Friday, July 26, 2013

Helmet Head at the Bates Motel

I don’t want to wind up looking like Norman Bates’s mother.

You remember that scene.  The one in “Psycho” where Vera Miles has found her way into the basement of the house on the hill behind the Bates Motel.  Vera sees Mrs. Bates sitting there with her back to the door. 

“Mrs. Bates?” says Vera tentatively, thinking she’s looking at the back of just about anyone’s mom – at least anyone’s mom who hangs out in a fruit cellar, facing the corner in a rocking chair, and who doesn't turn around at the sound of someone coming into the room. 

No answer.  So Vera reaches for her.  Just to get her attention.  You remember. 



Then, when the chair swivels, shrieking music and horror of horrors!  Mrs. Bates has lost her youthful glow!



That’s kind of what happened to a person I admire – Connie Schultz.  She’s a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and cool person.  She wrote recently about racing through the airport not realizing a young man was trying to catch up to her.  When he finally did reach for her, she turned to meet his startled expression.

“Oh!” he said.  “I thought you were someone else.  You look younger from behind.”

OK.  Less dramatic than the revelation in “Psycho,” but profound nonetheless.

Connie wrote about it in her blog in which she was musing about turning 56 and choosing not to cut her hair.  She said even though she’s middle aged (planning to live to 112, I guess) she didn’t get the “helmet head” memo.

Now gosh darn it that hurt my feelings!  Especially coming from someone whom, in my happiest flights of fancy, I emulate.

It wouldn't have bothered me a month ago, when my hair was still long, as it had been for years and decades. 

But now I've cut it.  Really short!  OMG.  Do I have helmet head?

I've always had “good hair.”  Thick and healthy.  Shiny.  In fact, I was kind of known for my hair.  I’m sure I was invested in it.  If all else failed, I could trump you with my hair.  In some ways, I sort of was my hair.

But I had to acknowledge the incongruity between my hair and my face was becoming more and more pronounced.  I had the sense a couple of times that I was in the midst of a Connie Schultz moment.  But when I swiveled in my rocker, the young man standing there, whose eyes met mine with a question and a wary realization, was at least courteous enough to keep his trap shut.

Still, there’s no denying it.  Once you have read the “you’re getting older” memo, you cannot unread it.

Oh you can walk around oblivious to its arrival like the clueless ones who exit public restrooms trailing stretches of telltale TP. 

Or maybe you can frown and squint at the envelop front and back – this can’t be for me!? 

Some of us walk around like Cher with big hair and big lips, in a sort of “age-related anorexia,” only recognizing the lipstick, and not the pig we have smeared it on.

True, I can’t say I got the memo and cheerily skipped off to the salon for a snip. 

No.  I stewed and stressed and anguished over who I’d be and how I’d look so many times over the years that I could easily have been mistaken for immature, if not young.

Then, right in the middle of the throes of the contortions of the pangs of the anxiety and indecision, I saw a post on that great dispenser of wisdom: Facebook.  It said, “Quit over-thinking, Carolyn.  It ruins everything.” 

All right, Facebook didn't really use my name, but I felt like it was directed at me, a grown woman thrashing around like an infant over a HAIRCUT!

So I did it.  I took the pixie plunge.

And I must say, I look good.  Maybe even better.  Instant face lift.  Grown up, and kind of glam. 

I danced the happy dance in front of the mirror as I made my adjustment to the transformation.  Oh yeah!  I’m rockin’ the short hair.  I’m Sharon Stone.  I’m Helen Mirren at the Oscars.  I’m… a helmet head!? 

I could be deflated.  But no ~ at least I’m not Norman Bates’s mother.