, “Think I need to get my roots redone?”
“I don’t know why we bother,” Chrissy interrupted dryly. As with Mindy, her own hair – updated to a coppery red – had once been nearly black. “You know we can’t escape this.” She squinted at me, tipping her chin up. “Yours doesn’t look too bad yet. Wassup?”
“Tweezers,” I admitted, making a chopping motion in the air with two fingers. “I pluck ’em. That, plus I had Erica yank a couple in her bathroom this morning before we came here.”
Erica, sitting on the porch swing, rolled her eyes. “We looked like monkeys.”
Missy leaned over and pointed towards her own scalp, which had been thinning since college. “I don’t have much to mess with these days,” she said. “But I DO pluck …” she ran an index finger across her upper lip and puckered … “here!”
“You have a moustache?” I asked incredulously.
“Ha!” She lifted her glass of tea up in a mock salute. “I always have, you dweeb. I’ve been yanking and bleaching for years!”
“You’d better stop plucking,” Mindy warned, turning her attention back to me. “You’re gonna end up going bald someday.”
I shrugged. “It’s OK as long as I don’t see them, but when I do … yuk … they gotta go.” Seriously, it’s almost become an obsession.
The first time that I’d really noticed how gray I was getting was right after we’d bought a car with a sunroof. While at a stop sign, I’d reached over to adjust the mirror and nearly shrieked out loud: the sun beams on my head had lit up a virtual SEA of silver threads. Frantically, I’d pulled over and started yanking until they’d practically littered the passenger seat and floor. It didn’t work, though.
A few months later, standing under the florescent bulbs of a public waiting room I’d spotted dozens more. I’d called over to the friend who was with me, “Hey, Linda, check this out!”
“What?” She’d looked over my shoulder.
In mock irritation, I’d pointed. “Have you ever noticed how entire, new patches of gray will show up depending on what you’re standing under?” Laughter from other women filled the air; apparently, I’d stated out loud what each of them already knew.
“Oh, yes,” Linda nodded. “Don’t you just hate those little rascals?” We smiled at each other’s reflections, and when we did, the skin underneath our eyes had crinkled. I thought she looked beautiful.
My childhood buddies sat smiling back at me, also, on that October afternoon as we joked with each other. Once again, as always happens when we reunite, I felt a delicious sense of dejà vu as the years melted away and we became 12, or 14 or 18 again … that is, until Erica stood up and passed behind me on her way into the house.
“Hold still,” she commanded, and I raised my eyebrows at her mother. There was a brief, sharp tug before she leaned around me. “That was a long one,” she said, dangling a few strands of my hair. “Oops, I got a brown one with it that time.”
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