Well Preserved

From your café table, you watch them enter and stand in line, habituated as you are from hours of watching screens, those miniature crystalline savannas, everything a game preserve now. The distinct sounds of Korean, "seyo" and "nida" and the musical lilt of the tongue, flow between them. One young woman’s hair is dyed blonde with paintbrush strokes of pale green. You admire and wonder at her matching green sweater, her mint green melton coat. You could never wear these hues and be beautiful in this way. You’re not young enough for one thing. And you recall your Korean friend from Inchon telling you she loved to read "Anne of Green Gables" as a girl. The green hair debacle was especially moving and funny.

Young women, you grudgingly concede, are beautiful no matter what they wear, no matter what they do to their hair. Even Anne with an "e" and her botched dye job. Why aren’t older women beautiful in the same way? Instead of coming into themselves, women at mid-age camouflage their nature, their wisdom.

When a petal turns, its vibrant colour fades. Its seeds scatter.

A few years ago, after you stopped dying your hair and got a pixie cut, the white became more noticeable and created a corona around your face. You never expected that this would be an occasion for commentary. Even the barista gushed about how well preserved you were. She seemed to intend it as a compliment. And you decided you’d do well to embrace her words and start a canning business, with labels for jams and jellies that included a photo of yourself. The brand name would be "Well Preserved". But you’ve yet to follow through on this.

Another thing you noticed were women who eyed you critically or semi-disapprovingly as if you’ve broken the natural order. One day a woman even approached you and said that your hair was subversive. For some reason you thanked her but later you wondered. Why was uncoloured hair subversive? Dying, after all, was a royal waste of time. It never looked natural and you felt guilty every time the dye swirled down the drain. What did we learn from Anne Shirley really?

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