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As regular readers know, Gill is not the sort of woman who fusses over her appearance. Oh, she takes care to look pulled together when she goes out or to work, but she doesn’t spend a lot of time or energy worrying about such superficial things. Except, now that she’s verging on being middle-aged, it is becoming more of an issue — especially her hair.

When she was a teen, she experimented with weird Manic Panic colours — she and L’il Sis both turned my bathtub pink, purple, and blue in their quest to outdo each other in the funky hair factor.(We’ve all had our moments of shame in the name of vanity we’d rather forget — in my case, a local hairdresser turned my hair so orange I looked like a pumpkin…and it wasn’t intentional!)

Then, after her university years, Gill colored her hair a normal shade that closely resembled her natural brown. Oh, there was a brief flirtation with blond, but in my opinion, it never really suited her. She gave it up when she discovered how much work it was to keep it up. But, in her thirties, grey hairs appeared amongst the brown. And not just a few stragglers, a lot of grey! She and Crazy D have that in common. Although it’s sexist to say it, it’s true that women in the workplace are under more pressure to look good and retain a semblance of youthful appearance. If you have grey or white hair, it is often taken as a sign that your brain too is atrophying  and less desirable. Nobody has ever praised a woman’s hair as making her look ‘distinguished’. (Add that to droopy boobs and spreading ass and you’re entering the years of ‘The Invisible’ female.)

When we Skyped this weekend, I commented that she had her toque on in the house. Now I wasn’t one to talk since, with recent frigid temperatures here, not only was I wearing several layers of clothes, I was wrapped up in a blanket and I had my boots on! And while it’s true that Gill was cold and the gales were blowing into her apartment from the sea, the real reason was to hide her hair. As she removed the hat, I saw a magnificent array of colours ranging from grey to dark brown to red to blond. “My God, woman! What have you done?” I asked. “You didn’t happen to stick a knife in the toaster and fry yourself, did you?”

“No, Ma, but thanks for the vote of confidence. And in fairness, that’s something YOU are more likely to do.  I’m going to the beauty salon in a couple of days and I need to have my colour done. I’ve been doing it myself for so long that I fear I’ve killed it! It needs professional help. The lady at the salon suggested I strip the colour out of it myself so it would be ready for them to work their magic when I present myself. I need basically a full rehab appointment. So I did. The colour came off in different levels in different places.It looks rather haphazard — which in many ways suits me perfectly as my brain works like that, but it’s not very professional and I do have to look somewhat office appropriate…although I am aware that I am already pushing the boundaries with my Converse sneakers and bright plaid blanket-scarf.”

“Oh…I can see that,” I commented, not sure of what to say. “It certainly is…different. Dare I say clownish?”

“Oh, I know it looks bad now, Ma. Hence the toque. I don’t have to go into the office tomorrow so I can hide it until my appointment.”

“But you’ve always said it is too expensive to have it done professionally…”

“That’s true, Ma. But let’s face it…I was never good at chemistry in school and there’s definitely a science factor at play with hair dye. Plus, they kept changing the picture of the lady on the box so I could never be sure I got the same colour I started with.”

“Yes, I do remember that. You once sent me out to get a box for you. You described the lady on the box as having ‘dark brown hair’ and she was smiling and looking slightly to the left. Do you know how many boxes that covers? No wonder you never got the same colour twice. Your current look does fit in with the fashion here now. When I last went to my salon, all the stylists had a different colour of hair: pinks, greens, purples, just like the good old Manic Panic days.”

“Oh, we had that too but now that’s passé. We’re on to the faded, more pastel colours…which really describes my hair when it’s needing a re-touch, but apparently that’s the ‘in’ thing. But I’ll go for your basic brown.”

“That’s good, dear. Very sensible. And welcome to the club of middle-age. I hate to be the one to tell you, but if your mother can’t tell you the truth, who can? It only gets worse. Gradually your hair (especially the roots) turn completely white and, stubborn little creatures that they are, the hairs refuse to soak up the dye. You’ll soon find yourself having to slap the dye on like tar, rubbing it in to make sure it takes. And it will last, if you’re lucky, for three weeks. Never mind saving for retirement…save for your hair colour!”

“Thanks, Ma. Always the voice of good cheer!”