Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘mother’

Hair’s the Problem.

Why do we torture ourselves so over our hair?  I remember my mom going to the hairdresser and coming home furious nearly every time.  She’d go straight to the bathroom and start rearranging her hair.  Dad and I used to laugh about it (which annoyed Mom terribly!).  Back then she was getting an “up-do” (remember those?), and she was never satisfied.  It was too high.  It was too flat.  It was too curly.  It was too short. 

On a side note: my parents were avid snowmobilers, and I used to love that Mom would still get her weekly up-do, then carefully put her snowmobile helmet on so that it didn’t disturb the hair.  We’d pull into some bar along the trails, and when the helmet came off, there she was with an elegant French twist and carefully coifed hair, drinking a beer and enjoying a corned beef sandwich – always stylin’!  I used to tease her, but I actually thought it was pretty classy and cool.

Mom wasn’t at all unusual.  Women are just never happy with their hair.  If it’s straight, we’re paying for perms to curl it.  If it’s curly, we’re ironing it to make it straight.  If it’s fine, we’re adding volumizers to thicken it.  If it’s thick, we’re cutting out sections to thin it.  If it’s long, we’re thinking about cutting it.  If it’s short, we’re wishing it were longer.  Layers?  Bob?  Wedge?  We are constantly doubting our choices and cursing our DNA for giving us the hair we have.  If you tell a friend that you love her naturally curly hair, what’s her response going to be?  “Oh, God, it’s such a pain – be thankful you don’t have my hair!” 

Right now, I’m glancing at my hair in a mirror and cursing.  The left side looks FABULOUS.  Falling just right, looking casual but in place.  The right side?  It’s got this weird little dip halfway down, and then one section is flipping OUT instead of under, in complete defiance of how I styled it just an hour ago!  What the #%$!?

I guess that’s the price I pay for trying to wear my hair longer than I ever really have.  I had my hair cut into a “shag” when I was a teenager, and it’s been in some variation of that 1970’s cut ever since.  Short shags, long shags, pixie shags, permed shags.  But shags just the same.  Somewhere along the way, I was convinced (or convinced myself) that this fine, straight hair around my long, angular face could only be styled in short layers.  I’m not saying the layers looked bad on me – they really did complement my hair and face.  But after forty years of shags, my mid-life mini-crisis is pushing me to try something different. 

I’m pretty sure I’ll be heading back to short layers within a year or so (or sooner).  But the process of experimenting with my hair has been positive, if frustrating.  A couple years back, I started growing the layers longer, with my (excellent) hairdresser keeping things under control.  I wasn’t crazy about the look at all times, but I was loving the “feel”.  For the first time since I was in second grade, I had hair that moved in the wind, blowing across my face.  Don’t laugh – I’d never felt that before!  In my mind, I suddenly felt like a movie star, with my hair brushing my cheeks.  When I had my convertible (which I miss terribly), I actually had to wear a headband to keep my hair from whipping into my eyes.  At 75 miles an hour, that’s not sexy – it’s painful. 

Today, the experimentation continues.  The longer layers (which never went past my shoulders, but for me, that was long) are now a medium length bob.  But it moves, and I’m having fun rediscovering my hair.  All those years of having hair labeled as “straight and fine” put me into the mindset that I must then try to make it “wavy and thick”.  That’s what women do, remember – we want the hair we don’t have, instead of embracing what we born with.  So I always used volumizing shampoo, volumizing conditioner, volumizing mousse, and volumizing hairspray.  After all, if a little would help, more must be capable of giving me a thick mane of hair, right?  Newsflash – I don’t have a thick mane of hair yet.

One Saturday a month or two ago, I lazily just washed my hair and dried it, without adding anything to it, thinking that no one would see me all day anyway.  And I discovered something surprising – my “normal” hair wasn’t that bad!  It was a lot softer without all that mousse and hairspray on it.  So I did the same thing the next day.  And it actually had shine, which is something that volumizing products take away (they “puff up” the scales on each strand of hair to make it thicker, but then the shine is gone).  And that “helmet-head” effect that loads of hairspray can give?  I didn’t need it after all.  I have to admit, giving up the swirl of hairspray around and around my head in the morning has been tough.  That’s decades of bad habit to break.  I’m a bit of a control freak, even with my own hair.

I’ve been messing around a lot with my hair lately, with varying degrees of success.  But I’m slowly learning to embrace the hair that I was born with, rather than trying to turn it into something that, frankly, it just wasn’t ever meant to be. 

And that’s pretty much a metaphor for women facing our fifties, isn’t it?  We start messing around with our nicely structured, well-planned lives, and we start discarding the artificial trappings that we’ve always assumed we needed to have.  I think we start facing reality more after fifty, and hopefully, we stop fighting with it. 

Will I end up with a short, layered cut again?  Uh, yeah.  I know it’s still the best cut for my hair.  But I’m having fun learning to like my “real” hair in this little rebellious phase of mine, and, even when it’s short again, I hope I can just leave it alone and let it do its thing without killing it with hair products.

Does that include letting it go gray (I’ve been coloring it for years)?  ARE YOU CRAZY???  Of course not!  I’m not that into facing reality.  I love my color, and it really is the natural blonde color of my youth, even if it’s not obtained naturally anymore, and I’m not giving it up, honey.  Not yet, anyway.  After sixty?  Probably…  It’s a personal choice, of course, but for now, gray just isn’t where I want to be.  But having hair I can run my fingers through (or Hubby can run his fingers through!) without causing pain?  Having hair that shines again, even when it is misbehaving?  I like it.

On Being a Baby Baby Boomer

My family is a microcosm of the span of the famed “Baby Boomer” generation.   Having met at a USO in Chicago during World War II, my parents married after the war and began their family.  My brother was born in 1948, in the early years of the post-war Baby Boom.  For another 17 years, there were enough babies born every year (lots and lots) to count as the Baby Boomers, even though “the war” was long past.  I was born in 1958, near the end of the boom, which officially closed in 1964. 

Every time those first Baby Boomers hit a milestone, it makes news.  “Boomers Turn 40!”  “Boomers Turn 50!”  Boomers Turn 60!”  “Boomers Retire!” 

Well, when the afore-mentioned Boomers were turning 40 and facing their burgeoning mid-life crises, I was hitting 30 feeling footloose and fancy-free.  When they reached 50 and changed the cosmetics market forever in a panic to stay young, I was just heading into my 40’s with a new husband and a soon-to-be blossoming career.  And, while older Boomers are now retiring in droves, I’m still stuck in job-land for another 10 years or so.  

I’m a ‘baby’ Baby Boomer.  I was shaped by the 1960’s, but via the television screen, not a college campus.  One of my earliest memories is watching the JFK funeral on a small black & white TV while my mom cried.  I was five.  In 1968, my brother (the Old Boomer) paid my best friend and I fifty cents each to tear all the Bobby Kennedy campaign banners from his car the day after Bobby was killed.  At 20 and involved in his first presidential campaign, he was too heartbroken to do it himself. 

My view of those years was skewed by looking through the prism of how they affected him.  I paid attention to the war in Vietnam because my big brother was eligible for the draft.  I watched violent college protests on TV because he was headed off to college on the other side of the country (Mom’s advice – “do whatever you want out there, but don’t ever let me see your face on the national news!”).   I was 12 when four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State.  I couldn’t understand it, and I worried that my brother would be shot on his college campus.  

Our childhoods were so very different.  He grew up with Andy and Opie.  I grew up with Laugh-In.  He was an Eagle Scout with a stay-at-home mom in a one car family.  They had a fishing boat and went tent camping in the Adirondacks for vacation.  He played Little League on a small local diamond (that’s still there).  I had a working mom in a family that boasted two cars, three snowmobiles, two boats, and a camper.  We went to New York City for vacation and stayed at the McAlpin (not quite the Waldorf, but almost right next door).  I showed horses for fun.  Yeah – being ten in 1968 was a whole lot different than being ten in 1958.

1958 was full of hope.  Ten-year-olds didn’t have a care in the world then.  1958 was Sputnik, Elvis, Alaska, de Gaulle and Eisenhower.  Yes, Castro and Khrushchev made a little noise, but that stuff rarely made it into the family living room.  Good grief, the musical hero of the year was Van Cliburn.  

1968 was a whole lot more complicated, and the news of the day was in our living room in living color.  It was LBJ, Vietnam, Nixon and hijackings.  Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both gunned down.  Campuses burned, and Led Zeppelin rocked the radio while Hair rocked Broadway.  In ten short years, the world had turned upside down. 

My mom often says she feels like she raised two “only children”.  I thought she meant it was just because we were ten years apart – he was an only child for ten years, then I came along, then he was off to college with I was only eight.  But I wonder now if her statement also covers the fact that she raised two children in two such completely different eras. 

Some studies show that young Boomers like me don’t like being called “Baby Boomers”.  That’s probably a knee-jerk reaction to wanting to clarify that we’re not as old as those other guys.  But I don’t mind it.  Being a Boomer is cool.  We’re part of the generation that changed the world.  We may not be the “greatest generation” like our parents, but we were the 500 lb. gorilla that had to be dealt with.  We changed everything – politics, entertainment, fashion, civil rights.  We rocked the workplace, and powered the economy as we set aside our hippy beads (well, the old Boomers had more of those than us…), and we went into the workforce – men and women.  As we’ve aged (we’ll all be over 50 within 4 years), we continue to throw our collective weight around, for good and for not-so-good.  We’re spending Social Security dollars faster than our children can replenish them.  Senior living centers are springing up everywhere.  Powered wheelchairs now come in bright colors and stylish shapes.  We’ll need more doctors and nurses as we all begin to fall apart.  We’ve got another good 40 or maybe even 50 years of making our mark on society.  Sorry, kids!

Why would I want to be called the “X” “Y” or “Z” generation?  What does that even mean, anyway?  It’s lame.

Nope, call me a Baby Boomer, and I’ll take the name with pride.  Just don’t mix me up with those really old Boomers like my brother.  I’ll stick with being a Baby Baby Boomer, thank you very much!

A Family of Feisty Women

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I have to pause to pay tribute to the many strong and feisty women in my family.  I come from a long line of fine women, and I’m proud of all of them.  It bodes well for my adventures in aging, since both sides of my family feature classy, long-lived women who enjoy life to the fullest, whether they’re in their 70’s, 80’s, or near 90. 

I stopped by my mom’s apartment a few weeks ago to pick her up for dinner.  At 84, she handily qualifies for her apartment at a “55-and-over” complex.  She found the place on her own, arranged her own move, and settled in very nicely last year.  She drives (and drives very well), but evening driving isn’t her favorite thing.  So I swung by after work, and called her on her cell phone as I neared her place so that she could meet me in the parking lot. 

As I pulled in, there she was.  Striding out with confidence, looking trim in tailored trousers, a fitted corduroy jacket, bright green top and a brilliantly patterned silk scarf.  Every inch of her was stylish.  I was reminded of a former pastor who once told me that my parents had forever redefined the term “senior citizen” for him, because they refused to fit the stereotype of the “little old couple”.   

Back in the day, when I was but a child (yes, that was back in the late-1960’s, as difficult as it is for me to admit), my mom was one of the first working moms in the neighborhood.  My big brother had gone off to college, and that was long before every kid in the world qualified for student loans.  Tuition had to be paid, and dad’s income wasn’t going to cover it easily, so Mom was off to work full time.  She worked for a printing company, out in the physical plant.  And she wore dresses.  Every day.  Dresses.  Sitting next to a huge printing press – in a dress.  It was actually forbidden for women to wear trousers of any kind at most companies in those days.  Can you imagine???

Anyhow… as fashions went topsy-turvy that decade, polyester pantsuits became all the rage.  They had long tunic tops over bell-bottom pants.  Mom’s employer came up with a creative dress code: it was okay to wear trousers, as long as you were wearing a tunic top that was long enough to be worn alone as a dress.  Seriously.  It was like saying “sure, you can wear pants if you want – just wear them under your dress.”  Mom made most of her own clothes, so it was easy for her to comply.   But as time passed, her tunic tops got shorter and shorter.  Enough so that Big Brother and I used to tease her that she’d be in a whole heap of trouble if they ever made her take her pants off and wear the top as a dress. 

Mom made it work, and set an example for her daughter.  By the time I started working for the same printing company 8 years later, I was heading to work in jeans.  Mom came from good stock – her own mother was a feisty, hard-working farm wife who raised three strong daughters in the middle of Depression-striken Iowa.  Mom and her older and younger sisters still get together every summer for a “sisters’ reunion” in Iowa, and she travels regularly with her younger sister, including a trip to Ireland last year. 

In fact, as I think of my aunts, I realize that both sides of my family provided me with fine examples of strong womanhood.  My aunts on both my mom’s and dad’s sided are each independent, active, positive ladies.  Like Mom, they are all widows now.  My dad’s mother was the toughest of them all.  Her husband died when Dad, the only boy, was around five years old.  They were poor farmers in far northern New York State, near the Canadian border.  A single mom in the 1930’s, raising four kids on her own on a rocky scrap of farmland?  It was unheard of, but she did it.  Not only that, she lived to see all of them successful, happily married, with families and very good lives.  She knew several of her great-grandchildren, and her great-great-grandson is being raised in the house where she once lived.  That’s quite a legacy.

What’s the moral of the story?  The best gift a mom can give her children is to set a fine example.  To live a good life, full of responsibility, love, fun, and security.

As I stumble along trying to figure out how to negotiate my way through the aging process, mourning the loss of a little memory here, or fretting over a new wrinkle there, I just need to think of the stubborn, funny, strong, and thoroughly modern women of my own family tree to gain a little perspective.  I don’t have children to teach their stories to, but I hope I can be a “cool” Nana for our grandchildren, and perhaps show them how to age well. 

Aging gracefully is for wimps – aging well means having lots of laughs, being well-seasoned and sun-kissed, having good friends and close family.  My two departed grandmothers and one deceased aunt knew that.  My four surviving aunts know it and live it.  My mom personifies it with her own unique style.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

And to all the moms reading this – please set the right example for your daughters (and sons) by living your own life well.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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