Since I was born during a certain decade, I’ve been unceremoniously tossed out like dangerously overly moldy cheese into society’s aging segment known as ‘baby boomers.’ I hate that term. I really do. It makes me feel like the universe is punishing me for getting old, or that I’m sliding down the slippery slope of life on my last legs in the grips of rheumatoid arthritis and other age-related afflictions, or that I have to wear Depends in order to avoid embarrassing #2 accidents in public. Ugly, ain’t it?
That baby boomer term further classifies me as an old geezer, which is what I used to mockingly call my grandparents under my breath when they were in their early 60’s and I was a young pup of about six. And since we are a society quick to label others, I prefer to be labeled as a “seasoned fly girl” or a “frisky miss.” Clearly by my estimation, I’m still young at heart and strong in spirit. I still have a lot of juice left in me, dammit!
Yes, Father Time is not known to be kind. His wicked, twisted sense of humor reveals him to be shamelessly indiscriminate when saddling boomers with age-related ailments, wrinkles, and stubborn gray hairs, which have cropped up in my thick head of hair much too soon. Not one to stand still for that bullet charging towards me, I took to dodging, weaving, doing anything to fend off the inevitable forced march into the senior ranks.
Too often I fell victim to senior moments of boredom, which threw my perky spirit and upbeat demeanor into a dangerous overdrive. I couldn’t sit still to save my life. At times, I feared I had a late onset of ADD. Everywhere I went, fidgeting, forgetfulness, and fussiness tagged along excitedly like tin cans on strings attached to my swollen ankles. These invisible accoutrements made me do things that almost always proved to be embarrassing.
Adept at saving face, I got away with most of them because of my age and that pitiable ‘baby boomer’ category. But with me, forgetfulness is my worst affliction. Case in point: I thought I would try something new to spiff up my appearance. No, no Botox, no lipo, no facelifts or anything radically foolish like that. I started with something relatively safe, easy and manageable: my hair, opting to lighten it a bit to a delicate golden brown.
Now, I had tackled home dye jobs before with results ranging from reasonably satisfying to being ready for a magazine cover photoshoot. So with this new product, I expected nothing other than success. The product came with a color booster, a white powder (not cocaine) which I had to add to the dye mixture to lift my hair to a lighter shade. The instructions were easy, but very explicit: ‘Pay attention to the shade of lightness desired, then rinse out quickly.’ Too easy I thought. But that ‘pay attention’ part zipped right past my overly active, impatient brain, thus giving validity to my self-diagnosed ADD affliction.
After mixing the ingredients, I slathered it all on my hair. To entertain myself for the 20-minute wait, I fired up my computer and started one of my favorite board games.
Initially lost in strategy with the sneaky computer’s slight edge on me, I prevailed and managed to increase my points. I was poised to slam dunk it for a win when suddenly I felt something slowly dripping down my neck. Oh, shit! I raced to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. What I saw forced me to release a scream, which scattered all the birds from the trees in the neighborhood.
AAAAAAHHH! My reflection was a shorter, carbon copy of Carrot Top, the wacky comedian with an electrifying mop of red hair. Except mine was a bright Halloween orange. Speechless and mouth wide open, I winced and blurted out a few choice cuss words as I stared at myself in disbelief, wondering if my computer was in on this.
The worst part of this colossal blunder hadn’t surfaced yet. No, my hair didn’t fall out. And no, orange hair wouldn’t go well with my café au lait shade of skin. Slowly, the reality of it all crept in: this took place on a Sunday evening. Tomorrow was Monday, a workday.
I had to think fast and become creative to camouflage this catastrophe. I weighed my options. Taking sick leave was out of the question, as there’s no illness called “stupid,” which is, thankfully, only a temporary condition for some of us. Wearing a floppy hat or a baseball cap all day at my desk would look foolish. Tying a scarf around my head for the entire day would look cool if this were the 60’s, and I was headed to Woodstock. But I work in security and such a get-up would draw the heavy fire of suspicious looks and degrading whispers about my sanity and ability to hold a security clearance.
Thankfully, a baby boomer bright idea crashed through my wall of indecision. I would go with a boho-chic outfit and top it off with a colorful, coordinating skull cap. Yes, I decided to dress ethnic for the day. No one would have the nerve to question my appearance, which is covered under a sub, sub-category of a vague law protecting endangered minority species in the workplace.
After getting ready, I headed to work, reassured about my sense of style. Thankfully, none of my coworkers asked any questions about my vibrant ensemble with the accompanying skull cap. A few dared to tell me that they liked it either out of a loss for any other words to say to me or for fear of being labeled ‘insensitive’ to my minority group manner of dressing. Some even said it looked stylish and cute. Little did they know of the disaster hiding underneath it.
But I didn’t want cute. I didn’t want stylish. I wanted unwavering sympathy. I wanted to share my miserable hair color with my friends. So I emailed them all. The responses came quickly as expected. My wonderful friends (God bless ‘em) never hesitate to offer me their shoulder, give me brutally honest feedback, or chide me like a two-year-old child even when I’ve committed some senior cardinal sin, which I could have easily avoided.
I sent out this message: “Does anyone out there care that I’m having a BAD HAIR DAY?” No further details were necessary. They all knew that I had done something outrageous…again! A few responses came immediately:
LORETTA: “I care.”
KATHY: “How does one with hair so short have a bad hair day?”
DAVE: “Wow, I wish I had a picture of that. Can you send me one?”
Of course, I hadn’t realized that some of my friends didn’t even have hair anymore either by choice or some genetic quirk, and probably wouldn’t care about my bright orange short ‘do. From them I got
LEE: “Um, I don’t know how to say this without hurting your feelings! Why don’t you just shave it all off like I have? It’s all the rage these days, you know.
NEIDEL: “Join us! Shave it off!”
JIM: “I have a manual on how to get the cue ball look. You can borrow it if you like.”
Well, you get my drift.
As the end of the day approached, I started up a conversation with myself. “You idiot! You can’t wear this cap and outfit two days in a row. Coworkers would begin to seriously question my fashion savvy. Let’s see, I could dye my hair a darker color. Maybe I’ll get the color I wanted in the first place. Of course, I’d risk losing my hair with harsh coloring chemicals two days in a row.” It was hairdo-or-dye time and a chance I was willing to take.
I left work and stopped at a drugstore to buy another box of dye in a medium brown shade. After arriving home, I changed clothes before preparing the mixture, being careful to follow the directions to the letter this time. I exercised great restraint to avoid my computer, which had the nerve to beckon me for another challenging game. It even dared me to touch the keyboard which would no doubt lure me back in hook, line, and sinker. I ignored it and continued with my experiment. Boring as it was, I even watched the clock, second hand and all, tick out that 20-minute time period. At the end of the process, the color of my hair didn’t match the color variations on the back of the box. But I’d finally reached a pleasing shade of light brown, which I thought matched my skin tone perfectly. I was happy with it. At work the next day, I received a few compliments from guys, no less. But there’s one sad irony to this, pardon my pun, colorful tale: I’ll never be able to duplicate this particular shade again, unless, of course, I go through this same drama all over again.