Maggie Van Ostrand
gray hair is growing in faster than denials from Karl Rove. If it
has already happened to you, then you know what I'm talking about.
I've got myself halfway into the coffin already. I can take a hint.
In fact, it was so upsetting that my friend Louise advised me to "lighten
up." I immediately interpreted that remark as meaning I should have
my hair bleached, deducing that blonde would conceal gray. Louise
vehemently denied this was her intention. Sure, anybody'd deny it
after they saw these results!
The hair alone is great. Too bad it doesn't go with the face under
it. And that's not all it doesn't go with. It doesn't go with one
single piece of clothing I own. It doesn't go with any lipstick I
own either. Not even, for pity's sake, does it go with my Yankee baseball
cap! That was the last straw, because I wanted to wear that cap to
bed on the theory that I might wake up in the middle of the night,
see the reflection of a strange blonde and, like the contortionist
who had a heart attack, die in my own arms.
Now my hair only goes with two things: a box of old tiles left in
the basement by the people we bought the house from, and one of the
multicolored stripes on the awning of the porch swing.
Clairol lied through their corporate teeth when they claimed "Blondes
Have More Fun." My daughter doesn't want to drive to Disneyland with
me now that I'm blonde. She's afraid that, when I come to the freeway
sign that says, "Disneyland Left," I'll turn around and go home. She
says I'm not so much blonde as lightheaded. My son drove right past
me yesterday, even though I was waving at him as wildly as a flag
in a cyclone. He didn't even slow down when I ran after his car screaming
"I'm your mother. We're having lunch."
Friends I've known for years walk on the other side of the street
and pretend they don't know me. They never did that before, not even
when I weighed so much, my sweat suit had stretch marks, not even
after the divorce when I was known to whine in public and pitifully
grab at the sleeves of passers by, and not even when my dog agreed
to be neutered because he was afraid I was getting too affectionate.
When I bumped into a longtime admirer yesterday, I hoped that he at
least would be positive about my new blonde look. Besides, nothing
I had ever done, no matter how bizarre or unconventional, had ever
bothered him in the past. This time was different; his eyes went right
to the top of my head, then they glazed over and he walked away looking
pained. I immediately went into denial, telling myself he didn't recognize
At Bloomingdale's I saw a woman I had known in college and never liked.
When she said, "How marvelous you look darling. Blonde is your color,"
I knew for sure how awful I really looked. When I said, "Maybe I should
wear a hat," she replied, "Darling, I thought you were."
I started thinking (a titillating pastime for any blonde), why it
might be that men can get gray and look distinguished while I just
look older. Of course I then became plagued by related questions,
such as: Why is it that people can talk to a man without looking at
his chest? How come it's acceptable for a man to clean his fingernails
with a pocketknife? Why don't auto mechanics lie to a man? Why can
a man be single at 38 and considered a great catch, but a woman that
age is dangerously near a clock that yells: Time is running out! Why
do blond men look tan and I just look pasty? This isn't the first
time I've been beaten to a psychic pulp by a bad idea. After all,
if being a blonde was such a good idea, Hilary Swank would be one.
Oscar Wilde once said of a friend, "He hasn't a redeeming vice," but
I say we all have one. Mine is being off color.
Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
26 , 2007 column