Her hair was bright orange, with a hint of grey whisps at the roots. She spoke from the tv screen, the makeup on her face too bright, matching the colour of the hair. Her lips moved and she spoke words, but the colours of her face and hair took my attention.
“What’s with the dye job,” my teenage daughter laughed at the woman on the screen. “Doesn’t she have any friends. I mean really, who would let someone go out in public that way. And she must be 75 if she’s a day.” Krista’s voice droned in the background of my brain. I felt the words more than heard them.
“Well, some people have a statement they want to make. Doesn’t matter how old they are.” My voice rose in defence of the woman. I checked the hall mirror. A halo of grey roots was starting to show through my own orange coloured dye job. I looked at it again.
“What about my hair,” I interrupted her monologue on the woman. “Do you think it’s too red. Should I tone it down.” All of a sudden I felt some of my confidence leave my body with my questions. What was going on here. I never questioned my hair before. “And my makeup,” I said, touching at the corners of my red lips with a Kleenex. “Think I should go a shade lighter?” Again, more confidence slipping from my tongue.
“Hey mom, you look fine, don’t worry about it. You’re not as old as the lady on the screen.” She grabbed her cell phone and left our conversation. But it didn’t leave me.
The woman with the orange hair, did she know. And if she did, did she care. My questions became her questions. What were people saying about me. After all, I just celebrated a big birthday. Was it time to repackage myself, and what did that mean anyway.
I grabbed my coat from the closet and pulled it around me. It was dark brown, a safe colour. All of a sudden, I felt the need to hide behind the safe colour. “I’m going out now,” I called to Krista. “See you tonight.”
“Hey mom,” she walked down the hall toward me in her big goofy slippers. “Let’s go shopping tonight. We could maybe find you a cool outfit for this weekend. “ A cool outfit. Once again, my mind blocked out the innocence of her words and moved directly into my clothes closet. What wasn’t cool. What needed to be updated, but not too much? “Yes, of course,” I said on the way out the door, my words muffled into my brightly coloured scarf.
I got into my car with a quick look in the rear view mirror. The woman in the tv screen’s eyes were staring back at me. Her lines were deeper than mine. But all of a sudden the eyes staring back at me were mine. I never noticed the lines so deep before. When did this happen. Surely only moments ago.
Okay, stop, I told myself. You look fine. The woman with the orange hair in the tv screen started all this. The questions that were hers, became mine, but why.
That evening, walking through the mall with my daughter, I started noticing the faces of women all around me. I noticed colours, and lines and makeup, and clothes, and age. And I had a critique for each one. “See that woman over there Krista?” I pointed to a lady in faux fur. “Do you think she could tone down the red lipstick. Too bright, right?”
My daughter stared at me as if she never saw me before. “You okay mom?” Then, “get a look at this outfit. The colour is just perfect for your hair and eyes. You’ll look mega hot in this.” She held the hot pink suit up against me, and admired the effect. “Hot pink?” I said, my voice growing a little stronger.
“Yah mom, it looks amazing. Plump up the makeup and you’re a doll.” With that she headed toward the counter with my charge card. I took it from her hand and plunked it on the counter beside the suit. “Thank you sweetheart,” I said, giving her a big hug.
“No problem mom,” she looked at me with a big question mark in her eyes. “Any time I can help.”
You have no idea how much you have, I said to her with a very big smile.
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