A Gray Area
This morning I went into a local grocery store on my way to work to get a salad for lunch. When I went through the checkout, the clerk asked me if I qualified for the senior discount. This store offers 10% percent off on Tuesdays to anyone 60 and over. That’s right, I said 60. Are you kidding me? I bit my tongue. Hard. I looked her right in the eye and said, “No.” Then I said, “You asked me that last week.” Her response was the same as last week, “I never assume.” I don’t go into this store every day, but I just so happened to have been there last Tuesday, too. Lucky me. Last week, I was in a little better mood. I laughed it off and asked her if I really looked 60? She gave me the “never assume” response. I remember saying to her. “I know I have gray hair, but come on.” This probably would not bother me so much if she was one of the typical girls that work there, which are young, late teens, early 20s, but this woman is my age, give or take, and apparently works Tuesday mornings. The reason I had to bite my tongue so hard was because I was not in such a good frame of mind due to a couple realizations that came to me last night. I was in a mood. I am not a confrontational person at all, but oh my god, did I want to give it to this woman. I wanted to say, “Don’t you think you should assume in the other direction? You are not making any friends here, especially with someone who is clearly not 60! And shouldn’t you try to remember your customers since you asked me that last week? Are you a moron? Don’t you think that if I were old enough to get the discount, you would not have to ask? Wouldn’t I tell you to give it to me? After all, there is a bright yellow sign right here in front of my face next to the ATM machine that clearly states it is the 10% off day for anyone 60 and over! Give me my fucking salad. I don’t like you!”
I know the gray hair is a telltale sign of a certain age, but I love it and I know I don’t look 60. I will never go back to dying my hair. Not that it wasn’t a difficult decision that I wrestled with for a couple of years before I actually did it. We women are vain. We don’t want to grow old gracefully. At least I don’t. I am descending the ladder of aging kicking and screaming. Somewhat. I know that letting my hair go gray shows a certain degree of acceptance, but because of that, I try to remain youthful in other ways. I stay fit and try not to dress like my Mom. No offense to my Mom. She always looks very nice.
The decision to go gray was somewhat calculated for me. Prior to moving back up north, my hair stylist, Stacy, had been encouraging me to let my hair go gray for some time. We talked about it a lot when I went for my roots (every four weeks). She said that I would look great because I was youthful looking and that it would be striking. “No.” I kept saying. I love this girl. She knew she would be losing income if I stopped dying my hair, but she was honest with her opinion, regardless. And, oh the money I have not spent on not getting my hair dyed these past couple of years. What Stacy said was always in the back of my mind, especially when just one week after getting my hair colored, the shock of white would begin peeking through. I was so tired of it. So my calculated decision was when I decided to give modeling another shot. I thought gray hair would make me more marketable. I figured I could do medication commercials. You know, Cialis, maybe? And that was it for me. Off I went, in my mind, to reinvent myself. I know that sounds lame, but that’s what I did. I spent almost a year going gray and getting into better shape. The first few months were awful. I almost dyed my hair on many occasions. I didn’t want to look like a raccoon so I put this non-permanent rinse on, which turned the gray roots purple. It was hilarious. I remember one friend who I hadn’t seen for a while and hadn’t had a chance to tell her what I was doing said, “I like the purple.” It was a nightmare, but I persevered. Once I felt ready, I had a friend of my son’s take some photos of me (it had been years) just to see for myself if I had the gumption. I guess I did. Not because I love the business. I never really liked that world very much, but it is a good living and a means to an end. In my case that remains to be seen, though things are starting to move a bit for me. The jobs for someone my age aren’t as easy to come by as they were back in my youth. Still, getting signed to Ford came as a complete shock to me. I remember walking in and expecting it to be a courtesy visit. I certainly didn’t expect, “here is your contract, and by the way, we love your hair.”
So for me, this is what is fun about being gray. I think I am a mystery to some people. I have a good friend whose brother is in his 30s and I met him for the first time a year ago or so. He asked his sister, “So is Jodee young and prematurely gray, or is she older and still hot?” I loved that! I loved that he could not figure it out and I love her for sharing that with me. The other thing I like are the compliments from strangers. Not from men, because that almost never happens. The compliments come from women. I’m not sure of the reason. Perhaps that I had the guts to do it. Perhaps long, gray hair is just different from what you see out there. Whatever the reason, it always feels great to hear that from other women because there is always going to be that part of me that is not ready to be old and not ready to show it. I am not here to preach going gray. It was a personal decision and it isn’t for everyone. I suppose being questioned whether I was a 60-year old woman today made me feel like I wanted to write this. 🙂