Category Archives: Aging

Grounded!

Pilot Mountain in North Carolina

Pilot Mountain in North Carolina

I have a hallux abducto valgus deformity – in laymen’s terms, a bunion, and, no, it’s not because I wore pointy-toed shoes when I was young and am now reaping the utterly predictable and deserved whirlwind of my overweening vanity.    Bad feet run in my family. My father gave me many wonderful gifts; his feet were not among them.  The deformation happened overnight. Literally. One night, my right big toe seized with a spasm registering around a 9.5 on the Richter scale of toe woes and the next morning I woke up with a bony protuberance reminiscent of Pilot Mountain hanging off the left side of my right foot.  We refer to it as ‘my knob.’

My father has a bunion on both feet set off by a matching pair of hammer toes.  His feet are square, as in ‘Bob Square Pants’ square.  When describing them to me, my brother Mike said, “They are like two boxes.”  Dad also has toenail fungus.  It happens; he’s 92. Once one of the girls dropped an earring back on the floor and it rolled under my father’s feet.  I had to retrieve it.  Not a task for the faint of heart.

My mother had foot woes too.  Towards the end of her life, she could only wear Birkenstocks, thereby proving those Republicans who characterize Democrats as latte-sipping, Birkenstock wearing, Volvo driving elitists right in two out of three respects.  She never cared much for lattes.

Ken and me at the 2003 CanAm DanceSport Competition -- Best Newcomer Couple

Ken and me at the 2003 CanAm DanceSport Competition — Best Newcomer Couple

My husband and I were ballroom dancers back in the day.  In fact, in 2003 we won Best Newcomer Couple at the CanAm DanceSport Competition in Toronto.  Then my knob reared its ugly head.  As it turns out, it’s hard to dance in orthopedic shoes.   Not to mention the fact that it wreaks havoc with your balance.  Someone once said of Fred Astaire, “Sure he was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels!”  But did she do it backwards, in high heels, with a bunion?  I think not.  We stopped dancing and, generally speaking, I’m fine with it, just so long as I don’t have to watch dance competitions or dance shows on TV.  Those leave me vaguely melancholy and embittered; I want to curse my knob and that is no good.  For better or worse, my hallux abducto valgus deformity is a part of me. You can only stay mad at your own feet for so long.

What my foot looked like

What my foot looked like

My toenails have issues too, though not of the fungal variety.  When I was at University, I ripped the entire nail off on my right big toe by pulling a door that read, “Push.”  I don’t take direction well.    I was exiting my doctor’s office at the time, so medical assistance was onsite.  I exited the diabolical door a second time with a very large bandage encompassing my entire foot.  The next day I tried out for a part in the chorus of the Music Department’s annual musical, Fiddler on the Roof, wearing a pair of hot pants and sporting my wholly swaddled foot.  As I have never been able to sing, I was relying entirely on my dancing chops.  This was perhaps an overreach. I didn’t get a call back.

Ever since my encounter with the doctor’s door and at intervals of every couple of years the toenail on my right big toe turns a ghastly bluish black and starts to lift from the nail bed.  It lingers there for upwards of a month, horrifying pedicurists and spa visitors alike.  Then it falls off, leaving a perfectly normal nail in its place.  I’m not sure why this happens.  Perhaps my right toe is where all the toxins in my body pool and my toenail bed is the portal through which they drain; perhaps it acts as  Hell Mouth for my personal demons.

Not to be outdone, my left big toe has recently taken to spontaneous bruising — like spontaneous combustion only with blood. It does this for no apparent reason.  I’m just standing there doing nothing whatsoever and suddenly I feel a twinge, look down and it’s  black and blue.  Now and then the stars align and I get both a black right toenail and a black left toe simultaneously.  This happened to coincide with my last physical.  I’m sitting there on the edge of an examination table, draped in something made out of paper towels, staring at my feet and thinking, “WTF?”

Our dancing career having foundered on the rock of my knob, my husband and I joined Tru Hot Yoga in St. Thomas, Ontario. It’s a good thing yoga is not competitive because, as matters stand, I can’t.  At least not on one foot.   The arthritis in my right toe has given rise to peripheral neuropathy, a fancy way of saying that my right foot feels like a bean bag filled with pins and needles. As for my mutinous left foot, while it has yet to sprout its own bunion, it’s clearly got one in the oven, and, by way of preparing me for that eventuality, refuses let me balance on it either.

So not only no dancer, no dancer’s pose.    I’m well and truly grounded.  By my feet. My father’s feet.

Just me flying solo in my head

Orangutan_thinking_(var_2)I am introspective, undoubtedly to a fault.  It’s hard not to be where there are so very many interesting things to think about.  For example (some of my favorites):

  • Life and Death;
  • How much things have changed just within my lifetime, especially in the South;
  • The specifics of whatever new leaf I’m planning to turn over next;
  • How I would renovate my ex’s house, beginning with gutting it;
  • This blog;
  • Whether writing a blog is just an excuse not to write fiction, with which I have become disillusioned;
  • Whatever piece fiction I happen to be writing at the moment;
  • Retorts that I never delivered but, in a perfect world, would have to the utter devastation of my interlocutor.

I think a lot about my mother, who passed away eight years ago and is a stronger and stronger presence in my life with each passing day, insinuating herself into my very fabric.  I think about my father, who sits peaceably in Death’s vestibule, quietly contemplating eternity.   He will go gentle into that good night, I think, and, at his great age, that seems right and proper.  Sometimes I interview myself as though I were famous.   And, of course, I never say no to a really good revenge fantasy.  Why would you when revenge is so sweet and we none of us ever get quite enough?

All of this going on between my own two ears,   served up to me by my own little brain!  The truth is I find myself endlessly entertaining.   No wonder I tend to resent it when unsuspecting manicurists, massage therapists, cab drivers and chatty people who sit down next to me on a bus, train or plane decide they would be doing me a favor by engaging me in conversation.

I frequent Vietnamese nail salons because they are cheap, fast and just fine.    What I don’t want, uncharitable recluse that I am, is to help the manicurist practice her English. I know this is harsh, but I don’t want to tell her how many children I have and how old they are and where they live, even if she has kicked off the session by telling me that I have “beautiful skin.” I don’t; they just say that to lure you in.

I also don’t want to talk to my masseuse. I don’t want to talk about the London Knights or the weather or her recent trip to Cancun or her cat. Also, let’s face it, she’s rubbing me more or less all over and, underneath that blanket, I’m a naked sixty-one year old woman.  It’s kind of the elephant in the room.  Can’t we both pretend we’re not there?

And what about cab drivers?  It might be boring, driving a cab year in year out.  Is that my fault?  Why am I supposed to entertain them?  Recently I took a cab from a Vancouver hotel to the airport. It was six in the morning — pitch black. I faced a long day of travel ahead, and had just the night before had dinner with a friend whom I had not seen for thirty six years, which thoroughly discombobulated me.  Nothing like rounding a corner and confronting yourself at the age of 23 when you are, in fact, somehow suddenly four decades older. Where had all those years gone?  How much we had changed and how much we hadn’t!   What different paths our lives had taken!   Lots to chew over, you’ll agree, but my cab driver, having pried out of me the fact that I work for Organized Real Estate, wanted to discuss rising house prices.   To make matters worse, the roads were in poor repair, making the trip a particularly noisy one as we bounced and clattered from pothole to pothole and I struggled to respond appropriately when I really had no clue . . . and zero interest in what he had just said.  When I could have been processing!

Once I took a lengthy bus trip beside a man who was visiting all the battlefields of the Civil War.  Open on his lap was a coffee-table book on the same subject.  I soon discerned that the only way he would stop telling me about Gettysburg and Antietam was if I pretended to be asleep.  So I did. For eight hours.

A far more successful trip was the one I took as a graduate student across Canada on the train.   Despite weighing a waifish 110 pounds and looking a whole lot like the girl next door who used to babysit your kids,   I managed to radiate such a powerful animus that, in three whole days and nights, nobody, absolutely nobody tried to sit down beside me.      I knit an entire sweater on that trip and read the whole of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, start to finish. And when I wasn’t knitting or reading, I leaned my cheek against the vibrating window of the train, closed my eyes, drooled a little and thought.  Bliss.  Pure bliss. Just me flying solo in my head.

The Presidents Project

constitutionMy father, Bill Hardy, moved into a nursing home this year.   His mind continues sharp, but his body has long passed its Best Before date; he is frail and his infirmity envelops him in a sound-dampening blur that it is sometimes difficult to penetrate . . . but always worth the effort. He has things to say.

We had hoped for a private room for him, but have had to make do with a shared space. Fortunately his roommate – a shadowy figure named Pete – leaves first thing in the morning to return at lights out.  No one knows where he goes.  Well, I suppose someone knows where he goes, but we prefer to keep his peregrinations cloaked in mystery.  The only words Dad says to him are, “Goodnight, Pete!”

Pete has yet to reply.

Remembering the big house on Tenney Circle, it’s hard to imagine Dad in such a small space, but the truth is he takes up very little room these days.   When I call him, he always says, “It’s very quiet here.” We both lament the political morass in Washington and, increasingly, in Raleigh, declaring that, “It’s just not fun anymore!”  Then he goes on to tell me about the audio book  that he, a seven-time novelist, is currently listening to.  Increasingly, it’s history.  “I find myself drawn more and more to history these days,” he told me last week. “I suspect you understand that.”

I have always been a history bluff.  I was one history course short of a double major in History and English at UNC and did my graduate work in Early Church History at the University of Toronto.  What I never found very interesting, however, was American History.

The Tea Party changed all that.  I found their constant harping on the Founding Fathers and the almighty Constitution particularly noisome because I was in no position to argue with them.  Everything I knew about the beginning of our country, I learned in public school, which I can reproduce for you here:   “Bunker Hill. Paul Revere. Lexington and Concord.  At some point the Delaware gets crossed. God knows why. Fast forward to the Liberty Bell and the next thing you know, the British are burning the White House. No, wait. That was later.”      It irked me that I could not counter the doubtless specious arguments of these know-nothings and when I am irked, I take action. Book action.

Enter, The Presidents Project.  A year ago I committed myself to reading (or, to be more accurate) listening to someone else read a biography of each American President in sequence. (I retain information better if I can knit, drink and listen simultaneously.  It’s a learning style.)  Thus far, I have made it through James K. Polk, who, I have to say,  was as mind-numbingly dull as his one term presidency was momentous (the acquisition of the American Southwest and the Oregon territory – hello!).  ( In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must confess that there were some Presidents who were such clunkers that, out of  Audible.com’s over 150,000 audiobooks, they don’t rate a book — I’m talking about you, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler.)

Nevertheless, eleven (more or less) down, thirty three to go! I’m stoked!

This is the thing about history.

When we are young, we loom large on the stage of life.  Or at least that’s how we perceive it.  Our personal dramas preoccupy us.  Everything  matters.  As we grow older, it is the stage that grows large and we who grow small. My father sits in his chair in his half of a small room in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, cocooned in frailty, and contemplates this.  I sit on my bed in Port Stanley, Ontario cocooned with dogs – his and mine — and do the same.  We are both, at our different rates, fading away, growing smaller, gazing back to where we have been —  as Hardys, as North Carolinians, as Americans  — and asking ourselves, “What was that, really?” and “Is that how that happened? I never knew.”

The Founding Fathers, though possessed of a kind of collective genius, were flawed men, motivated by self-interest to set up society in ways that would best serve them.  Nor did they consider the Constitution tantamount to the Ten Commandments, that is to say, set in stone by the power carver finger of God. Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of viewing the Constitution as a living document. Among the many statements he made to this effect was this in 1825 in a letter to Edward Livingston, “Time and changes in the condition and constitution of society may require occasional and corresponding modifications.”   Yeah, like when ‘arms’ stopped meaning ‘muskets’ and started meaning ‘assault weapons’ and when ‘people’ stopped meaning ‘white male landowners’ and started meaning ‘everybody’.

The fact is, if you are a middle class North American, now might not be so great, but then really sucked.  Do you really want to churn your own butter and die in childbirth? I’d bet you anything that George Washington would have preferred modern dentures over those made with slave teeth. And what about outhouses?  Outhouses alone would be a deal breaker for me.  So why, Tea Baggers, why do you want to go back?

Because you’ve confused the Founding Fathers with the twelve disciples of Christ, and the Constitution with the Bible, and the early days of the country with the early days of the church . . . which  is particularly ironic since Jesus’s posse was no less flawed than the Founding Fathers, the Bible was written over a millennium by multiple authors, and the early days of the Christian Church were far from halcyon.  Never mind outhouses.  Try being a human torch to light one of Nero’s games or a fresh snack for his lions.   And you believe this  because you don’t know history.  Trust me,  if you did, it would scare the Jesus out of you, much less the be-Jesus.

So, yes, Dad, it’s very quiet here.  And, yes, Mom, there are a whole lot of stupid people out there doing big things.

Grey as a Badger

My eyebrows were not the first thing to go, but, thus far, they are proving the most intractable. badger

I’ve never given much thought to my eyebrows.  I did not have a uni-brow, just two furry caterpillars that responded relatively readily to plucking.  When an influx of Vietnamese into North America  made aesthetics  affordable to the middle class, I discovered the joys of eyebrow waxing – could this have been one of the unintended consequences of the Vietnam War,  the sudden profusion of inexpensive nail salons?   If so, hooray! At least one good thing resulted from that debacle.

I worried about other things: my BMI, my amazing disappearing waist, crusty bits and nurdles. One morning I looked in one of those “up close and personal” mirrors that old vain people should really try and avoid and saw that the skin under my eyebrows had plopped itself right down on my eyelashes — no eyelid visible, just two tiny eyes peering fearfully from under overhanging cave mouths of skin.  I couldn’t believe it.  I‘ve been bitten by something, I thought. Maybe a spider.   Best go to the pharmacy and get something to reduce the swelling.  Then I realized: OMG.   This is why people get eyelid surgery — this right here!

Then my eyebrows began to turn grey – really grey.  As grey – and this is how my mother would have put it – as a badger.  I’ve never really petted a badger; I’m not sure that’s advisable.  But I imagine that my eyebrow hair is not only the color of a badger, but its texture as well – vigorous, wiry hair that stands up and out and wants to go one way when you want it to go the other way – in short, bad hair to have on your face.

The thing about grey eyebrows is not so much that they are grey as that they tend to disappear into your face – such eyebrows are not so much a feature as a smudge.  An aesthetician who specialized in permanent makeup once told me about a client of hers who had been born without eyebrows.    “When I tattooed her a set, she was so grateful she cried,” she told me.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I understand.

At first I tried having my eyebrows tinted at my favorite  nail salon.  This was not too expensive, nor should it have been, since the best thing I can say about the results is that I looked very  surprised.

Then I had it done at a pricier spa.  As opposed to painting two half moons over my eyes, as had been the case at the nail salon, the aesthetician labored over my brows with artisanal concentration and fervor.  It was expensive and the effect was subtle. By which I mean that in about three days my inner badger had reasserted itself and I was all bristly again.

In Episode 464 of This American Life, Invisible Made Visible, the late, fabulous David Rakoff says of life, “You go along the road as time and the elements lay waste to your luggage, scattering the contents into the bushes. Until there you are, standing with a battered and empty suitcase that frankly, no one wants to look at anymore.” (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/464/transcript).

I am vain, but I’m also a feminist – albeit a highly flawed one.  I’m also a realist.  I’m not going to have eye surgery and, as for my eyebrows, I’m going to release these badgers into the wild  and be done with it.

Tagged

Clinging to the Wreckage

It’s been several years since I’ve updated this blog.  Now I am old and Clinging to the Wreckage seems a vastly more appropriate title for my increasingly doddery musings.   Alas the prospect of figuring out how to develop a new blog with a different name  — the plethora of themes and widgets, etc. — has so confounded me that, rather than retreat in complete disarray, I’m just going to just forge on.  The thing is:  I have a new novel to promote and, as my past several publications have driven home to me, the darn things don’t promote themselves.  O, for the halcyon days when publishers handled all the marketing and authors just had to show up and not be too drunk!  Those days, it would seem, are kaput. No basking in glory for me.  I must not only bake the bread and churn the butter, I must also sing for my supper.

Which is unfortunate because I am so bad at it.

I am not shy, but I have always been a bit awkward — an elbow of a person.  I am not good at schmoozing.  I can’t work a room.  I fail to network even when cornered.  I even managed to screwed up my LinkedIn account so badly that I can’t access it, forcing me to ignore myriad invitations, which, in turn, makes me look very unfriendly to all the nice people who, for some unknown reason, want to say they know me.  Or know of me.  Half the names I don’t recognize.  But don’t get me wrong.  I like people. I really do.  Just not too many and not all at once and not all the time.  And I’m nice, just in a reclusive sort of way.

And then there’s sixty one years of cultural conditioning to deal with: Don’t call attention to yourself!  Don’t put yourself forward! Don’t blow your own horn!  

Sigh.

So, here it is. My new novel, Surface Rights, published by Dundurn Press, will be available just in time for Christmas 2013!  Why not buy one for yourself and that favorite aunt of yours and anyone else you can think of?

Middle-aged Verna Macoun Woodcock returns to the family cottage for the first time in thirty-eight years to scatter the ashes of her husband, father and twin sister.  At first she is alone except for her dad’s dog, the lake, bitter memories and a barely hidden drinking problem.  But soon Verna is forced to open up her tightly shut world to others: strong-willed handywoman Winonah, the neglected children of her sister, each lost and broken in their own way, even the ghost of Winonah’s dead brother Lionel, who can’t seem to make it to the Sky World.

Just as Verna is starting to accept this newfound family, she discovers a mysterious and menacing prospector who posts a notice on the cottage door, stating his intention to dig for ore.  As it turns out, the Macouns hold the surface rights for the land, but not the mineral rights.  For the first time in her life, Verna has something to fight for and family at stake.

And it’s funny!  Really!  And kind of heart-warming too.   Plus it has ghosts.  And monsters.  And mermen.  And it’s set in Northern Ontario.  What’s not to love?

So for Surface Rights Cover Surface Rights and all the other writer-y things I’m doing, watch this space.

As my mother used to say. . . .

"If it was a snake, it wudda bit ya!" Mom playing Aunt Eller in Oklahoma

My mother, Martha Nell Hardy, was a transcendently beautiful woman who, as she aged, began to trade more on wisdom and an increasingly folksy humor than her looks.  It was her way of aging gracefully and still having a rapt and appreciative audience. My father, novelist and playwright Bill Hardy, is a wonderful writer, but, for peculiar turns of phrase, it was Mom who took the proverbial cake.  Perhaps it was because her father was from Altamont, a small town in Texas whose newspaper featured a Puny Column, wherein all indisposed citizens were identified and their ailments detailed, or the fact that her Great Aunt used to inform her sister that her Puerto Rican date had arrived by hollering, “Mary Elizabeth!  That half-breed’s here!”

Here are a few of Mom’s more memorable lines:

  • “It all goes to the same place.” Referring to food and why you should not fret if your food juices co-mingle.
  • “If it was a snake, it wudda bit ya!” Referring to something in plain sight – such as the mustard — that you have stupidly asked her to find.
  • “Stick your head out too far, it may go home in another car.” Who can argue with that?
  • “Strike while the cookies are passed.”  It was years before I realized that the actual expression was, “Strike while the iron is hot.”
  • “Dead as a nit.” Apparently more final than plain old “dead.”
  • “Your Jesus bush.” The azalea bush Father Devereau gave me on my confirmation.
  • “Think of it as protein.” Boll weevils in the flour.
  • “Who does her hair?” Not a compliment.
  • “You got to eat a peck of dirt before you die!”  But, why?

Mom loved to “swocker” dogs (get them all riled up), while “Matty Friezler style” referred to a meal set out on the sideboard for people to help themselves, leading us children to wonder: Who was this mysterious  Matty?  “Anti-goat” was her word for deodorant. An “erk-erk!” was a heritage home that she wanted to buy and renovate. Then there was my Uncle Leon, whom nobody much liked.  She called him, “The Horse,” which has always puzzled me, because aren’t horses nice?

Every once in a while she would have an attack of reverse snobbism.  “We don’t buy our furniture,” she would declare. “We have our furniture.” In this, she was paraphrasing a female representative of the venerable Cabot and Lodges families who, when asked where she had purchased her hat, replied, “We don’t buy our hats. We have our hats.” The implication was that we enjoyed the same relationship with our chattels that Boston Brahmins did with their millinery.  The reality was that our furniture was inherited from deceased middle-class relatives or looted from junk shops, of which she was an avid aficionado.

Speaking of deceased middle-class relatives, my Great Grandfather George Skinner was a conductor on the K.D. Special, a train that ran between Galveston, Texas and Joplin, Missouri. According to Mom, this was the reason for her uncannily good sense of direction. I’m not sure how she arrived at this conclusion, but the fact was, she really did have a good sense of direction.  Whenever we were lost, she would reassure us by saying, “Don’t worry. I’m the grand-daughter of a railroad conductor.” And we were reassured.

My grandmother always cried when my mother left.   Mom’s solution was this: she would lean out of the train window and yell, “Don’t forget to feed the chickens!”  Not only did my grandmother hate chickens with a vengeance that bordered on the pathologic, she was also extremely Texas Lace Curtain Gentile and the idea that other people might think she kept chickens embarrassed her so much that she would abruptly stop crying and scuttle quickly away.  (Grandmother also stole towels from every Hilton she and my grandfather stayed at on each of their several around-the-world tours and hoarded paper products. But I digress.)

When I was in my early twenties, I moved far away from my parents and, although I visit often, I continue to live a two-day drive from my home town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Over the years Mom and I worked out between us our own private little leave-taking ritual. As my car was pulling out of the drive and she was starting to tear up, I would lean out the window and call to her, “Don’t forget to feed the chickens!”

In fact, it was the very last thing I said to my mother before she died.  Only I was the one doing the crying that time.

If it hadn’t been for her, I’m sure my head would have gone home in another car long ago.

Black Dog Day

My dopamine is down a pint; I’m having what Dan Carlin calls a Black Dog Day.  I’m not sure why.  Generally I’m relentlessly cheerful, but today . . . today not so much.

Speaking of Dan Carlin, he of Common Sense and Hardcore History, it’s partially his fault, him and all the other podcast pundits I listen to on an ongoing basis: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Jack Clark of Blast the Right, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, the New Yorker’s Political Scene, every podcast Slate does except the sports one, (because, as I have long maintained, I don’t do balls); The Nation and Washington Week in Review and PBS Newshour and The Daily Show and The Economist and Bill Maher’s Real Time and  Time Magazine, always and for decades, cover to cover.

You get the picture.

 

I am an idealistic skeptic. I worship heroes and have delusions of grandeur . . . for them, not for me, which explains to Seasoned Readers why I think the sun shines out of Obama’s ass. I also thought it shone out of Martin Luther King’s ass and the collective asses of the Kennedy brothers and, oh, yes, Right Wingers, FDR’s ass as well. Especially FDR’s ass. (I hope that thought is sending you into convulsions. That would make me very happy.) I have been a political junkie from the tender age of seven, when my Dad woke me up on a cold Indiana November night, took me outdoors, pointed to a night sky chock full of stars and announced, “Camelot begins tonight.” He also gave me a juice glass of Coke – to celebrate.  My mother never let us have pop, but the night Jack Kennedy was elected. . . .  That was a big night.

Of course, it doesn’t help my present slough of despond that I am listening to an audio version of Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World in my car. (The Nazis are just launching their program of racial cleansing.  Mother of God, were they evil!)  As for my read-read,  I’m midway through Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, which is about how the Internet is turning our brains into sparkly yo yos.  And it is.  I used to get lost in a book for hours.  Now I can barely hold out for ten minutes before the urge to multitask overwhelms me and I leap to my feet and dash off to do several things at once, one of which, incidentally, is this blog.

To top it all off, just this past weekend my stunningly beautiful twenty-five year old daughter told me she was worried about getting old, that she was afraid of losing her looks.  (I prudently stopped short of confessing that I still fret about my figure and whether I’m “pretty”.  Hello! I’m fifty eight years old.  The answer is:  No.) Then she showed me how, with only a slight bit of manipulation, she could make her under-knee crease resemble either her bum crack or what we used to refer to as her  “cluny.”

As my father used to sing whenever anybody whined, “Everybody hates me/ nobody loves me/ I’m some ugly child/ I’m going out to the garden and eat worms.”

Or maybe I’ll just cook supper while I’m unloading the dishwasher and ironing the napkins, all the while listening to Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars on my i-pod. (Speaking of which, move north.  Come 2036, it’s us who’ll have all the food!)

Returning to my roots

I have been highlighting my hair for twenty years.  Just being able to say that makes me feel old, which is only fair.  I am old.  Not as old as I’m going to be, I hope, but old nonetheless. Recently I’ve been telling myself (and anyone who asks; there aren’t many) that I would stop dyeing my hair when I turned sixty. By that reckoning, I had two good years of blonditude left and just try and pry that tube of goo out of my cold, dead hand. . . or, to be more precise, from the hand of my fabulous colorist, Jeanette Brown of Jazz Salon, who has been high priestess to my goddess head for the past two decades and whom, were I to have had to leave town permanently for any reason, I would have had to abduct.  (Sorry, Jeanette’s kids and other clients, but you would have had to suck it up!)

Then something untoward happened.  Or maybe it was toward.

During our recent trip to Hawaii, my magnificent stepdaughter Shanah took us on a tour of the North Shore of Oahu in her Rav 4. The top was down and my locks were a veritable riot of gold and burnished ash – with ‘riot’ being the operative phrase; think Medusa in a car wash.  And someone whom I will not identify because usually he is much nicer to me twisted around in his seat, eyed me and announced, “You look just like Robert Plant!”   Whereupon he snapped a photo of me.

Now I don’t have to tell you that that is not what a girl wants to hear.  Even less not something a girl wants to see photographic evidence for.  Yet, there it was – irrefutable.  I did, indeed, look like Robert Plant and, believe me, that was not what I had had in mind. (For purposes of comparison, click here: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/dc9/2010/03/show_announcements_robert_plan.php)

So, when I got back to the mainland, I marched into Jeanette’s salon and announced that I wanted to go back to my roots.  Specifically I wanted her to match my roots and let the grey grow where it may.  (It’s there, I know, lurking behind the brown.  It’s my eyebrows that tipped me off; left to their own devices, they look like something ferocious and wily belonging to a badger.)

A day later I panicked and called Jeanette, pleading with her to return me to my unnatural state.  She put me on her cancellations list and booked me in her first available slot, ten days hence.  A day later I called and cancelled the appointment.    I had realized that it was not the hair that was the problem; it was the face.

Before a dozen friends call me and launch into the Consolation of Inner Beauty Thing, it’s OK.  Really.   Profoundly myopic, I wore glasses from the age of seven.  Needless to say I got contacts the instant I could – at age fourteen — and I kid you not when I say that I would have put rocks in my eyes if it meant I didn’t have to wear glasses.  And most of the time that was how it felt – like I had rocks in my eyes.

Then, at around age forty five, my eyes started rejecting contacts until eventually I was forced to give them up entirely.  My vanity washed up on the shore of age, I mourned my loss . . . until I found that it was much easier to swim if I didn’t have to worry about damn stupid contacts and I wasn’t forever getting dust or sand in them and having to do the Cyclops Dance of Agony in a desperate bid pry them out of the offending eye, nor did I any longer find myself crawling around the floor with a flashlight trying to find a rogue lense in high shag carpet.. Yes, there was a down side to no contacts – not so pretty anymore – but there was also an upside – less boring hassle and excruciating pain.

And so it will be with my hair.  In any case, chances are that people won’t look.  And, if they do, at least I won’t look like Robert Plant. Instead, I will look like Shirley Temple . . .  when she grew up and became Ambassador to the U.N.  And wasn’t that what I have always wanted anyway — to grow up to be Shirley Temple?