Pat McDer­mott:

shades of grey

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - NEWS -

Do you think it’s time I em­braced the grey, Sam?” Sam’s my hair­dresser. He was fid­dling with my hair, weigh­ing it in his hands, look­ing like a doc­tor about to de­liver bad news. “There are lots of grey-haired women around,” I said. “Some look fab­u­lous!”

Sam didn’t say any­thing. I’ve done this be­fore. I’m try­ing to get him to make the de­ci­sion. “I’m se­ri­ous,” I said. “I think I might be ready. I’m reading grey’s the new blonde!

I’ve al­ways wanted to look like He­len Mir­ren.” “Who’s He­len Mir­ren?”

In Sam’s de­fence, he’s young. “He­len Mir­ren is a mar­vel­lous ac­tress. She played the Queen in The Queen,” I said, sound­ing a lit­tle shrill. “She’s 71 and she still looks sexy!” Sam looked alarmed. “I don’t mean ‘re­ally sexy’,” I ex­plained hastily. “I mean in a nice, quiet, older woman kind of way. Ac­tu­ally she’s prob­a­bly more well-groomed than sexy.”

The woman to my right, her hair in foils, yawned and said, “I liked her in Prime Sus­pect. But she was younger then and blonde. It’s eas­ier to go grey if you’re blonde.”

“Ac­tu­ally, her hair is sil­ver, not grey,” said some­one three seats down. “She’s also slim and el­e­gant. You have to be if you’re grey oth­er­wise you look like a bag lady!”

By now, people were putting down their mo­bile phones and mag­a­zines. Ar­gu­ments broke out about age­ing grace­fully ver­sus keep­ing up ap­pear­ances. The cool guy sit­ting next to me pulled out his ear­buds and looked silently at Sam in the mir­ror. Their eyes met, they raised their eye­brows, and in uni­son. They silently shared what my sons call the “hys­ter­i­cal older woman” alert.

“I didn’t see The Queen,” Sam said gamely. “But I did see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with Mi­ley Cyrus. She’s so hot.”

“Does she have grey hair?” I asked.

My mother em­braced her grey hair the first day she found one.

“Nope. She’s blonde or black. Some­times at the same time. She put out an al­bum called Mi­ley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz.”

“That sounds fun,” I mum­bled. I hunched un­der my plas­tic cape while the ar­gu­ments went on. An hour later, my hair was its usual shiny brown and the grey “tide line” along the part was gone. Once again, I’d chick­ened out.

My mother em­braced her grey hair the first day she found one. Back then, only “fast” women dyed their hair. Mum was a reg­u­lar at Eve­lyn’s Beauty Sa­lon, where she had a sham­poo and set. Ev­ery six weeks she had a cut. The hair­dressers, Eve­lyn, Therese and Francine, wore high heels, tight skirts and an eye-wa­ter­ing amount of per­fume. I adored their red lip­stick and im­pos­si­bly long nails.

Therese and Francine had naughty boyfriends and Eve­lyn’s hus­band was al­ways help­ing po­lice with their en­quiries. All three laughed and sang all day. Ev­ery­body felt good when they left Eve­lyn’s sa­lon.

On Satur­days, Francine put 100 tiny rollers in my mother’s hair, stuck her un­der the dryer and turned it on high. Then a quick comb-out and a blast of su­per-firm hair­spray and Mum was done. Her hair, un­moved, weath­ered Arc­tic blasts, bliz­zards, gale-force winds and tor­ren­tial rain.

Years later Mum had her hair “done” at Eve­lyn’s be­fore she left Canada for my wed­ding in Aus­tralia. When she ar­rived in north­ern New South Wales the tem­per­a­ture had soared to a balmy 44 de­grees. My bou­quet of white roses turned brown and the maid of hon­our fell asleep on the buf­fet ta­ble. The MOTH (The Man of the House) helped a band of sur­vivors set a new record for beers con­sumed in less than two hours. Mum, buoyed by a gin and tonic or two (more ice, please), sat re­gally through it all with not a grey hair out of place. The Queen would have ap­proved. So, I think, would Sam.

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