Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hair and Horror: The Dark Underbelly of Postmenopausal Beauty

How I think I look with gray hair.
I'm 61.

If I live five more months I'll be 62.

And I still won't know what to do about my hair.

If you think that women just automatically get into this kind of thing with a passion, simply because we are women, think again.

I'm one of those girls who never learned to be a girl, and believe me, there are lots of us out here. My Mom was sick most of the time, and when she wasn't, she was pretty harsh.

We were not close.

In fact, the elder women in my family all seemed to think that the best way to raise girls was to remind them constantly of how unattractive and fat they were, and then try to marry them off as quickly and as early as possible, as if the supply of marriageable men was extremely limited and rapidly disappearing, and we, as unattractive female sub-creatures, were already at a disadvantage.

I remember as a teenager standing in the bathroom, my mother in back of me flipping my hair around and sighing that I would likely never marry. (I've been married four times. I can't run to the supermarket without marrying somebody.) My grandmother used to constantly sigh, "Oh Pammy, you'd be so pretty if only you would do something with your hair."

The only thing that really tempered this never-ending criticism was having sisters and seeing them get the same treatment. We called it the Grundy girls 'ritual humiliation'. We knew we would get it at every holiday, before shopping with a female relative, and whenever we visited grandparents, and we learned to endure it.

I don't want to over dramatize it. It's not like they dragged us to a tent and sliced off our genitals. But it had a similar, if milder, effect.

So I grew up with 'issues' around this stuff, hated to shop for clothes, and especially hated going to beauty parlors (as we called them back in the horse and buggy days).

So here I am, 61, and I still have not much improved in this area.
How I really look with gray hair (I'm on the left).

Four years ago, I decided I didn't want to be a postmenopausal bottled redhead anymore. Little did I know how controversial this decision would turn out to be.

Immediately after announcing this decision. I was assailed by every over-40 female employee at the big box retail store where I worked part-time. I must not do it, they said. I must not 'give up' they said. If I were to 'give up', how would it make them look, huh?

They informed me that the younger women were already running all over them and the one thing they couldn't abide was an older woman who just 'gave up' and looked her age.


My husband didn't like the idea either, but he knows better than to say so more than once.

I was pretty sick of splashing red hair dye all over our bathroom no matter how careful I was, and I didn't think this ritual made me look one whit younger or better, so the minute I was no longer employed in a retail capacity I started to let my hair grow out.

Right around this same time, the big chain hair place where I usually went for a cut hit the skids. I did not know this from watching the DOW, but rather from the aggressive behavior of the hair dresser who, always pushing 'product' on me as part of her job, was now practically beating me over the head with 'product'.

"Listen," I said finally, "I'll pay you extra in addition to the tip if you just stop bugging me about that stuff. I never use it and now I already have every hair product ever invented, just from coming here."

She informed me that ALL salons were owned by this same conglomerate, and anywhere I went I would be sold 'product', so I'd better just suck it up, because there was nowhere else to go.

Then, she cut a big bald spot into the back of my head where I couldn't see it.

My former hairdresser.
Now you may think (especially if you've read my other posts), that I must be some kind of bitch-on-wheels haircut customer, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I'm soft spoken, I never complain (except for this one time), and I always over-tip.

So I thought, screw this. There has to be at least one self-employed hairdresser in Michigan who will give me a basic cut without browbeating me into shit I do not want.

I found one. I went there. I explained why.

It worked out well at first.

She didn't understand why I would quit coloring my hair either, but she respected my decision and she did a nice job cutting my hair.

So now I have light gray hair in front and dark gray in back and I'm reasonably OK with it.

But I've noticed my hairdresser--I'll call her Dawn because that's her name--although never bugging me about 'product', never stops talking.

Often, I would even go so far as to say usually, Dawn talks nonstop about some perceived slight someone or the other has dealt her just lately. There she is, waving very sharp scissors around my head, talking about the asshole of the week and why that person is a total fool.

This last time, the asshole of the week was a client who was complaining about the cost of a hair process she'd bought for her daughters. Dawn had even thrown in something for free, yet here was this woman complaining. Then, as if that wasn't outrageous enough, she quit coming back.

At this point, a shiver ran through me. Have I chosen the hairdresser from the Hotel California? Can I check in anytime I like but never leave? OMG, how could I have missed that?

How is it that any woman enjoys getting her hair done? Why don't I like "Steel Magnolias" or "Fried Green Tomatoes." Am I fat?  Is my hair fat? What's wrong with me?

Now I'm thinking about coloring my hair again.

I'm thinking, pink.

Grey and pink.

But I don't know...

Where do you get your hair cut?