Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Salt and pepper to taste 

I thought that I would never color my hair. I thought that I would gracefully play the genetic hand I've been dealt, moving from almost black through salt and pepper to snowy white with little more than the occasional wistful thought of a previous decade's darker hair, and even faint anticipation of someday having a luminous silver bob of the sort that I so admire on somewhat older women.

It seems that perhaps I was wrong.

Recently, I was at the zoo with my 3-year-old nephew. He laughed as I hoisted him up onto my shoulder, the better to see the sleeping lions. The elderly woman standing next to me smiled and said to him, "Having fun with grandma?" I recognize that I am, in fact, old enough to be someone's grandmother. Given my family's up-to-this-point short generations, my grandmothers were not much older when I was born than I am now. Still, I'm not yet ready to look like someone's grandmother. And it surprised me that, to a woman perhaps 20 years my senior, I did.

And, I know, I know, that comment said as much about her as it did about me. Perhaps she was a grandmother at my age. Maybe my hair had nothing to do with it. I don't know what she was thinking.

But this I know. My first thought, when I looked at some recent photos taken with our nephews, was I look old. (And fat, too, though I knew that without photographic evidence.) It wasn't one of those gentle musings about growing older, of the sort that I have when reaching for my reading glasses. It was Oh my god, how did I get so gray? That's not what my hair looks like!

And that, folks, was the clincher. That's not what my hair looks like... or, more to the point, I'm not yet ready for my hair to look like that. Someday, yes, but not now.

My birthday is next month. I think I'm going to treat myself to a really good haircut, and - for the first time - some color to go with it. Something in a nice rich brown... with a few streaks of white.