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  • Writer's picturecatherine@allaboutwriters

The old neck giveaway

YES!!, I'd replied to the text message confirming I'd be at the salon at 9:30am. The originally trendy balayage was now ten weeks old and regrowth. Not helped by the fact I'm transitioning from a short style to something longer, which of course takes weeks and months, could be tipping into a year by now. So, YES!! I walked in the door at 9:31am and was ready to do some serious damage to the plastic in my wallet.

The salon is swarming with the usual hipsters with bright white smiles and clothes ranging from asymmetrical pieces straight off the runway to dad's old jeans slung at just the right angle under a ragged Nirvana t-shirt. There's fluoro orange alongside a shade of the most intense acqua I've ever seen in hair. Not for me, but nonetheless I can admire the quality in the colour. The hipster bar in the corner is offering coffee and cocktails, and deep house tunes lull me into happy memories of weekends lost in the clubs of my youth. Everyone is genuinely so lovely and sweet...I want to stay forever. Just for a time, I can forget that I am now edging closer to fifty than forty, and can leave the glamorous parenting and teaching gigs at the door. I quietly notice that no less than three of the staff are wearing the wide-legged style jeans I've pulled on for the occasion. Fist bump me.

I am, momentarily, reminded of a podcast I listened to earlier in the week where the hosts spoke of such hipster salons asking the all too obvious question that seems to take a back seat to the necessity for coolness in such a place: but, can they cut hair? I reassure myself of this fact, eying off the basin with full extension chair massage, complete with surround vision and sound screen experience of your choice. Not that I choose that for myself, but great talking point.

I follow my guide (black leather top with a single puffy sleeve and barely there skirt) to my seat for the morning, and gratefully accept a cup of tea. As she sweeps the cape around my neck and clips it into place, I am struck by the sagging skin that puckers and bunches along the line of the cape at my neck. There's no hiding it, no pulling it back into place. In fact, once it crinkles in this way, it kind of unfolds in slow motion. How can I not have noticed this before? A splutter of surprise escapes me as I look up into the reflected face of my guide, and assure her I'm OK.

I've never considered myself as middle-aged, whatever that means. I'm the youngest in my family - I tease my siblings for being old, never think of myself in that category. I've only ever seen one grey hair on my own head. In my mind, despite our growing children and now citing decades in one career, I'm still in a younger age-bracket. I guess now, though, the question is younger than whom? My siblings, yes, but they are now heading into their fifties. Younger than my mother, who had me at 40...and is now into her 80s. What a realisation this is to have.

And so I embrace you, middle age. I embrace the growing wisdom, the reclining concerns. I regret the money spent on colouring hair that never needed colouring, while accepting I'll continue to do so. I embrace newfound joys and abilities to pass on all that I have been fortunate to take from others. And as I examine those neck folds in the mirror tonight, I'll try not to cry.

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