Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Am A Gray American

I remember exactly when I found my first gray hair. Actually, my roommate found it for me. I was twenty-five, and we shared an apartment that spanned the warped second floor of a pre-Victorian house near Boston College. I was coming out of my bedroom as she was coming out of hers, and she looked at me, and grinned. Brooklyn born and bred through and through, she said, pointing at my temple, "There's a gray one. And it's really shiny, too."

Trying to seem non-chalant, I shrugged. Then, when she plopped herself on the couch to watch television, I high-tailed it to the bathroom mirror.

I shouldn't have been surprised. My mother went gray early - she found her first at twenty-one, which I was more than happy to point out coincided with the birth of my older brother. I beat her by four years, but it didn't seem possible for me to be going gray. I young. When my mother was twenty-five, she had a husband and a house and a mortgage and a car and three children. I had...well, none of that. I even worked for myself, and was doing well enough at it so I only had to work three weeks out of the month.

It just didn't seem fair.

When the grays started asserting themselves into my otherwise lovely auburn locks, I went into deep denial. I covered them with cellophanes, a temporary process that, while it stained my scalp for a few shampoos, did the trick. When I reached the magic percentage of gray that cellophanes would no longer mask, my stylist laid out the awful truth: I had to go permanent.

I didn't like the process. It made my scalp sting and smelled horrific. But the results were...well, damn. I was one hot, twenty-five-looking mama, if I did say so myself.

This went on for years, changing my shade for the season (darker for winter, lighter for summer), until the late nineties or so, when news articles began to appear linking permanent hair dyes with cancer.

I stopped for a time, cut it short so I'd avoid the dreaded two-toned look, then grew it long again.

Then I got tired of being called "ma'am." I was also approaching my fortieth birthday and had made a bargain with myself: I would not hit that dreaded age looking like a "ma'am." I'd lose the twenty-odd pounds I'd let accumulate on my bod, and I'd absolutely nix the gray. (by that time hair dyes had been exonerated and the food-and-cosmetic police moved on to something else)

My stylist was pleased. Husband was pleased. But I looked in the mirror the next morning and nearly cried. It looked so...fake. I'd gotten so used to the "real" me that now I looked like I was sporting a wig.

But I got used to it.

I've been (more or less) keeping up with the "process" ever since.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

The dreaded roots had been growing in (because of various problems I'd had to cancel my regular appointment several times) and they were at least an inch long.

And they were kind of growing on me. I liked the shine of them. I liked the softness of them as I touched the new hair growing in at my part.

And I started thinking: what law says I have to look like I'm twenty-five? Why can't I age gracefully? Husband had gray hair coming in. Nearly every guy around my age I know is going gray. Many of the women, too.

Why not me?

I floated the trial balloon at Husband, and he had no reaction.

So as we drove to the stylist, I told him again (just in case he'd not been paying full attention the last time).

He turned to look at me. "You're really going to not dye your hair? You'll look like some kind of redneck!"

Rednecks of the world, I apologize on his behalf.

But I wasn't deterred. Even when my stylist didn't seem happy with the idea. She laid out the plan, how it would be done over a series of eight-week haircuts. "But you're going to be surprised at how much this will age you," she said, perusing my scalp with her fingers. "You're a good seventy-percent gray now, girl."

Just to hasten it along, I asked her to cut it extra-short.

We'll see how I feel as it grows out. I still have the option of running to her, in tears, and begging for my 7A auburn back.

But maybe I'm really ready not to be twenty-five any more.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Is it me or what?

Here is a photo of Eliot Spitzer and his wife as he first announces his "private matter."

Here is one of New Jersey's Governor Jim McGreevy as he resigns his office for his own extracurricular activity:

Do you get some kind of memo when you enter politics, that when the you-know-what hits the fan that there is a dress code? The wife in "true blue" as she stands by her man, and said man in a power suit with the red striped tie to show his own contrition? Somebody get this memo to W...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Client Number Nine

A Man Named Spitzer (sung to the "Brady Bunch" them song):

Here's the story
Of a girl named Ashley
Who was looking for a way to pay the rent.
Then she found a way to work
And not pay taxes
All she had to do was service wealthy gents.

Here's the story
Of a man named Spitzer
Who was also known as client number nine.

He put a lot of folks in jail
For prostitution
And white-collar crime.

'Til the one day when he transferred too much money
And those he'd once wronged pounced on him with glee
Now this man might have to go to prison
Where he'll do lots of servicing for Cell Block D...
That's the way he destroyed his legacy...


Yes, by now you probably heard the news - Geraldine Ferraro quit the Clinton campaign - no, I mean the sad fate of the governor of New York. Those of you who have read my blog know that I am of a libertarian slant and think that prostitution should be legalized. Still, I think the crime here is not sex for money but of sanctimony, hypocrisy, arrogance, and many other adjectives that all the New York area newspapers have already used so I won't repeat them here.

This leaves me puzzled about two main things. One, how could someone who has put himself up on a pedestal as the crusader against financial crime and prostitution think himself so above the law that he can see prostitutes for nearly a freakin' decade and get a way with it, yet!

Plus, I wonder what the heck do you get for five thousand dollars an hour? I can't even imagine the kind of "services" that one might purchase for this kind of coin. Perhaps the act itself is only a couple hundred, and the rest goes to the fee for the hotel room and hush money.

Apparently, the hush money part didn't work out so well. Probably because while he was attorney general and during his stint as governor he made few political friends, and more than one of his enemies probably rubbed his hands together with glee when he started putting the pieces together - the cash transfers, the out of town visits (when he told the state police to take a powder), and various other shenanigans.

I'm just glad that he decided to resign instead of digging in his heels and making the state go through an impeachment procedure. The only positive than that I can say about Spitzer now is that we don't have to be put through another round of parsing out the meaning of sex and the definition of the word "is."

Now let us all bow our heads and say thanks, and hope that his lawyer wife won't bounce his ass back to the stone age, and let us all simply move on.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln..."

I fear that this blog lately is becoming the obituary column.

But I just found out today that someone that I knew for very long time passed away back in October. Her name was Marilyn, and she was my massage therapist for almost fifteen years before she developed ovarian cancer and had to stop her practice. When someone has their hands on you for that long, you can't help but grow close, and very often we'd wind up gabbing all the way through our session and for while afterward, in her sunny, cheerful, but wonderfully humanly messy kitchen.

And these humanly messy qualities were among the things that were so wonderful about her. She loved to laugh and dance and cook and have fun, and as she was Cajun, she had spent her vacations in New Orleans visiting relatives where she probably laughed and danced.

Her love for life was dimmed only briefly by her chemotherapy and radiation, and after the surgery and first round, she gained enough strength to see some of her clients, usually only one per day. And when I hurt my back and couldn't come to her, she offered to come to me. That never worked out though, as each day that our appointment came turned out to be a bad day for her and she eventually told me that I should look for someone else, "so I won't keep pissing you off."

It was a struggle to find someone to replace her. I knew I could never replace "her," but after a period of trial and error (mostly error...I mean, how do you replace a professional who knows what's wrong with your body just by watching you come through the door?) , I did find a new massage therapist, in fact, I often gravitate among two or three of them depending on what I need. And even after I stopped seeing her professionally, we got together once a month or so for lunch, and she always offer me an ear - when she had the strength to listen - during that awful period of my life when everything seem to be hitting me at once.

I don't remember the last time I saw her. Probably it was at one of those lunches, at the Joyous Cafe on Broadway, where we'd compare aches and pains and she told me what this or that massage therapist should be doing for me, and things I could do myself, and we'd laugh, and laugh.

That's what I'll remember most. Hands as well as a heart that always seemed to know what I needed. And this - at one of those lunches, after she updated me on the status of her blood count and the new chemo she was about to try, she floated this idea at me. "Do you think it would be too weird to throw myself a funeral?"

I thought a moment. I don't believe anyone in the whole of my life had ever asked me such a question.

"I mean," she said, "People say all the good stuff about you after you die. I want to be around to hear it."

I believe I said that I thought it would be a great thing to do.

And, sure enough, a month or so later I got an invitation in the mail. Husband thought it was horrifically morbid, and refused to go. But I still liked the idea. And admired her for doing it. I even RSVP'd.

But come the night of the service, I chickened out. I got dressed, I put on my jacket, and then just started to cry. And cry, and cry, and cry.

She forgave me for not coming. "Not everyone can handle it," she said, and just continued our conversation.

And even though she told me about, oh, eight or so months ago that she might be too tired to talk, it would be OK if I left messages or sent emails. Every time I thought of her I'd call and leave a message, or if I found a card I thought she'd find funny I sent it.

It's a kind of disembodying experience to find out that someone you thought so close to you had died five months after the fact. And in the most random of ways. I happened to pick up an oncology group newsletter while I was waiting to have my yearly mammogram, and there was a box headed "In Loving Memory" with her name listed below. But I can hardly blame her husband. Having just been through the same experience, I know that he probably had enough to handle without having to call all of her ex-customers.

I just hope that she went out of this life the way she lived it: brave, laughing, and definitely out loud.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

100 Things We Didn't Know Last Year

If you're sick of politics, here are a bunch of trivial items to amuse, confuse and annoy you...

I absolutely don't know why it's best to harvest rhubarb by candlelight, but I'm sure someone spent a lot of money on a study to find out.