Health Care Reform and Medicare Advantage
ELDER MUSIC: Cover Versions

Vintage TGB: 12 October 2004

[Each Saturday, a vintage story from the Time Goes By archive is published here. They correspond to a date of approximately five years ago – sometimes updated, sometimes not.]

Embracing One's Inner Old Woman

On my first day in Manhattan 35 years ago, having just stepped off a bus, I stood on the corner of 50th and Broadway orienting myself as to east, west, north and south to determine which way to walk to my destination. It was noontime and the crowd was the largest and busiest I’d ever seen, a whirlwind of bodies weaving in and out and around one another, each independently intent on their individual goal.

As I sorted out the street signs from the profusion of gaudy neon, flashing store front lights, and walk/don’t walk indicators, a single voice made itself apparent above the din of traffic and several hundred people. When I located the source of the shouting, I was mortified to see a man – in a propeller beanie – yelling, “Pervert, Pervert, Pervert,” while pointing directly at me.

No one stopped as they passed, but they glanced at him and then at me, and I wished with all my might to be made invisible. In a panic, I took off in the direction I hoped was the one I wanted, with his pointing finger and his words, “Pervert, Pervert, Pervert,” following me across the street.

A few minutes later, as I waited for my friend in front of the entrance to Saks Fifth Avenue, taking in the amazing crowds of New York City at lunchtime, a well-dressed man of about 30 suddenly grabbed my arm and asked, “Are you married?”

Having escaped the verbal assault just 15 minutes earlier and shocked again, this time at being touched by a stranger in this strange new town, I managed to stutter, “Uh, well, uh, yes.” The man looked at his companion as they walked on and said, “Damn, I’ll never find anyone to marry me.”

Welcome to Gotham, little girl.

I’ve come a long way since 1969. You can’t scare me in the street anymore, but you sure can piss me off.

Walking down Fifth Avenue last week near Lord and Taylor, I was accosted by a young woman handing out leaflets. Using my best New York survival tactics, I thought I’d sidestepped her, but no. She followed me down the block. I kept walking. She spoke:

SHE: We’re having a sale. Fifty percent off every haircut.

ME: No thanks.

SHE: You need a haircut. We’ll do it for half price.

ME: No thanks.

SHE: You’d look so much younger in a shorter hairstyle.

The woman had already overstepped the unspoken, New York bounds for a leafleteer and now, critiquing my appearance, she had gone too far. I stopped in my tracks and faced her up close.

ME: (Loud enough to draw glances from several passersby) Leave me alone. I don’t want to look younger.

Did I say that? I wondered as I stalked off. In a culture in which youth and wealth fight it out daily to be America’s number one desirable goal such a statement is heresy.

So call me a heretic. About a year and a half ago, when the price of a cut-and-color passed $200 before tip, I gave it up. I’ve been growing my hair since then and it’s long enough now to pull back in a sort of bun on the back of my head held in place by one of the several hair clips I have collected.

Although it has taken awhile to become accustomed to my new look, I like it now. It is part of what distinguishes me as me. I am well aware it’s an old-fashioned style and it is conceivable there is a shorter cut that would shave a year or two off my perceived age. But to do that, I would need to want to look younger and that desire has now passed me by. I have embraced, it seems, my inner old woman, though I wouldn’t have known that if the young woman with the leaflet and rude attitude hadn’t confronted me.

Our obsession with youth or, at the very least, the appearance of youth, has become a cultural sickness on which the billions annually spent for potions and surgeries (and expensive hair styles) could support several third-world countries. What are we thinking in doing all this? It is the destiny of everyone, barring early death, to become old and there are far more interesting and worthwhile things to do with our time and money in our later years than chase after an impossible illusion.

Oh, and by the way, that guy who yelled “Pervert” at me on 50th and Broadway? Shortly after our confrontation, I discovered he was well-known to New Yorkers. His name was Larry and he had been standing on that same corner in his propeller beanie shouting “Pervert” at random folks for longer than anyone could remember. I saw him now and again over the years, though he never picked on me again, and then he disappeared - one of the eight million stories in the naked city.


Have you thought of (or are you currently working on) writing a book on the experience of getting older? I sure do admire the breadth and depth of your experience, and you have so much access to other people's experience as well. What with Baby Boomers getting older and how much we Boomers love to (buy and) read books about ourselves, I'm sure your book on the subject would sell like hotcakes! I'm just sayin'...

Second post this week about the long hair issue and coincidentally I've been seriously mulling over whether to get my shoulder-length hair cut short or not. Over the years I've gone both ways, and for the last couple I've allowed it to grow out, but I'm getting tired of it. Your posts have allowed me to consider whether this is an aging issue for me, or just an esthetic/convenience issue. I think it's the latter. I admire women with long grey hair and wish I could look as attractive as they do to me, but I look in the mirror and just see a rat's nest.

I did discover a while ago though that I much prefer a barber to a hairdresser; the barber doesn't give me advice, he just cuts it the way I ask him to.


What an interesting idea a barber is. I never thought of that, but all I need now and then is an inch or two of dry, split ends cut off. A barber, as you say, isn't going to give me advice or want to style my hair - and he/she is probably a lot cheaper than a stylist.

Thank you for a great idea.

Hi Ronni,

I wear my hair very short and it grows quickly so I am always looking for someone to snip off an inch or two. A haircut here is in the $50.00 range at the Salon and $12.50 at the barber and the barber does a better job.

The only problem with the barber is that I have to bone up on all the Phillies or Eagles scores before I go in, so be prepared by watching ESPN for an hour before you go. It's worth it. Oh! and yeah, just ignore the "Girly Magazines". Actually,they make much more sense to me than Vogue anyway. At least the ladies in the Men's magazines don't look like they are completely pissed about everything....

I have a nice woman barber -- about the third one in a series of women barbers I've let loose on my hair. They've been proud of their licences and their trade. All have cost under $25. And the current one sometimes brings her little lap mutt (Rufus) to work, so then I get to have a dog on my lap while the hair falls around us.

I don't want to look younger either. First, because it's impossible. If you undergo surgery to make your face look younger, you can't change your hands. They are a dead (no pun intended) give-away that you are old.

I must confess, however, I will never wear black laced up shoes because I think of them as my grandmother's shoes. It's weird the kind of vanity that creeps in.

Barbers are vastly cheaper than stylists, but they don't always like to trim long hair. Thank you for the irruption to the Medical reforms. :) Hugs........

The last time I went to a barber was in the sixties, I do it all myself (and it shows, I can hear my friends saying). Of course, from the sixties to the eighties I’d only bother trimming it about once or twice a year. These days I do it every couple of weeks. Do it with the scissors and that comb thingie with the razor blades. Works a treat, especially as I have curly hair and no matter who tackles it, it comes out looking the same. I imagine I’ve saved a fortune (that I spent on wine, records and books). Works for me.

I wear my hair short for convenience and the minimal care I must provide. It is so much easier for me to take care of, has nothing to do with trying to look younger, though, probably that happens, too.

I lived in a small town for about three years in the mid-fifties. Could never get a good haircut to bring out my natural waves. Was told about "Joe" the barber to whom quite a few women went. I started going to him, too. Cost me a little more than the beautician, but he gave me one of the best haircuts I've ever had. I kept going to him for as long as I lived there. The only problem I had was he kept wanting to shingle my hair up the back of my head like a then traditional man's haircut and I wanted more length. This was before men wore their hair longer all over. Had to remind Joe every time I went to his shop I wanted that back of my head hair longer. If I forgot to tell him each time, he forgot, too. The other down-side was he didn't make appointments, so I had to go in and wait my turn just like all the guys.

When I moved away and began working at the TV station I hadn't been able to find anyone to do my hair well. We had a guest cosmetologist one day who won State-wide contests and coincidentally had a shop near my apt., and wanted me to come there. So I did until I married and found someone closer to our home that I actually liked better.
What I didn't like was I could expect to have to spend the whole evening after I got off work in those beauty shops, 'cause they had so many people they were working on all at one time and I often had to wait throughout my few simple processes.

I currently pay less than $25 for a shampoo and blow dry with styling; less than $40 when I get a haircut, too. Can't imagine paying such ridiculously high amounts as you describe. She's finished with me in much less than an hour, never schedules several clients with different processes going at the same time. Never have to wait to see her.

I recall being part of a womens group in the late seventies. Our psychologist leader was trying to send us off to see her Beverly Hills hairdresser about whom she raved so. He would have charged at least $75 or more for just a haircut. One of our number went, and her hair looked fine, but I couldn't see anything very spectacular about the cut. I had no intentions of going -- driving an hour every time I needed a haircut -- that was crazy for my tastes, much less the cost and the idea of Beverly Hills didn't impress me.

Besides, it had taken me a few years after we moved here to find someone who I thought cut my hair, etc. really well and I wasn't about to jettison my local hairdresser. I had only seen her for a haircut periodically for many years before I resumed working and began having her do more, seeing her regularly.

Fortunately, she's younger than I, but has semi-retired, works only part time a few days a week, takes no new clients. If her clients are in the hospital or have long illnesses at home, she will on occasion if they want, go there and give them a dry shampoo. I hope I outlive her, so I never have to seek a new beautician or barber.

Good luck to you, Ronni, or anyone seeking someone to care for their hair, or just a haircut. I'm sure there are good and inexpensive cosmetologists/barbers out there and it just takes time, trial and error to find them sometimes -- putting up with some misfires along the way.

Another way is to note someone who's hair you like and ask them to whom they go. The way I found my gal is my teenage daughter came home one day and told me the mother of a friend of hers had a similar cut to mine and in talking my daughter had concluded this just might be the person for my hair. She was so correct!

I'll keep an eye out for any of Larry's protégés next week... :)

Here you can get a nice haircut for $20 plus $3 tip at Fantastique.

They have branches everywhere. They even give you a card, stamp it for each cut and the 10th one is free.

I used to pay $45 and up in another salon, same mall. Don't know why I blew $ on that place.

The guy who cut my hair was snooty, bragging nonstop about his Vuitton collection.

Whoop de doo. Catch me before I faint...

I saunter past that place now, with my excellent, sharp hair cut, knowing how much $$ I am saving.

When Mister Vuitton looks my way, I act like I never saw him before in my life.

So long, sucker.

Supercuts works great for me, and it's about $18.00 here with tip.

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