The hair fell into my lap. Clumps of brown, straight to the point where anyone who cuts it needs to wear protective clothing; my hair will quite literally give a person splinters. In the middle of the jagged brown piles were longer gray hairs. They were thicker than the brown ones, as if they'd been bulking up or working out. Moreover, they were not straight. They were not so much curly as bendy. Could those really be mine? Maybe he didn't clean the wrap well enough and this is actually hair from some other, older person with bendy hair.
I asked my hairdresser, AKA my gay husband of 29 years.
He looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "How do you want me to answer that?" This was a not-so-subtle reference to a time, not so very long ago, when I was 100% certain that I was going permanently bald. To keep me from throwing fits he lied about my "bald" spot. (Yes I had one. Yes he could see it. But only because he was standing over my head looking down at the crown. No, not my tiara, my crown. Stress related, it's all over now. All my lethal, acupuncture-worthy hair seems to be back where it belongs.)
But this hair is in my lap. So how do I want him to answer?
"Yes, those are yours. Isn't it nice? You're going to have nice, thick, gray hair eventually. And look how it's so bendy!"
"I like my hair straight."
"And the universe cares about that...how?"
Not at all, of course. He says we can dye it.
But not yet. I think we're waiting for some shift in percentage coverage between gray and brown. Currently the gray is still a protected minority group. Protected by him. (And not protected by Juliette: whenever she has the chance she pulls them straight out of my head. Ow.) But when the numbers shift and brown becomes the underdog, he'll switch sides and assimilate the whole kit and kaboodle back to brown.
While he was cutting my hair, he and I started talking about death. I've known him my whole adult life and our conversations run the gamut of cheesy gossip to cold hard reality. I don't know what drove us here today but we were both ready for a real talk. I told him about my friend who recently startled me with her statement "I'm hoarding a supply of oxycontin. Just in case."
She got them legitimately for pain, never took them (did I mention she's tough as nails?) and now she's keeping them around in case the bad thing happens and she wants to end her life. She's so fit, so funny, so smart, so everything you want in a role model that it's hard to imagine she would already be planning ahead to that. But she's pragmatic and she's a planner. She's one of the people I know who didn't strike it instantly rich, who worked hard all of her life, and will be able to retire comfortably. I can't think about life without her, so I buried her oxy hoard in the back of my mind. Until today.
Then he and I talked about a mutual acquaintance, whom he saw two weeks ago and I haven't seen in a year. She has ALS and it has reached the point where she is literally a prisoner of her frozen body. Perfect mind inside and almost entirely incapable of communicating with the outside world; she couldn't kill herself if she wanted to. But if it were me, I'd be asking my girlfriend to share her stash of oxy that I would wash down with the best tequila I could find.
He lovingly cut her hair and gave her highlights without her asking, so she would feel pretty. And that's the thing I love most about him, under the sarcastic and inappropriate commentary is a heart of gold.
To lighten our thoughts, we went for a walk and said mean things about people we saw on the street. We did it because it was wrong and mischievous and felt good. We felt alive like teenagers, knowing that most of our grownup friends would chide us if they heard us.
Note: It seems that Typepad has taken a page out of Google's book and is reading this post before it is published. It has decided to present me with not one, but three "related posts" about going gray. There is a 4th recommended post about the fountain of youth, another about hairstyles throughout history, and my own post, recommended to me, which I have already read.
The guy who is repairing my store sign had to get it done quickly this morning so he wouldn't be late to his mother's rosary.
Another friend is in her car right now, driving the eight hours home from saying her final goodbyes to her beloved grandmother.
My birthday is coming around again. Maybe that's why I'm surrounded by these specters. Or maybe I'm not surrounded at all. Maybe I'm just suddenly noticing what happens every day.
The weather is so fine. Tree blossoms abound while tulips and daffodils (my "birthday flower") are raising their lovely heads all over my neighborhood. Funerals and daffodils.
It's time to plant something in the backyard. Maybe even grow some tomatoes.
This time next year I'll be turning 50. But not yet.