My pleasure at having an article accepted for publication by a magazine was marred when they asked for a photo to go with it. I don’t like being photographed. In recent photos, I either look like my grandmother or appear to be morphing into a decrepit version of Morticia Addams twenty years on, so nothing in my album seemed suitable. Many of my family are excellent photographers and would no doubt have obliged me by producing an acceptable image (expertly made up and coiffed) – had any of them been here. Alas, they are all many miles away and I can’t think of anyone local able to do the job.
What, you may be asking, is the problem in this age of ubiquitous selfies? Surely anyone can manage something decent. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t a good likeness, really, just as long as I don’t scare the magazine readers.
Well, the battery in my camera has died, and its charger is in Switzerland; also, the resolution on my mobile phone is too low; so those are out. Yes, I have an iPad, with a disconcerting camera that takes a mirror image if you click the icon. It is, however, considerably more of an effort to hold it at arm’s length to take a selfie, and it reacts either superfast or with delayed action, so the results do not show the carefully composed features I prepared, but either a perplexed frown (“Why isn’t it working?”) or my pre-smile grimace.
After several complete failures, showing me as I probably look most of the time but am in denial about, I managed to get two portraits that didn’t seem too bad. I e-mailed them to my daughter to ask her opinion, and received a reply that was almost shaking on the screen with her laughter. However, she did provide me with a photo taken a couple of years ago (and yes, I have definitely put on weight!) that she thought was more suitable.
All of this has got me thinking about the reason for my dismay at seeing myself as I really am. It isn’t just that I’m getting older and wrinklier, and my nose looks big and red. I’ve accepted that and realise that make-up has its uses but also its limitations. No, what I really don’t like is what has happened to my hair.
A cousin I hadn’t seen for over twenty years visited recently, and did a double-take on the doorstep, telling me afterwards that I looked exactly like her mother – my mother’s sister – who used to wear her waist-long hair in a plaited ponytail. And there was I, thinking my Dutch braid looked elegant!
My hair has been growing steadily over the last four years, with just an occasional trim to eliminate split ends and keep my fringe out of my eyes. I have devised various ways of putting it up and plaiting it, and occasionally wear it loose. It’s always been thick and easy to manage, so the increasing length hasn’t bothered me too much. We have a very pleasant young lady who comes to the house to do my mother’s hair. She specialises in old ladies’ hair, and is a dab hand at perms and the kind of styles that most old ladies want. I may be an old lady, but I don’t want that sort of style. Ironically, in my obstinacy, I have ended up looking like my ninety-year-old aunt!
This latest selfie struggle has brought me to the realisation that I must do something about my Rapunzel-like, wildly rampant mop.
I’ve been saying for a while that when it’s long enough, I’ll donate it towards a wig for someone suffering from hair loss. There’s a popular trend among children and young people to donate their ponytails to the Little Princess charity, which provides wigs for children with cancer. About 10 ponytails, 8 to 12 inches in length, are needed for one single wig. My hair would be of no use to them, of course, because it’s grey.
Chemotherapy is the first cause of hair loss that springs to mind, but on doing a little research I found that most cancer patients use wigs with synthetic hair. That’s because in most cases their hair grows back after they stop the chemo, and they probably hate the sight of the wig that has such unpleasant associations and memories, so it’s pointless getting an expensive real-hair wig. These are costly and time-consuming to make, and are mostly intended for people with permanent hair loss, such as alopecia sufferers.
Further investigation showed that in fact charities donate relatively few wigs to those in need, and grey hair is not in demand. One respectable wigmaker who does want this colour offers to pay £3 – £7 per 25g of usable hair: if that’s all it’s worth, is there any point in donating it? Well, I’m sure there’s some elderly baldy who would be grateful for a grey wig, so the answer is YES. This Old Grey Mare, she ain’t what she used to be, but there must be a worthwhile cause where my ponytail will be appreciated. Time for another make-over.