I need a haircut, but I am afraid to make an appointment. I could tell you it’s because I’m living in a new town, and I don’t know whom to call, and that is partly true. The real reason I’m afraid is the growing amount of grey hairs I am producing. I’m afraid a hairdresser will suggest I color them away.
I’ve had my hair colored and highlighted before, and it was magnificent. I was a gorgeous brunette with sun-kissed blond strands. The highlights were slightly unnatural, which made me love them more because I tend to swing towards the Dolly Parton side of aesthetics.
I colored my hair before I had any grey. I did it to express a side of myself I don’t think comes out all that much. She was sort of my dream – someone who was a tad trashy but also literate. I could have a conversation about Shakespeare while drinking a single malt scotch, but also discuss the Twilight series over Diet Coke.
Now that I have grey hair, I’m wondering who this new person could be if I let her emerge. Since I’ve let my hair begin to grey, I’ve shaved three minutes off my mile when I run, I can hold a plank for 90 seconds, I’ve helped to write a book, and I have another one all my own in the works. Of course the grey hairs didn’t do that, I did these things, but like the highlights I had, something about the way I look suggests a piece of who I am, or, helps me become who I want to be.
I don’t want to sit in a chair, a smock draped over my body hiding everything but my face and my slicked back hair and hear someone say, “Cover this girl up. Don’t let her emerge. Don’t give her a chance.” I’m not ready to cover her up before I see what she can do.
I once saw a woman in Ulta stocking up on Bonne Bell Lip Smackers in Dr. Pepper (the best kind, both for the flavor and the hint of color). She had a full head of grey hair, and it was cut in a longish blunt bob. She was wearing all black, but had a part of her hair held up in a Kelly green bow with white polka dots. I thought she was beautiful. I decided if I ever let my hair go grey, that’s how I want to look: interesting, creative, and little nonsensical. Dolly Parton would totally wear a green bow in her hair.
I don’t know though. What if this vision of a grey haired spunky gal turns out to be a tired old hag in reality? What if the mile I run gets slower this year, and I have to drop to my knees while holding a plank? What if I never find an arc to this book I am trying to write?
My feelings about my grey hair are exacerbated because I have just moved, and I don’t feel at home. I’m literally not at home. We are staying in an apartment until we can move into the house we’ve recently bought. I don’t have a job, and I don’t know when I will find one, or what it will be. Truth be told, I feel a long way off from that gal in Ulta, and feeling closer to the woman who screamed at Buttercup in The Princess Bride for marrying Prince Humperdinck when she had true love. I’m tired, and the thought of figuring out how to fit into this new place is daunting.
I stand in front of the bathroom mirror in a bikini I’m not sure I should be wearing. I pull my hair into a top knot and wince a bit at the grey that’s revealed. There’s definitely more on the sides than the top. I look like a skunk, only in reverse.
This morning, my girls and I are going to the pool, and as we walk down the street, Hadley, who’s reading a Ranger Rick magazine tells me there is a poison from some kind of animal that people inject into their faces. “I’m not going to tell you anymore because it freaked me out, but mama, why would anyone do that?”
“To look different,” I say. “Sometimes people do that because they feel differently than how they look, and they want what’s inside to come out.” I sound like an ABC After School Special and Hadley’s listening with a blank look on her face.
“You know this line on my forehead?”
“Yeah!” Both Hadley and Harper exclaim. They say it like my forehead crease is an old friend.
“Well, sometimes I wonder if I could get rid of it.”
We walk for a bit and I wonder if I’ve said too much. I feel a lot of pressure to be self-assured and confident for Hadley and Harper. It’s probably not OK to tell my daughters there’s something about myself that I feel insecure about.
“I think it means you have courage,” Hadley says.
“Yeah,” she’s swishing a stick through the air as she talks. “You don’t care about being pretty.”
“I do, though,” I say and again I’m not sure this is the right kind of honesty to share. Still, it seems false to agree with Hadley. Maybe she should know her mom struggles, but she continues to put one foot in front of the other.
“Of course,” Hadley says, “it’d take a lot of courage to stick a needle in your face.”
“This is true,” I say.
“I think it means you’re interested,” Harper says.
“Do you mean interesting?”
“No, interested. You’re interested in what other people say, otherwise your eyes wouldn’t get real big like they do, or your forehead wouldn’t furrow when you’re serious or sad.”
“Yeah, that line makes you, you,” says Hadley.
I think of some of the times I’ve had people react to my facial expressions – a boy pulled my elbow when I was walking once. “Hey,” he said and drew his finger across his forehead, his hand tight on my arm, and his eyes mimicking, “Smile.” A teacher asked me to stay after class once because he was concerned I was frustrated, judging from the look on my face. Both times I remember feeling ashamed that how I felt on the inside didn’t match the look on my face.
Hadley and Harper don’t see that. They see someone who is interested in them. They see me.
We’re almost to the pool when Hadley says, “Look! A turtle!” Sure enough, there’s one waddling down the street towards an office building. She’s moving faster than any turtle I’ve ever seen, her shell knocks against the edge of the curb making a rough, desperate kind of clacking sound.
The three of us get closer, and the turtle moves faster. She tries to climb the curb, but can’t. I look towards the direction she tried to go. About sixteen feet away is a marsh. I bet that’s where she’s from. She’s trying to get home.
I think about picking her up and putting her in the grass, but I’m afraid I will scare her more. She’s going to have to figure this one out by herself, but Hadley, Harper, and I won’t leave her. We watch as she waddles on, making sure she doesn’t go into the parking lot. Hadley puts her arm out like a crossing guard so Harper and I don’t get too close. “C’mon, little turtle! You can do it! C’mon,” Harper quietly chants.
The turtle stops, and lifts her front limbs on the curb, trying again. This time she does it, she lifts herself up and her shell that is black and dark green shines in the sun to reveal reds and yellows and dazzling whites from the rays. The three of us cheer for her as she pushes herself onto the grass.
The turtle walks slowly now, and the girls don’t want to leave until they know she has found what she’s looking for. She stops every so often, cranes her neck, and moves it from side to side. I wonder if she hears the wind change in the taller grass, marking the beginning of the marsh.
“Why is the turtle moving so slow?” Harper asks, concerned.
“She knows where she is now,” I tell her. “She doesn’t have to work so hard.”
The three of us pivot, slowly, and move on. Hadley drapes her beach towel over her shoulder, Harper kicks her feet in the air so her flip-flops fly off, and she prances to get them, laughing.
I decide to hold off on a haircut. I’d like to wait and see what happens.
Written by Callie Feyen.