The road is slick from the light snow that has been falling all morning. Temperatures are below freezing and visibility could be better. It’s a 15-mile hike to my destination. All weekend the forecasters have been talking about an incoming snowstorm that could paralyze the East Coast. I can’t be snowed in. I must ride! The background music in my head is the Wizard of Oz tune that plays as Ms. Gulch is riding her bike to go mess with Dorothy. I must get to my stylist appointment before I’m snowed in and my hair roots betray me!
I throw my good-mom rep out the window and cancel my kid’s orthodontist’s appointment. It’s clashing with my salon-must. Did I mention my roots are showing! I can reschedule the Ortho any time. It’ll take me weeks to rebook my sought-after stylist.
I arrive at the parking lot. The snow is holding back. I walk in and up to the reception desk at the salon. “My hairdresser is out sick! Again!” I can’t wait one more day. I must take whichever hairdresser is available. This is worse than a blind date!
I take a deep breath and put on the proverbial black salon cape. Today, Laura will help restore the integrity of my hair. She is a mature redhead who reminds me very much of my ex-mother-in-law. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Laura seems confident and scurries behind the patrician to mix my color. These stylists are as important as chemists preparing a life-saving formula. In many instances, it can feel that way — in a Desperate Housewives of Virginia kinda of way.
Laura comes back with a white creamy substance in a black plastic bowl. I hesitate a bit because we haven’t gone over my color. I assume she’s read my file containing the details of my last hair treatment. Oh yeah! We have files, and they are top secret. If I go to another salon, I’ll need top clearance to be able to take it with me. These stylists guard their secret color formulas like CIA agents guard their codes.
I sit facing the large mirror that will witness my transformation. First, one must look-totally unbecoming under the scissor hands of the stylist. It’s like pledging at a sorority or fraternity. You have to suffer a bit of humiliation to prove how badly you want it before you are allowed into the coveted society of salon hair. Laura begins the tedious task of brushing on the goop at the base of my scalp. She parts my hair in numerous sections as she works her way all around my head. The goop feels cold and yucky against my scalp. No glamour here. By the time she’s done, my head looks like a very bad version of Medusa. I must now sit like this for 20 minutes. I hope no one pulls the fire alarm forcing an exit. It can happen! During the 2013 earthquake in Virginia, I was actually at the salon and had to run out onto the sidewalk in black salon cape with highlighting foil strips all over my head. Vanity is risky business. As I look back at my medusa-hair in the mirror, I realize, this is the price I pay for the beauty I seek.
But just how much have I been paying for my personal upkeep? I really don’t want to know. But I do know that like raising a child, it takes a village. The older you get, the bigger the village. Beyond the stylists, and hair washers I’ve gone through at this salon, my upkeep also requires a manicurist, a pedicurist, a dermatologist, a gym membership, Sephora makeup consultants, fragrance specialists, white smile experts, the occasional masseuse, fashion consultants -usually friends and family, Amazon.com for all health supplements and Wegman’s, for all organic food, veggies and protein.
By no means am I seeking the Kardashian style! God only knows what entourage they require! Umbrella holder, paparazzi caller, face spritzer, leg shaver, bathroom door guard, toothpick operator, napkin-holder? No. I just want to hold back the aging process and stay mentally and physically fit. I do this so my son won’t think his old lady can’t play a little hoop with him or go running with him. I don’t want him to think that I might not be fit enough to save him from a riptide while he catches waves. You might want to get the lifeguard’s attention there, kid. I’m still a horrible swimmer. But Yes, I do it out of love. That’s right! You, who needs the braces. I do it all for you!
Of course, it all comes wrapped in a bit of vanity on my part. But it’s also my own personal experiment at defying gravity and Father Time. I want to prove to myself and to others with notions of stereotyping women over 40, 50 or even 60 that we don’t have to give up looking attractive and healthy beyond a specific birthday. I don’t want to look 20 years old or even 30. I just want to look good and feel healthy in my age. When I was younger, I didn’t have the smarts, time or the resources to enjoy this process. Now I do, and I feel healthier and better than ever. For me, it’s appreciating the fact that you only live once. Why not prolong it the best way you can — looking and feeling the best way you can?
I’m looking at myself in the mirror now. My hair is styled and Laura stands behind me as she admires her work. My blind date did not disappoint. I pay for my beauty restoration, schedule my next appointment and walk out to the parking lot. The snow has begun to fall. I raise my fist at Father Time and at the cold snowy weather. I won’t go gentle into that good night! I will rage, rage against the fading of my highlights.