*Sketch above my insanely talented and lovely inside-and-out friend Inslee Fariss, whom I’ve profiled here, and who attends our monthly in-person Magpie book clubs, in case you ever want to meet this talented artist in the flesh. (Email me if you want in!)
On New Year’s Day, Mr. Magpie marched down to the barber and buzzed his head. I mentioned this recently, in a different context — one focused on intimacy, in all its savage abandon — but hanging just off stage, behind the curtains, was a glowing surge of pride. Let me first pre-emptively beg your forgiveness, Mr. Magpie, for sharing this bit of private information, but here it is: Mr. Magpie was balding. He had grappled with whether or not to buzz his head for the better part of two years. And he is not a vain kind of guy. Well-groomed and well-dressed, yes, but not the sort to primp his hair for thirty minutes or dab concealer under his eyes. He has one of those frustratingly simple man routines: get in shower, shampoo, scrub body, get out of shower, throw on deodorant, and go. Done in three minutes. He is appealingly and maddeningly unfussy, depending on which mood I am in. (I take a good hour to get ready, from shower to spritz of perfume. Nowadays, that hour is often fractured: shower at night, makeup in the morning, a quick curling iron or straightening iron when I have time, all dotted through with quick and nervous glances over my shoulder to ensure mini hasn’t tossed the entire toilet paper roll down the toilet.)
But — he would confide in me about his hair.
“Should I buzz it?” he’d ask, running his fingers through his hair, peering at himself in the mirror above my writing desk.
We ran through this conversation every week or two, looked at pictures of celebrities with good short hair, and then, towards the end of 2018, I finally snapped: “Landon — I don’t know. Do it and if you don’t like it, it will grow back. Or don’t do it and wait until you feel ready.”
I regretted my impatient reply immediately. I could see, as I glanced up from the pile of laundry I was folding, that this internal debate of his outsized its trappings. It wasn’t just vanity. It was a grappling with time, with age. It was a reconciling of the Landon he conjured when he thought of himself and the Landon he was becoming. It was pre-kids Landon and post-kids Landon. Pre-business Landon and post-business Landon. Pre-home-ownership Landon and post-home-ownership Landon. The Landon of our youth and the Landon of our middle age.
When he left on New Year’s Day, I felt a lump form in the back of my throat. I waved it off, distracted myself with mini, threw out a cavalier “Good luck!” for good measure. But as the key turned in the lock and he poked his head into our foyer, searching my face for a reaction about thirty minutes later, I burst into tears. Tears!
“Oh!” I said, forcing a smile onto my face, pretending I wasn’t crying, “Oh, you look so handsome.” And he did. Truly. Somehow he’d lost five years in the shearing of his hair. He looked athletic, strong. I noticed in a way I hadn’t in years the hazel of his eyes, the breadth of his smile, and the squaring of his chin. But there was something about his searching eyes, anxious for my reaction, that gutted me. And there was something else — something about his mild heroism (yes, heroism!) in accommodating the effects of age that wrung my heart. He had been agonizing over whether or not he was ready to accept that he has become a 36-year-old father-to-two (almost!) and wife-to-one with thinning hair and an aging body, and, all on his own, he set out to accept — celebrate! — that transition head-on as the calendar year turned.
“I’m just — I know it was hard –” I stammered to explain as I swiped at the tears on my cheeks.
He laughed at my histrionics but wrapped me in a bear hug all the same.
“I’m proud of you,” I finished. He nodded.
He’s since come to strut around town with his new ‘do, as he’s been overwhelmed by its positive reception. My mother, two of my sisters, and countless friends and colleagues have swooned over it. He looks more styled and sophisticated. (For reference, it looks kind of like Matt Lauer’s hair — and I know Matt Lauer isn’t a shining point of reference given his pattern of sexual harrassment, but he’s still got a handsome hairdo.) And now it feels like a decision that could have been made years ago, without as much hand-wringing.
I’ve been on the fence about what to do with my own hair for the past few months. I went really blond last summer and then decided I wanted to return to something closer to my natural brunette and so I’ve been gradually darkening it, lazily waiting until the very last minute before touching things up between coloring sessions. I study my roots constantly. I am shocked to find that I have no gray — yet. But I have been grappling with the balance of my age and my hairstyle nonetheless. I’ve worn my hair in a long bob for the last five years, but have felt an itch to grow it longer more recently — maybe for the last time in my life, I tell myself. (Isn’t there a point at which long hair looks inappropriate on an older woman? Or no? Jen Aniston seems to rock long locks, but…she’s Jen Aniston.) And I love being blond — it’s so fun! — but a part of me wants to return to my darker roots, to its natural and easy companionship with my complexion. And I wonder how much longer I will have the opportunity to wear my hair au naturale before gray rains on the party and forces my hand. Or will it? Could I be a salt-and-pepper woman? Could I look chic in gray? Or am I dyed-til-I-die type?
I will sheepishly admit that these considerations have consumed hours of my attention in the weeks since Mr. Magpie buzzed his head. I have scrolled through endless photos on Pinterest of various permutations of cut, color, and style. I have pondered my aging face in the mirror, imagining what it might look like next to a long, wavy chestnut do, or a short and blunt blond, or a shoulder-length wavy caramel, or a sleek gray bob. These are vanity sessions to be sure, but they are also reconciliations with realities that are not far afield. They are conversations with age, with the shortening span of life ahead of me. They are, in the truest sense, a coming of age.
How have you come to terms with your age through your hairstyle?
+I shared a lot of my favorite hair care products here (including the round brush Gisele uses to get those amazing, bouncy waves), but recent favorites include Ouai’s Leave-In Conditioner (so, so good during these dry winter months and while I’m still actively coloring my hair! Bonus: it smells like heaven), Christophe Robin’s Volumizing Paste (WUNDERPRODUCT — so weird to use, but it seriously works; the most volume I’ve ever seen in my hair, AND it comes in a mini size, linked here, just in case you want to test before you invest), and DryBar’s clarifying charcoal shampoo, which leaves my hair feeling super clean. I used it while in FL to get rid of the chlorine and sunscreen and sweat and all that jazz.
+I have turned countless friends and readers onto these Drybar hair sectioning clips. They have been almost indestructible — like little Tonka Toy Trucks for the hair? Ha, maybe the yellow color forged that analogy a little too readily for its own good. But I’ve had my set of four clips for years and years and I use them to clip back my hair when washing my face at night and to section my hair when styling/blow-drying. I just love them.
+Another DryBar product I love: this mini travel brush. It is…perfect. I use it every day to detangle my hair after a shower and sometimes I will travel with ONLY it (no bigger brush) because it is that good at multi-tasking. My mom is equally enamored of hers.
+Love this hair accessory trend. And I’m still rocking my Lele Sadoughi pearl headband. I love it so. Is this cute or taking the trend too far? (I say go for it if you love it. And/or get the look for less with this.)
+Still love these for holding my hair back (or, when I’m feeling extra, these), though there is a voluble and loyal contingent of Teletie-lovers that have been a bit hard to ignore of late. People say these are like invisibobbles on steroids — just, better in every way.
+New designer alert: Stine Goya. I am seriously into this label. Love this and this. This current season has a decidedly 70s bent to it — not usually a decade I gravitate towards — but I love the way its prints work with high-fashion silhouettes. Super cool!
+I can never have too many frothy white blouses. Love this one. Incidentally, would look adorable with a lot of the hair accessories listed above!
+I recently read that Le Labo’s Santal 33 is one of those magical, mythical scents with its own cult following, kind of like Chanel No. 5 — does anyone wear this?! (I’d heard similar hype about Byredo’s Gypsy Water and it was not off-point. I literally ordered it without smelling it first, if you can believe that!) I might do the same with Santal 33. Love messing around with new scents, and appreciate one that comes in a solid form for travel/dabbing onto my wrists while out and about.
P.P.S. Lilacs and poetics.
P.P.P.S. One of my favorite quotes of all time and why it reminds me of my beloved Mr. Magpie.