THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
A couple of weeks ago I did something embarrassing.
I mean really embarrassing.
I dyed my hair.
And it’s all the fault of…well, I’d like to come up with some universal symbol of evil, but even though I’m as out of touch with myself as the next guy I know the sad truth: My own vanity’s to blame.
Thanks to the recent holidays, plus my birthday and requests for pictures from readers of this space, I’ve been forced to see myself through the lens of a variety of cameras. And my reaction every time has been the same:
“Who the !@#*! is that?”
Because—guess what?—that old boy with the dingy, washed out gray hair is not who I see in my mirror in the morning when I brush my teeth. Or reflected in the window of Sweet Jane’s antique shop whenever I peer into it to wave as I go by.
He couldn’t be.
What I see there is a man I know well. Myself. Thin face, slight smile, dark lines. A touch of my father in the mouth and jaw. A bit of my mother around the eyes.
Oh…and light brown hair.
So what’s this gray business in pictures? Is it a trick of the light—no matter where I am? A product of the flash going off—even when no flash is used? Do wicked little invisible Anxiety Spirits gather ‘round every time someone gets me in their rangefinder and do a quick tint just to drive me nuts?
It’s not that I mind aging. On the contrary, I’m proud of myself for having survived as long as I have considering the obstacles just plain old everyday life thrusts into our paths.
I’ve got no objection to the new spots on my face or the softening of my belly or the creasing of my skin. I’m aware of these and so many other symptoms of the fatal condition that is life. And I don’t think I’d mind the hair thing so much if it was, say, white or silver. Definitive. Strong.
Right out there.
Anything but this insidious, invisible-to-me-except-when-snapped gray.
Learning that other people have seen my hair in this flawed coloration for quite a while hasn’t exactly made me feel better either.
“Gray? Well, I guess I’d describe you as having gray hair,” said Sweet Jane said when I asked her. “But it’s not something I’d dwell on.”
Beside her, Brannigan the Contractor snickered. “Gray? Gray? Absolutely right your hair is gray! What do you mean you can’t see it? It’s right there all around your face!”
Then there was Gwen the Beautiful. “Yes, your hair is gray,” she said. And then, quickly, seeing the look on my face: “A beautiful shade of gray that I get to look at everyday.”
“How have I missed it?” I said. “Am I that blind to myself?”
“As a mother,” Gwen said, “I’ve learned that the best answer to that question is in an old poem. Something about ‘What a rare gift it is to see ourselves as others see us.’”
“The poet who wrote that didn’t mean it literally,” I protested. “He meant that we should know ourselves better. Our hearts. Our souls.”
“Well, then let me tell you what I’ve learned as a woman,” said Gwen. “If you don’t like what you see when you look at yourself, change it. And that’s pretty easy to do when all you’re talking about is the color of your hair.”
Which is how it came to pass that two weeks ago we went to Wal-Mart and laid out six bucks for a box of #60 Light Brown Acorn hair color. After which we came home and Gwen did the deed.
When she was finished I looked at myself in the mirror.
I looked the same.
Out came the digital Nikon. Snap. Snap. Snap.
And presto! There I was. Larry B with the light brown hair.
“I look the same,” I said.
But I don’t feel the same. And instead of feeling more like myself I feel less.
Because now, everywhere I go, without saying a word, I’m lying about how I look. About who I really am.
And you know the problem with telling a lie. Once you’ve started you’ve got to keep going, just to keep from being found out.
Wonder how much a brow lift will cost?
Hmm, I think I’ve just gotten past the shame….