In which Lady Z goes gray and rethinks certain matters.

Over on Ladies, there’s a delightful post from our esteemed President on New Year’s resolutions we’d like to make for other people. I’ve had my say over there on irritating drivers, etc., but there was one that I intended to add, or mention over here, which I’ve now had occasion to rethink before even getting it out.

What I was going to say was that, while I know such statements generally come with the best of intentions, that it is not flattering to inform a full-grown woman, when she tells you that she is a professor, that she doesn’t look nearly old enough to have such a grown-up job. And I was going to kindly suggest that the world resolve not to do this anymore. In most cases, I still think this is true, particularly from other professors. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find infantalization sexy.

BUT. This morning I found a GRAY HAIR sprouting out of the top of my head, brought on, no doubt, by the stress of preparing for the spring semester with a broken right wrist, and I nearly lost my shit. So I must admit that I could have hugged the young man working at the campus Starbucks who asked me what my major was, and declared (when told I taught in the English department) that he couldn’t BELIEVE I was old enough to teach, that I looked maybe 19 MAX, and then gave me a free upgrade to a grande vanilla latte on account of my New Year’s injury.

Obviously, this matter is more complex than I initially realized. I guess we could say: Generally, when someone is in her “professional mode,” i.e. teaching a class, or attending a conference, or trying to get the hold removed from her library account even though she has a million overdue books because she absolutely needs them for the article she’s writing, do not tell her that you don’t believe she is an adult. Also, if you are a grown man, do not hit on a grown woman by telling her how eighteen she looks. This is creepy on multiple levels. But if it’s clear that you’re not macking on or professionally compromising a woman who looks like maybe she’s having a tough day because her right arm is in a cast and she can’t carry books and open the door at the same time and her hair is graying and unwashed and she kind of looks like she’d rather be in bed watching an E! True Hollywood Story marathon, then maybe it’s okay to underestimate her age a little, and give her free coffee.

14 thoughts on “In which Lady Z goes gray and rethinks certain matters.

  1. *raises a glass of ensure to the elderly lady*

    I heart you.

    I heart the nice guy at Starbucks.

    I heart the idea of making NYRs for other people.

    I’m very sorry for laughing at your travails but it’s not my fault you’re such an entertaining writer.

    (P.S. when all else fails and you can’t wash your hair, a couple shakes of baby powder and a lot of brushing with the functioning arm will absorb the grease)

    • Re: *raises a glass of ensure to the elderly lady*

      Ditto what she said… especially this part: I’m very sorry for laughing at your travails but it’s not my fault you’re such an entertaining writer.

      šŸ™‚

      • Re: *raises a glass of ensure to the elderly lady*

        Laugh away. I figure that’s the only way I’m going to get through this absurdity myself. šŸ™‚

  2. Until you hit 40, dear, at which point you will kiss (with perhaps a little tongue) anyone who remotely suggests such things. šŸ˜‰ Until then, you have my sympathies.

    On the same lines, I’d like to ask everyone in the world never to say to me “You’d be such a good mom, why don’t you have kids?” again. Maybe people ought to listen a bit more and talk less…

  3. and one piece of unsolicited advice

    I learned this the hard way. I started highlighting my hair — the first time I’d used any chemicals on my hair (other than spiral perms in the 80s), ever, somewhere between ages 29-32. I wanted the chunky highlights Courtney Cox had in the movie “Scream” (don’t ask). Happily, I got highlights for several years at a beauty school for cheap until one day someone referred to me as “Ant, the blonde girl.” You’ve met me. I’m not blonde. But the highlights had highlighted my whole head, and I was in fact, closer to blonde than anything else.

    To make a long story longer, I started coloring one solid dark color over my whole head. It was a color close to my natural color, but more. I liked the color so much that I used it for years.

    2 things happened that got me thinking:
    1. I was telling some women (all older than I) on my 34th birthday that I needed to touch up my roots when they asked me if I really had that many greys that I needed to color them. “No!” I exclaimed in shock. “I color my hair because I like the color, not because of greys.”
    2. When my roots grow out a bit now (at 41), I realize that in fact, I do have a bazillion gray hairs (I blame my mother) and now I am forced to color my hair for the rest of my life, or until I decide I’m old enough to have gray hair … which won’t be for a very long time.

    So let this be a lesson … although what lesson I have no idea. Oh wait, I know — don’t dye your hair until you feel like you really need to/have to/want to. Or … start dyeing it now and no one will ever know that you had grey hair. Or … oh geez this is an entirely meaningless comment.

      • Re: and one piece of unsolicited advice

        whoa — that’s a very interesting article. Of course, I thought “The Gray Wars” might refer to the grey/gray debate, but …

        (I also found the comments on “my real hair color” interesting)

    • Re: and one piece of unsolicited advice

      It’s entirely possible this story–if you can even call it that–is way OT, but I’m going to tell it anyway. šŸ˜›

      I have a friend who is 34, drop-dead gorgeous (thin, great figure, clear skin, perfect smile, big clear blue eyes, the works), and a natural blonde. When I met her she was blonde. Yes, she was lovely, but she also looked really…well, fragile, if that makes sense. Kinda like a china doll. You almost didn’t want to touch her, lest you break her. Then all of a sudden, she showed up one day, in her mid-late 20s, with dark brown hair. And she looked AMAZING. I mean, people had noticed her before, but now she was really turning heads.

      She’s a million miles from vain. (Indeed, she never quite understands why everyone thinks she’s so pretty, which is the only reason I can stand to be around her.) But she says w/ dark hair she finally sees the real her when she looks in the mirror. (Her husband, who met her after she started dying, has never seen her blonde. But then, he shaves his head, so she’s never seen him with hair at all.)

      Uh..so what’s the point of this comment? I’m not sure. I think it has to do with the fact that so many women want so desperately bo bee blonde, but then there are blonde women out there who don’t like it at all. Or who think it’s wrong for them. Also, I wonder if, when her time comes, she’ll even know she’s going grey, or if it will be all covered up with dye so she won’t know it’s there.

      Gosh, other people’s hair is really interesting. To me, at least.

      • Re: and one piece of unsolicited advice

        To me, too.

        And you should know that for years (in fact, quite possibly, still) I thought that all women should have blonde hair and all men should have brown. Seems like it would be more fair or something šŸ™‚

  4. Poor Baby Has A Gray Hair

    At least the guy didn’t say that you looked older than you are. And, you have one gray hair. Well, cry me a river. No one has ever given me a free cup of coffee. šŸ˜¦ Maybe it is because of all of my gray hair. Also, I love for creepy old men to tell me “how eighteen” I look. It makes me feel all perty, like a young Britney Spears before she became bi-polar.

    I feel no need to sign my name b/c I’m sure that you know who this is.

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