Vanity is becoming a nuisance, I can see why women give it up, eventually. But I’m not ready for that yet.
~ Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
A couple of months before Christmas, it dawned on me that vanity was the reason I didn’t have a “big girl” camera. I blamed it on lack of funding, but the truth is, I was spending that money to cover up one of the natural signs of aging: my gray, white, and silver hair. If you’re at all familiar with “multi-dimensional coloring” when it comes to hair, you no doubt know that it’s not a cheap procedure. Multi-dimensional coloring involves highlights and lowlights and sometimes something in between, but basically, it’s means more than one color.
One day I announced to the universe and anyone else within hearing range, that I would give up having my hair professionally colored for over a year in order to sock away the money until I had enough to buy the camera I desired. The universe, and my personal Santa, listened.
I do have a loophole. I can color my hair myself. I have done that once since my announcement to the universe. The gray, the white, and the silver have been slowly growing back, and I’m at the point now where I’m thinking about coloring it (at home) again.
On the last day of last year, I drove myself to town to get my hair cut. (For those interested, it was my second driving outing and it went well, with almost no nervousness on the way home. I have not conquered the driving phobia, but it has not conquered me, either.) The stylist cut my hair shorter than it’s been in a long time, and after a day or two of adjusting, I decided I like it. By the next hair cut or two, if I don’t color my hair on my own, I should be able to get a good look at what my natural color happens to be now.
Will there be any reds or browns or blondes left in the mix? Or will it be all gray and white and silver?
My curiosity has just about overpowered my vanity.
Thinking about this, and writing about it now, I wonder, well, I wonder a lot of things. I didn’t used to do the girly-girl type of things, and it was only after I got my first good hair cut ever that I began to think about having it professionally colored. I was reminded of my first good hair cut when I got my recent cut. A woman walked into the salon while the stylist was cutting my hair and started asking questions about hair cuts and styles. She had long, reddish blonde hair tied up in a pony tail. She’d been looking online for a new cut because, she said, she’d had the same hair style since just out of high school and she’s now 42 years old and she’d recently gotten a new job and wanted to look more professional and the last time she tried a new hair cut (just out of high school) it was horrible and she never wanted to get her hair cut again because she has fine hair and fine hair is so difficult to deal with and so she let it grow and, well, she went on in this regard for a while, almost speed talking to get it all out.
Back at the turn of the century (you know, 2000), I had my first big hair cut in ages. For a long time I let my hair grow because every hair cut I’d ever had was a lousy one. One day, on the verge of big change, I went into a salon and I had 16 inches of hair cut off. Although I wasn’t sorry to see it go, I still ended up with a cut/style that I didn’t like. I told myself it didn’t matter, something I’d been telling myself all of my adult life. In the grand scheme of things, that’s true. The world is full of terrible problems. A bad hair cut isn’t even a blip on the radar of terrible problems.
A few years later, after spending the summer of 2000 in London (England) living in the posh Notting Hill neighborhood three blocks from the Portobello Road market (pure luck and part of a sabbatical exchange), and moving from southern Ohio to northeastern Ohio (speaking in cultural and weather terms, a big move), and after a few more bad hair cuts, I finally found someone who understood my hair. She is a genius. It’s possible she understands how I feel about my hair (in other words, my psyche), and her genius lies not in the hair cut itself but in how she made me feel about it. Whatever the case, I was 45 years old before I had a hair cut that I could say I liked. Unfortunately, I had to leave my genius hair stylist behind in northeastern Ohio, but to balance things out, I think I’ve found someone here who is similarly talented without having to go through a bunch of bad hair cuts.
So when the 42-year-old woman walked into the salon while I was getting my hair cut on the last day of the last year, I knew where she was coming from. She was me. I was her. The hair cut/style she wanted happened to be the hair cut/style I was getting. I can’t remember ever loving my hair as much as I did the moment she watched it all come together, seeing my fine hair go from flat to stacked. I didn’t love it because of me and my hair, but because of how she was seeing herself and her possibilities.
Have you read the The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? There’s a part in the book where the alchemist reads the story of Narcissus, a story he was familiar with, but one that ended differently in this telling:
But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.
He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.
‘Why do you weep?’ the goddesses asked.
‘I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.
‘Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus,’ they said, ‘for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand.’
‘But… was Narcissus beautiful?’ the lake asked.
‘Who better than you to know that?’ the goddesses asked in wonder. ‘After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!’
The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:
‘I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.’
‘What a lovely story,’ the alchemist thought.”
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Well, this is a very long post. I don’t know why I’m rambling on so much lately. Maybe because it’s winter, and winter is a good time to tell stories. Whatever the case, thank you for dropping in and spending some time with me today. I hope your Sunday was relaxing and restorative. I went out and about with my new camera early in the day. It’s warm (near 60), but that won’t last. We’ll be back to a high of 20 by Tuesday. For those you already feeling the arctic chill, I wish you warmth and a good cuppa hot chocolate or tea.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
Today’s joys: The little birds spending time with me; playing with the telephoto lens; sharing a piece of Smith Island Cake with M; warm weather (compared to what some people are experiencing, it was a heat wave); green tea.