Got the pink hair blues


I dyed my hair pink.

This was not the impulsive act of a 16 year-old girl. It was the impulsive act of a 51 year-old woman.

Dyeing my hair is not a new thing. My hair has been brown, blond, red, and as close as I could get to black without looking like Marilyn Manson. It’s been short, long, very short, even shorter, spiky, sleek, and permed a la the 1980’s. My philosophy has always been “it’s only hair,” and my hair grows fast. So when I saw the picture of the messy pink crop in the magazine I thought, “why not?”

I don’t ascribe to the idea that women “of a certain age”  have to conform to some acceptable form of dress. What does that mean, anyway? Aren’t we all a certain age no matter how old we are? I only question when people dress not as themselves, but who they wish they were but fear they are not.

Therein lay my problem. Did I want pink hair or did I want to be the kind of person who would dye her hair pink? While I was in the salon, I felt all badass and cool. Then I left the salon and went into Talbot’s.

I generally don’t shop at Talbot’s, but it was a 70% off sale. 70%–that’s a good deal, but I was not prepared for the looks. It wasn’t so much a look as it was a “I’m looking at your face and not at your hair” look, like when you’re talking to a guy with bad toupee. I left the mall with major wtf was I thinking regret.

My husband  knew I was considering the pink, but didn’t know I was actually doing it. He was complementary and said all of the right things, but he knew that I was a woman on the edge of a breakdown and behaved accordingly. My husband is awesome. He poured me a large glass of wine, gave me a reassuring hug and told me to own it. We decided that I’d imagine I was an Anime character–some sort of pixie librarian with a magical Almanac.

The next morning when I went to the grocery store, the pixie magic had worn off. I wore a hat. I never wear a hat. I just wasn’t ready to be conspicuous. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready. I’d have to stay in my house for the next six weeks. Thank god for Amazon prime.

I’m a stereotypical self-torturing artist. I am individualistic and self-expressive (hello, I have a blog) but as an introvert, really don’t want to draw attention to myself. I was afraid of what people assumed about my motives for having pink hair. I questioned my own motives for having pink hair. Was I trying to recapture my youth? Was I making a statement about aging, or fashion, or art? If I went to my stylist the next day and went back to brown hair, what would that say about me? Was I a coward, or just a woman who made a mistake in picking a hair color that clashed with everything but black and gray?

I had a good cry over it. My husband reminded me that I am not my hair, nor does my hair define me. It’s hair. I decided I would keep the pink hair and learn something from the experience. It was at least good for a blog post.

After all of that soul-searching for the reason why I did it?

Because I could. I thought it would be fun. If I was looking for some great revelation about self-perception, I didn’t find it, and If anyone else thinks I have a greater agenda, too bad. As for my judging people because I think they’re trying to be something they aren’t, shame on me. I don’t know you any better than I know myself.

I’m not keeping the pink hair forever, but I’m keeping it for now. For one, I’m afraid that if I bleach the pink my hair will fall out. Two, it fades quickly. My white towels are a sweet blush color at the moment. Three, I’m learning a lot about myself walking the universe with pink hair. I’m learning how to sit with my discomfort. I get a lot of positive reinforcement, which is nice, but the real challenge is owning my uniqueness and not being afraid of it, whether it’s my hair, or my politics, or my writing.

I suspect when my hair is brown again, I’ll miss the pink, but if I embrace this offbeat color while I have it, maybe some part of me will always bear a little streak of highlighter. And that’s nothing to feel blue over.

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Who’s that girl?

11908585_10206959825821690_7943426081004690238_oJane added 12 photos of you. To add these to your timeline, go to Timeline Review.

Uhm. What?

I’d visited Jane recently, but I couldn’t remember posing for any photos while I was there. It was also my 50-somethingth birthday. My guess was that the photos had to be old. Just how old? Anything stretching back to very was possible.

Jane is a golden friend. She’s been in my heart for a long time, so she has access to the really good stuff. By good, I mean stuff the Dude would find amusing payback for my writing about him for the last ten years.

My high school experience was one of duality. I don’t remember I time when I felt so loved and so unloved at the same time. It all depends on the frame of reference. Thinking about those years can bring forth a cringe and a smile at the same time, sort of like watching The Office, only I’m a smarter Michael Scott.

Jane is firmly planted on the side of the angels, so I poured a glass of wine and plunged into Facebook. There they were, a parade of smiling faces ranging from the age of six to  twenty-six.

Damn, I had a lot of hair. It was the 80’s after all. It was still dark back then. Like my father, I went gray quite young. I’ve been dyeing it so long I’d forgotten the original color. I’m smaller than I remember, too–almost compact. At the time, I felt so inescapably large, like I couldn’t get out of my own way, let alone anyone else’s.

What struck me most, however, is that the Jeannine in the pictures is so happy, so at ease. Nothing like the girl that narrates my flashbacks. I couldn’t look away.What made the difference?

I was seeing myself through someone else’s lens.

Memory theory says that we don’t actually remember events. Our brains rewrite the memory each time it’s accessed, so it’s layered with whatever new information we’ve painted over it, like looking into a mirror of a mirror of a mirror. What we remember is the last time we remembered the event. The truest memory is one that we’ve never retrieved before. I didn’t take these photos, so they had no prior imprint.

We tend to fixate on all of the negative baggage–the idiotic stuff we did–rather than the millions of moments that truly make up the bulk of our very good lives. We play them over and over again, adding more footnotes each time. The versions of ourselves that we remember can often get trapped in a box made by those who knew and loved us least.

Those pictures were the greatest gift. Who knows what those rewritten memories may bring?

So I posted the photos to my own Facebook timeline, even if it screams to the world that I am not a natural blonde. My posture is better, and I will never, ever part my hair down the middle again, but I will try to remember what I tell the Dude all of the time–we are neither as awful or awesome as we remember we are. If you want the truth, ask a friend for an old picture. It might surprise you. It surprised me. Who’s that girl. She’s me.

Wherever you go, there you are

493343628_98052395a0_zBeing a mother has occupied the last eighteen years of my life. While parenting is an exercise in entropy, it still provides a certain infrastructure. The daily schedule of getting the Dude to school, discussing his fantasy teams, and fighting over his crappy eating habits creates a living clock. It’s easy to find meaning and purpose. I am a parent. I take care of my child. If that’s all I do in a day, I can consider it a success.

The Dude leaves for college next month, and we both will have the world spread out in front of us with no real plan. While I’m excited, there’s a not-so-small element of “oh shit” mixed in. I have no roadmap to guide me. I can’t plug a destination into my GPS, because I’m not sure where I’m headed.

When I think about it too intently, I feel lost. I worry about where life will lead, and anxiety rushes to the surface. Will I ever finish my book? Where will the next story come from? Is this a career or a toe-dip in the land of wish fulfillment? How long can I justify calling myself a writer without some tangible sign of success?

I don’t know. Not a comfortable situation for someone who likes to have all of the answers. While hurtling into the future, I can’t catch the words or the notes. The best I can do is make a mad grab and hope I come up with something profound. Usually it’s a really bad limerick.

If I can manage to stand still, however, even for a minute, I can place a big red star on the map and write “You Are Here.” Sometimes, “here” is the best I can manage. Maybe, “here” is all that really matters. After all, “there” is merely a collection of interconnected “here’s”, right?

When I was twenty, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I was thirty. When I was thirty, I knew what I wanted to be at forty. Each decision led me one step closer to that end. Ironically, when I got where I intended to be, I didn’t want it anymore. Somewhere along the way I had changed, but I was so focused on the destination, I hadn’t noticed. If I’d seen a map of my life, a big red star telling me where I was, where I truly was, I might have been saved a lot of trouble and pain.

So as I walk into unmapped territory, my goal is to be dedicated to here. To now. Because this is where the words grow, and the music unfurls. I will stand still long enough for them to find me, and stay quiet enough to listen.

So if you need to find me, you know where to look.

Photograph : Mt. St. Helen’s park entrance by Stephan Adrej Shambora © 2007 via Creative Commons/Flickr

Taylor Swift is my imaginary BFF

handsheartI just turned 50, at least that’s what my driver’s license says. I don’t feel particularly mature, and whatever wisdom grace bestows by virtue of age alone seems to have passed me by (I was probably playing Bejeweled at the time).  Denial, however, doesn’t appear to be a legitimate excuse for ignoring doctor’s orders, so I had a colonoscopy.

I won’t go into details, but the morning before my procedure, I had to find a way to occupy my time in five to seven minute snippets. This clearly is what BuzzFeed was invented for. That’s where I ran into Taylor Swift.

One would have to work hard to avoid Ms. Swift these days. I would guess that even survivalists hunkered in a bomb shelter in Nevada whistle “Shake it Off” while cataloging their supply of freeze-dried rations–and not in an ironic way. I had no idea, however, that in just one morning, she’d wormed her way into my psyche.

I arrived at the outpatient center and nurse walked me through what they’d do to me. The risks were minimal, she assured me, and my husband was there to take me home afterwards, since the anesthesia might make me a little woozy. That was her term for it. Woozy.

Apparently I talked under sedation, and it went something like this.

Nurse : You’re fine, but we want you to take it easy today.

Worried Me : But what about tonight?

Confused Husband : What about tonight?

“Do I have to remind you of everything” Me : We have plans, remember? We have that  party to go to–at Taylor Swift’s.

My husband lives in a cultural shoebox, and even he knows who Taylor Swift is. Ever hopeful, he attempted to reason with a woman under the influence of some pretty powerful drugs.

Rational Husband : Honey, you don’t know Taylor Swift.

Undeterred Me : That doesn’t matter. Taylor Swift is friends with everyone. Haven’t you seen that thing she does with her hands?

I put my hands together in the shape of a heart.

Wondering if this is normal Husband : No, I can’t say that I have.

Not to trusted with a credit card Me : I have to wear something purple. I don’t own anything purple. After we leave, take me to the mall, okay?

He took me home. I slept for four hours.

I had no recollection of this conversation, yet when my husband told me about it, I felt a sense of loss. Somewhere in the universe, Taylor Swift was having a party, baking cookies with Lorde and Lena Dunham, and I wasn’t invited. In the days that followed, Taylor stalked me, staring back from the cover of Time Magazine, dancing through a Long Island mansion in an interactive video/ad for American Express, and in countless HuffPo videos of children singing in the backseat of the minivan.

My 50 year old reality was still very real. My son got his first college acceptance, then his second, and his third, and I realized that he truly was leaving the nest in the fall. I was rejected for yet another job. My gray roots were showing, and I pulled my hamstring tripping over my son’s size 12 sneakers. I could make a heart with my fingers all I wanted, but was still 50.

While putting the laundry in the closet, however, I realized that I owned not one, but two purple garments. So I invited my friends over for lunch. We didn’t bake cookies, but I told them about my post-op ramblings, and they reminded me that I’ve said much more ridiculous things without any sedation required. They also reminded me how lucky I am to have my very real friends, and if this is 50, 50 rocks.

Except in six months I have to have another colonoscopy. This time I’m going to tape my mouth shut, just in case. Mark the date Taylor, I’ll  be waiting for that invitation.

Photograph : Hands, Heart by mafleen © 2013 Creative Commons/Flickr

Advice to my 50 year-old self

winecoolerSo it happened. I turned 50. And I’m totally okay with it.

I remember when 50 seemed so old. When my brother turned 50, I sent him a batch of his favorite cookies–Christmas wreaths made from Corn Flakes and melted marshmallows–but I dyed them black. He didn’t get it. Humor is subjective.

What does the future hold? As the Magic 8 ball says, “Reply is hazy, try again.” Despite my accomplishments, the marketplace views me as unseasoned and untested, yet assumes I hold unreasonable expectations of advancement and compensation. There you have it. 50 really is the new 20.

I have HuffPo in my Facebook feed, so I’ve read countless women’s letters to their 20 year-old selves,. I hate to be repetitive. I wonder if my 20 year-old self might have some words of wisdom for my older self. Hear that, 20 year-old Jeannine? What do you say?

Thanks for asking. So much wisdom is lost to the ages. Listen up, b*^#$.

1. Wine coolers are totally sophisticated and cool. Have another one. If you keep one foot on the floor the room will eventually stop spinning.

2. Clothes look better with a little shoulder pad action. Very authoritative.

3. Aqua Net, Extra Hold.

4. You can save money by highlighting your own hair. Get a friend to help! No one will know you skipped the salon. Use the money you save to buy more wine coolers.

How on earth did I make it to 30, let alone 50?

I should have known you’d turn out all judgy and condescending.

Hard to believe, given the depth of your wisdom.

*Sigh* Fine, I’ll bust out the deep stuff.

5. You don’t know everything, and neither does everyone else. But they don’t know you don’t. You aren’t required to warn them.

6. There is no harm, however, in admitting that you’re wrong. The more you practice, the easier it gets.

7. Professor Apple is right, you should be a writer.

This is a little more useful, young self.

But wait, there’s more!

8.  If you have something to say, just say it. Even if class participation isn’t part of your grade. Being wrong is better than being invisible, and it takes infinitely greater courage. Besides, when’s the last time you were wrong?

You don’t want the answer to the last part.

Can I finish, please? You need to learn not to interrupt.

I’m afraid I’m still working on that one.

9. Don’t stop learning just because you have to graduate.

10. Don’t be so afraid. Woman up. If you’re going to fail, go big. It will make for a better story. After all, you’re 50. You’re old. Get a move on.

Easy for you to say.

That’s because I’m not afraid of screwing up. I do it all of the time. Perhaps you’ve forgotten.

No. It’s just that when you’re younger, the universe expects it.

Nah. It’s that when you’re older, you forget that the only person tallying your mistakes is you.

Younger self–you aren’t as clueless as I thought.

I take back the judgy comment. Sort of. Go be a badass.

Thanks.

And Happy Birthday. The wine cooler is on me.

Photograph “Pretty Coolers” by Natalie Litz © 2008 Creative Commons/Flikr