Recently my “three and three quarters” year old granddaughter, while sitting on the toilet as I supervised, noted, “Nana, your hair is different colors.” I was astounded that she actually observed anything about me and replied,
“Well, that was nice of you to notice. What colors do you see?”
Still intent upon the task at hand, she paused a moment then said, “white and grey and black.”
I said, “Actually, it’s a little blond with brown.”
She shook her head. “White and grey and really black.”
My hair is supposed to be brown with some blondish highlights. That’s what I pay for every five weeks. That’s what I see when I look in the mirror. I do not see grey and I’ve never seen black. I’ll cop to white in the mix – that’s the point of the blond and brown – to try and fool the grey into going to some other head besides mine for a couple more years.
I have friends who have gone all white and look fabulous, some who are choosing suddenly, for the first time in their lives, to be a blond, and one friend who is eighty-two and swears she’s never colored her hair. She has just a few streaks of grey. She’s admitted to a couple of facelifts so I don’t see why she’d lie about it.
In the spirit of coping with reality, I’ll go along with the “three and three quarters” view of things, black notwithstanding. But that’s not the issue I have with my hair these days.
When my hairdresser tells me (and I have requested this) to give up the foil process because my roots would have established a wide swath of two inch Antarctica covering my entire skull, I will do so, though unfortunately I can tell already my brand of white/grey isn’t the fresh cotton white that makes a face look younger, rather than older. I have the white/yellow grey that says, “You don’t look like your mother now – you look like your grandmother.”
The issue somewhat resolved, my concern about my hair these days isn’t shades of grey but volume. I used to have tons of hair. We have in my family what we call “O’Donnell hair” – the one thing besides a fondness for wine my Irish ancestors gifted me. My hair has always been so thick it: a., Was completely straight and too heavy and full to do anything but go down. b., Made a hairdresser once remark, “Your hair is stronger than Asian hair, and that’s saying a lot.”
Unfortunately, it was not as beautiful as ‘Asian hair’. Just brown, with steel enforced strands. But these days, that annoying thickness has somehow disappeared. Instead, I have wimpy, limpy hair that falls out. It sheds all the time. I was at a party the other night and a friend, while carrying on a conversation with me about “The Underground Railroad”, picked off ten long strands from my sweater (and dropped them on the floor of the host’s house, which must have made their clean up feel more like wading through some kind of desert landscape filled with those old fashioned Christmas, extra thin icicles on the ground). I lose hair constantly. Now I’m worried I won’t have enough hair to get me to my eightieth birthday, which is when I have planned my demise.
Apparently, along with everything else, getting old means losing hair. Sure, I see it on men all the time, or rather, I don’t see it, but O’Donnell hair has been as steadfast a commodity in my life as peanut butter or chocolate. Of course I am trying some new product that comes in a container the size of a prescription pill bottle and costs thirty dollars but my hairdresser admits her husband has tried it for years and “it doesn’t make a bit of difference”.
It makes me wonder what else my Irish heritage has in store for me. I hate to think I’m at the point in my life when I have to say, “At least I have some hair.” I prefer to assume that my granddaughter will let me know when my status has changed, in her ‘I tell it like I sees it’ fashion. I can hear it now: “Nana, do you know your hair turned white and you can see your skull through it?” Yes, you little _________. I know.