Five Things New Grads Must Know About the Secret Language of 1st Job Bosses

Female lawyer working in office

In late August of 1981, when I started as a new associate at Big Law Firm, I did not realize that the senior lawyers at the firm, the Big Bosses who held my legal career in their hands, the ones who would supervise me and assign me work, spoke, like Big Bosses in businesses everywhere, in their Very Own Secret Language.

If you are soon to begin or just starting a new job as a recent graduate of college or other temple of higher learning, you may not be familiar with this Secret Language either.  And while to the uninitiated it may sound as if your new Big Bosses are actually speaking in English, and in fact may use many common English words, what they say to you does not mean what you might think it does.

What you Really Need if you are to Succeed in your First Job as a New Grad is a Dictionary of Big Boss Language.

The earlier in your career, you can correctly interpret what is being said to you by a Big Boss, the better. Here is a handy Guide to get you started on the path to office life success.

1. Your First Assignment.

After a few day of orientation as a young associate, you receive an email from Mr. Important Partner – “When you have a minute, can you please stop by my office?”

Possible Interpretation:

It is o.k. to finish your coffee, and then walk down the hall to the office of Mr. Important Partner to see what he wants.

Actual Big Boss Translation:

Get up from your chair immediately and walk as fast as you can to the office of Mr. Important Partner. Your idea of “when you have a minute” has changed forever.

2. Description of the Project.

Mr. Important Partner describes the research he needs you to do, saying “This shouldn’t take you long.”

Possible Interpretation:

This is a straightforward assignment that you should be able to complete in a reasonable amount of time.

Actual Big Boss Translation:

I have just assigned you a ridiculously complex research project, similar to the kind I used to whip out in record time when I was a young associate. You better do the same if you want a future here at “Oppressed, Outstanding and Overworked.”  No pressure.

3. How Long Will it Take you to Complete the Project.

The next day, Ms. New Partner calls you in to her office, asks you to look into a question for one of her clients, and tells you “Don’t spend too much time on this.”

Possible Interpretation:

This project is not that important.

Actual Big Boss Translation:

This project is critically important but my key client always questions the amount of hours he gets billed for associate research. So you must prepare an acutely insightful analysis in response to my client’s question in the shortest possible time. Hint: Do not come back and tell me it took you six hours, I can only bill the client two hours for your work. Got it?

4. Why your New Office is Next Door to the Office of a Big Boss.

You have been assigned a Tiny Office which happens to be next door to the Very Large Corner Office of Mr. Very Senior Partner who likes to Talk Very Loudly on his speaker phone to his Very Important Clients. One afternoon you overhear him saying to a Very Important Client – “Jack, the law in this area is evolving. You make a very interesting point; let me get back to you on this.”

Possible Interpretation:

Mr. Very Senior Partner is an expert in his area of legal specialty, recognizes changing legal trends and enjoys challenging analyses.

Actual Big Boss Translation:

I have no f-ing clue what you are talking about, Mr. Very Important Client. I have not done my own legal research in years. But sitting in the Tiny Office right next to mine is a Very Young Lawyer whose name I do not know but who is going to research your absurdly difficult question as soon as possible for me so I can get back to you and take full credit for the answer.

You wait five seconds, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, as you hear Mr. Very Senior Partner rise out of his office chair, leave his office, and then duck his head into yours and say -“uh (can’t recall your name, if he ever knew it), can you step into my office?”

5. Your Completed Project is Rarely Complete.

In your second week at Big Law Firm, with a mix of pride and trepidation, you email your first research memo to Ms. Eager Beaver I-Better-Make-Partner for her review. A few hours later, she emails you back, “I only have a few edits on your Memo. Please come by to discuss.”

Possible Interpretation:

Wow, she liked my Memo. She only made a few changes. I must be getting this Big Law Firm thing right!

Actual Big Boss Translation:

You promptly walk to her office (see lesson learned in #1 above) and she hands you back a mark-up of your draft Memo.

You see that your carefully written memo is covered in blue ink, cross-outs, x’s, deletions and so many other edits so that you can barely make out the only two sentences remaining from your original draft.  She wants it completely re-written. And it is 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon, and oh, by the way, she needs it revised to send out to the client tonight.

So if in the first few weeks of your new job, a partner, director or senior manager, your new Big Boss, stops you in the hall, and asks you to drop by her office so she can tell you about an exciting new project you will be working on, you can refer back to this helpful guide. And with any luck, in a decade or so, you will become a Big Boss yourself. If you have any new entries to add to the Secret Language Dictionary, do let me know.

*and good luck at your new job!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1st Job, Careers, Communications, Law firm life, Lawyers, New Grad

The Over-Communicator’s Daughter Goes to College

william college

When my daughter left for college, I was confident we would stay in close touch.  We had a good relationship, if you didn’t count the snide comments, silent eye-rolling and rather firm bedroom-door-shutting I had come to know as her senior year in high school persona.  But we had worked through the college process together and were still talking to each other, a major accomplishment.

As a would-be-college parent, I had discovered the classic book “Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years” by Karen L. Coburn and Madge Lawrence Kreeger.  In those pre-Kindle days, I kept in on my bedside table, reading a chapter each night.  The authors reassured me, that yes, it was  developmentally appropriate for teens to loosen the  parent/child bond as they go off to college. And, in turn, parents needed to “let go” so our kids could “do the work” (psychological-speak) of developing on their own. I got all that.

But couldn’t my daughter “let go” while still staying in touch?

After we dropped her off in late August, I quickly got into the habit of sending my daughter chatty emails or shorter ones with tidbits from the news. You know – “here’s an article about a new book by that author you like – hope you are doing well, love mom”. How offensive could that be? So maybe I overdid it a tad.

After all one of my radio clients in my communications lawyering days had praised me as someone who “over-communicated.” He liked that about me, keeping him well-informed. Perhaps outside the office over-communicating doesn’t translate as well? I admit, I am not Hemmingway. I do not specialize in terse, pithy language. But I swear, the emails I wrote to my daughter during the fall of her freshman year (in those pre-texting days) were as brief as I could make them. They were just rather frequent.

And she didn’t respond to any of them.

So when my husband and I would talk with her by phone – she on her scratchy-reception cell phone from her rural campus in upstate New York – and us on our landline in the DC suburbs –  on our regular Sunday night call, I would ask her about her lack of return communication.

“Mom, stop pestering me! I’m doing fine. You keep emailing me. It’s too much.”, she would say.

“O.K., I understand (but apparently I really didn’t), but can’t you please respond to just a few of my emails?”

Big sigh overheard from upstate New York.

“Mom, c’mon, please, you don’t get it.” She repeated. “I’m fine.”

After these unsatisfying phone calls, I would return to my now very well-thumbed through copy of “Letting Go”. Was it her? Was it me? She wanted me to email her like never – and I wanted her to respond like once.

Surely there could be a happy medium in this joint process of letting go?

I asked my friend, Karen, also a lawyer, used to working with clients, also on the chatty-side, how she had handled it when her son, a year older than my daughter, had first gone off to college. She said she started off the same way I did. Emails to say hello, emails to tell her son what she was doing, sending articles of interest. And her son had not responded either. (and ironically or maybe not so ironically, Karen’s son was going to be a communications major in college.). But Karen came up with what I thought was a terrific compromise.

She couldn’t stop herself from sending emails. So she wouldn’t.

Her son didn’t want to write back. So he wouldn’t.

Instead, whenever Karen sent her son an email, her son promised to respond with an email that contained a single period. Karen would write – “Josh, how are you doing? Your Dad and I are fine.  Sam seems to be enjoying  sophomore year in high school. We hope you are having fun and studying hard. Love, Mom.”

And Josh would respond:

.

That’s it. One single period in the middle of the reply email that would prove that Josh was alive and well on Planet College.  He just had to respond with one keystroke.

.

Surely I could convince my daughter to adopt this easy (for the kid) and comforting (for the parent) method of email reply?

But my daughter, an independent type from birth, would not budge.

“No, Mom, that is the dumbest idea I have ever heard. I am not going to do what Josh did! You just have to stop emailing me so much”. (a brief pause). Then she added, “If you promise to stop emailing me so much, maybe I will stay in touch more often.”

That was somewhere between blackmail and compromise. Not what I wanted. More of what she wanted. She was apparently doing much better at this letting go thing than I was. I had to learn to give up my over-communicator ways in order to let go. And my daughter didn’t have to read a book to figure that out.

After that rocky 1st semester fall, things got better. I emailed less. She emailed (slightly) more.

It’s not only children who grow up. Parents do too.

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Filed under College, Communications, Letting Go, Parenting

Why My Friend Larry May Flunk Retirement

JamesP

Two female friends of ours recently announced that they plan to retire from their jobs in September.

But not my friend, Larry.  The idea of retirement bugs him.

He is 64 and has no plans to retire anytime soon – (in part due to the recent addition of a lovely screen porch on the back of his house where he plans to relax if he ever retires but he first has to finish paying for the screen porch so he can’t retire anytime soon even if he wanted to.)

But he actually doesn’t intend to retire. Ever.

Larry likes being a lawyer. He worries about how he would fill his time once he is retired. So far he has come up with only two retirement tasks.

The first is to clean out his garage.

He and his wife, my friend, Susan, have lived in their house for 32 years where they raised two kids, now young adults, and a cat named Phil who thought he was a dog; sadly no longer with us. The clean-up of Larry’s garage is long overdue.

That should take about 10 days, he figures.

The second task is to organize a large collection of family photos. Ektachrome slides taken by his late Dad beginning in the 1950’s, color snapshots of his own family taken in the 1990’s and a jumble of more recent travel shots residing on his iPad, iPhone and various computers in his basement.

Larry thinks the photo organization project will take about two weeks.

So if he were to retire, let’s say, as of September 4, he will be done cleaning his garage and organizing his photos by about September 29th. Then Larry would go sit on his renovated porch, have an iced tea and think about what he will do for the rest of his life.

This is why Larry is concerned about retiring.

He only can think of two things to do.

He does not play golf or tennis. He does not have a man-cave to putter around in. He does not want to start a new business.  He already bikes, travels and does volunteer work.

So why retire?

I told Larry that retirement isn’t what it used to be. We aren’t supposed to sit at home, on our renovated porches or otherwise, and just rock ourselves into mental oblivion. The new thing is to reinvent ourselves upon retirement. Why not, I suggested to Larry, take a look at one of those popular web sites that encourage pre-retirees to find their passions and reconfigure the second acts of their lives.

Larry’s response: that’s a ridiculous idea. Why should I have to reinvent myself?  He has already had 40 years in his working life to invent himself and he doesn’t think he can come up with anything new. Nor does he want to.

We had a small friendly argument about this recently.

I had to retire; I was cardiologically-told that going back to DC law firm life was not a possibility. So Larry tells me –  you had to stop. I don’t. I like working for a living. My income is quite useful. Why should I give it up if I am still capable?

Maybe thinking about retirement is scary because we don’t want to face old age?

The very word “retirement” does have unpleasant connotations.  It comes from the French word retirer – “to go into seclusion”. The Oxford dictionary defines retirement as “leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.” The word retirement is also said to refer to “the period between employment and death.”

Swell.

The thought of not being able to go to work every day makes Larry quake. He believes that he isn’t old enough to stop working and that (unless fate knows otherwise) he is too young to die. Larry has been leaving the house every day to go to school or work since he was five years old. He likes putting on his suit in the morning and commuting downtown to his K street law firm office. It is a big part (the main part?) of his identity.

I liked lawyering too but it didn’t define me. Like many women, I always had interests beyond my day job. As I hit my late 50’s and retirement loomed on the post-60 horizon, I could easily think of a number of productive and fun projects and activities to look forward to doing –  none of which involved cleaning out the garage or organizing my photos or even playing golf. (not that golf isn’t a fine sport, just not for me.)

So I wonder:

Do men – more than women – fear leaving their day jobs because they can’t think of what to do in the (hopefully) long pre-death stretch of years?

Larry recently had his annual physical. He told me that his female internist asked him about his future plans.  Larry told his internist that he did not intend to retire. His internist nodded in approval, “Good”, she said, “Men don’t do retirement well.”

Really?

So are some men like Larry, bound to flunk retirement?

And women of many interests like me and my friends destined to get straight A’s?

Not that it is a competition or anything.

But sometimes, according to Larry, it just seems easier to keep on going to the office everyday than to have to come up with a creative retirement plan beyond cleaning out the garage and organizing photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Men vs Women

A Different Kind of “Kvelling”

womantalkingThere were a few regularly-used  Yiddish words in my house when I was growing up. Like the word “kvetch” to refer to my great-aunt who was a known complainer. Now was “Aunt Kvetchie”, a nice thing to call her?  Probably not.

Or “you are such a klutz – heard this one often. As in uncoordinated. An accurate description of my always bumping into things, not the least bit athletic self.  And “what a schmuck he is” –  my dad describing someone who was a real jerk. You probably know what schmuck means, whether you are Jewish or not.

One Yiddish word I didn’t learn until I became a Mom is “kvelling” (noun) – when a person is bursting with pride and pleasure. As in – “His mother was kvelling over his early admission to Harvard.”

Kvelling is done by all mothers, Jewish or not, when discussing their children.

In my lawyering years, I ate lunch (carry-out salads around a conference room table) several days a week with younger female colleagues at my firm. There was a lot of kvelling among us. My friend, Lisa, would tell us about her daughter’s star soccer skills. And Michelle would let us know that her son got an A on a tough social studies test. Denise was naturally thrilled when her daughter was elected class president in 6th grade. I shared my kids’ accomplishments as well.  And when your kids are young, you have lots of achievements to kvell about. It isn’t boasting or bragging; you are just proud of your child. And o.k, maybe patting yourself on the back as a parent too. I confess to that as well.

When Lisa, Michelle and Denise’s and kids were in elementary school,  mine were of high school and college age.  Kvelling gets a bit trickier as your kids get older. Especially if your kid happens not to be on the do-not-pass-go direct path from high school to early admission into Harvard, then on to elite grad school or Wall Street or a fancy internship.

What happens to kvelling if your kid is on his or her own very different path?

By the time one of my kids was in high school we were on a first name basis with mental health struggles. In college the same mental health challenges grew worse. An elite grad school, Wall Street or a fancy internship did not seem likely. (although hope does spring eternal.) Since I’m not one to sit back and watch life happen, I sought out other parents whose young adult kids were also on different paths to adulthood. Not finding such a group, in 2008 I created, with the backing of our rabbi,  a support & resources sharing group at my synagogue in Washington DC – called – wait for it, very clever name coming -“Parents of Young Adults who Struggle”. We have met monthly for the past nearly 6 years to share our stories, to talk about the rollercoaster rides that our kids put us on, to strategize on how to cope as parents and to laugh. Lots of laughing. We even have our own Facebook page!

In our support group we kvell often.

One of us will say how thrilled she was that her son, David, managed to get up on time on Tuesday morning and get to his doctor’s appointment. Yay, we respond.  Or that Matt remembered to take his meds. Terrific, we cheer. Or that Rachel is taking a class at community college and hasn’t dropped out yet. Great news!

And while this different kind of kvelling was going on, I was still having lunch on weekdays with friends whose kids’ accomplishments were of the more typical variety. While my work friends were true pals, I wasn’t always comfortable talking about my kid’s struggles. I was dealing in two parallel universes here – I was certainly happy for my friends and their kids, even if I couldn’t always keep up in the kvelling department.

And when minor (to me) problems were shared  – a son got a B- on a test or a daughter didn’t make the soccer travel team –  I had some trouble summoning up the required murmurs of sympathy. I would think – you just have no idea what real problems are until you’ve met some of the people in my support group. There was perhaps a reverse pride in having tougher stuff than a bad grade or a missed goal to deal with.

So the next time you are having lunch with friends, and the talk turns, as it often does, to what your kids are doing, at any age, and the kvelling begins – one of the Moms is happy that her daughter aced the SAT’s, the other’s son just got into law school, a third mom glows about her daughter’s engagement, and you see that one of your friends around the table, is sitting silently, fiddling with her drink, just waiting for that part of the conversation to pass. Consider the quiet Mom; she loves her son or daughter just as much as you do. Smile at her, and ask her how her child is doing. She may need to do a different kind of kvelling.

 

 

 

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Filed under Mental Health, Parenting, Women

No more Hot Potatoes for Dad

yale akw nlw

My kids refer to me as the “Department of Complaints”.

They always turn to me whenever something goes wrong. When they were in college, I was the one to get the calls about roommate problems, a bad grade and “Do you think I have mono, Mom?”

I urged them to consider calling me not only when things went wrong but when things go well. How about the occasional call, I suggested,  to say – “Hi, Mom. It’s a sunny day. I’m feeling good. Had a great class. Love you, bye.”

Never happened.

Now that they are adults the calls have changed but only as to topic.

I am happy to give tips on how to get along with an annoying boss, thoughts on grad school and relationship advice. I function well as “Tell Mom, she will know what to do.”

Mostly, this is kind of flattering and it goes with the role we play as perennial parents.

But sometimes it can be burdensome. Especially if you are the type who worries. (Who me???). Your kid has a problem, picture it as a “hot potato”; he or she calls and hands off the “hot potato” to you. Your kid then goes on about his or her life while you are stuck worrying about their problem, the “hot potato” is now in your lap; even if the problem may already be solved or they aren’t worrying about it anymore.

I was a regular player of  “hot potato” with my Dad.

After my Mom died when I was in my 20’s,  Dad became the one I called with my problems.  He has been a wise advisor for concerns, large and small, for many years.

When our daughter got quite sick as a toddler, he was the first person I called. When our son had a tough problem at school, guess who got the phone call.  If I was having a difficult time at work, I called Dad for advice.  When the economy sunk my 401 (k) plan, I complained to him.

I never once stopped to think that maybe I was doing exactly the same thing to my Dad as my kids do to me.

Where is it written that we should spend our whole life as parents as the on-call-recipient of our kids’ problems?

Shouldn’t there come a time when your relationship with your parent changes?

Shortly after my 60th birthday I spent some unpleasant months being very ill. My 89 year old Dad called me every day while I was in the hospital to see how I was doing. Suddenly I realized I didn’t want to burden him any longer with my problems. He had been on the receiving end long enough. Maybe it was time for a change.

So when he called me in the hospital and asked – “how are you feeling today?”

I’d answer – “pretty good, doing better, really.” And I’d say that even if I had had a bad night or a frightening procedure coming up or a worrisome test result.

Now I was the one who wanted to protect him as best I could from bad news.

He had enough going on in his own life. My step-mom’s dementia was not getting better. Every week he would hear of the death of a friend or colleague. Attending funerals was becoming a hobby. Getting older was no picnic, although he never complains.

Since my illness (I am now much better, thank you), I call my Dad frequently. But I try to offer only cheerful news or funny stories. Our 1st grandson learned to sit up, our daughter got a new job, my husband has a promotion.  I no longer share with him any of my daily woes or the worries of our family.

Sometimes I almost slip up. A problem crops up and I reach for the phone. But then I stop. I can handle this. I can work through it, with my husband’s help, whatever it is. No need to call Dad anymore to put the “hot potato” in his well-worn lap.

Scary but liberating to (finally) become a grown up at age 62.

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More Fun than Dental Surgery? – Book Clubs I have Known

 

bookshelf

 

Quick Question:

Would you prefer to have a Root Canal or belong to a Book Club?

My “fellow” blogger, Suzanne Stavert, wrote a lovely post recently about her book club.

She included jealousy-inducing photos of a friendly-looking group of women, drinks in hand, sitting on the deck of a boat discussing their chosen book. (photos here: http://www.adventuresofemptynesters.com/summer-fun-dana-point)

But Suzanne purposefully chose not to use the words “book club” in the post’s title.

So as not to scare off any would-be readers.

As she put it – “Believe it or not, there are people who would rather get a root canal than be a member of a book club.”

I don’t get this. Maybe because as a child I was a happy bookworm. Reading at all meals (when permitted), going to a chair in the corner to read while my parents visited friends, reading by flashlight while I was supposed to be sleeping. Reading whatever I could get my hands on. Reading the back of a kleenex box in desperation on a family trip one night when I had finished a book and did not have another to start. My worst nightmare.

Actually my worst nightmare is dental surgery.

I once bit my dentist’s hand.

But I digress.

I am a serial creator of book clubs.

And unafraid (until I see what feedback I receive, that is) to use the words “book club” in the title of this post.

Book clubs are more fun than dental surgery. At least the ones I have known. All four of them.

Book Club #1 started when my friend Liz and I were in our 30’s. All couples of same age kids.  My husband reluctantly joined in. He also loves to read but doesn’t like being told what to read.  While driving to book club, I was to provide him with a synopsis of the first and last chapters of the book.

After a glass or two of wine, he was then able to discuss, with a great deal of authority, books he had never read.

Impressive to watch. But his behavior inspired the other husbands to do the same non-reading. Book Club #1 disbanded.

Book Club #2 was a group I created in my 40’s. I asked seven other moms who all had 9th grade daughters in the same school as mine to join. After a few meetings it was obvious that some of us (look in the mirror here) were more serious readers than others.  While I like to chat as much as anyone (just ask my husband), a year of meetings that consisted of 15 minutes of book talk and 1 and 3/4 hours of fun talk convinced us to change our status from book club to social hour.

So, back to my devoted reader friend Liz, we decided to launch Book Club #3. Because women tend to forget painful things that produce pleasure (childbirth, for example), once again a couples book club was born.  And once again it was a mistake. The men were more interested in things other than reading.  One night we spent an entire meeting discussing possible names – not of books to read, but for the book club.

What kind of book club has its own name?

Our husbands told us we needed a clever name so that our popular local independent book store could reserve a book club shelf just for us.  Shortly after the male members of Book Club #3 decided upon the name “The Scorpions”, a name that none of the female members voted for, Book Club #3 fell apart.

My devoted reader friend, Liz and I were determined to get it right with Book Club #4.

Women only! And only women who truly liked to read. And who would actually read the chosen book. And would talk about it without getting easily sidetracked into discussions (at least during hour one) about our health, our jobs or our adult kids.

Putting together Book Club #4 of eight women in our late 50’s was the easy part. Much harder has been deciding on what kinds of books to read.

Book Club #4 is a group of women that defines (in a good way) the meaning of the word “bossy”.

Each of us has our own strong preferences.

  • Pam likes serious stories filled with metaphors and philosophy.
  • I love a good mystery.
  • Liz favors thoughtful female fiction.
  • Karen wants to read the classics she avoided in college.
  • Deborah insists that all of the books we read should fall under the category of “Great Literature.”

Who are we to say no to “Great Literature”?

Although I soon learned that “Great Literature” mostly contains books about women who suffer.

So Book Club #4 specializes in reading books about Women who Suffer.

Perhaps this is why some people, as my fellow blogger, Suzanne said, would rather have a root canal than belong to a book club?

I don’t know, for us, Book Club #4, six years on, works.

We read a book about women who suffer, get together in someone’s living room in or near Washington, DC,  have a glass – or two – of wine,  talk about why and how the women suffered and then go home to our lives feeling good that we don’t suffer quite as much as our literary heroines.

Long live Book Club #4 – far better than root canal any day.

(if your preference is for dental surgery,  I’d love to know why.)

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Filed under Books, Midlife, Women

Why I am not a Blonde, with Bangs, nor look like Meg Ryan

hairstylist_cutting_bangsI am a truth-teller.

So I like it when people tell me the truth.

Except for my hair stylist, Katie. I have created a special exemption to the truth-telling rule just for her.

Katie does a terrific job with my hair. She also thinks I am funny. She asked that I not tell her my stories while she has her scissors in hand because I make her laugh too much. How great is that?

But even better is that Katie understands that the unvarnished truth for a female client in her early 60’s may not always be the best way to go. Tactful but direct, that is Katie.

She handles my FAQ’s with ease.

1. “Should I get bangs?”

I ask Katie this same question on nearly every visit. I am pretty much obsessed with my forehead. When I look in the mirror my wide forehead beams back at me with over-sized prominence. Approximately 5 minutes of every appointment are taken up with a discussion of what to do to minimize my forehead. With me often suggesting that soft, feathery, to-the-side bangs would be just the ticket.

Katie disagrees.

Last year when Michelle Obama made national hair news with her new wispy bangs, I took to pestering Katie even more than usual about getting bangs cut.

She looked at me in the mirror and said kindly, but firmly:

“Nancy, I want you to like me. You will not like me if I cut bangs for you.”

Even though I very much want Katie to like me (and after all, Michelle Obama did ditch her bangs after a few months), I can’t get off the subject of my forehead.

So I keep asking for bangs. On a recent visit the ever-patient Katie showed me her hand – then spread her fingers across my forehead.

“See, Nancy, I am measuring your forehead. It is about 3 1/2 fingers wide. If you had a 4 finger wide forehead, I’d consider bangs. If you had a 5 finger wide forehead, we’d definitely do bangs. You are only 3 1/2 fingers wide.”

Scientific evidence.  No bangs for now.

2. “How will I look if I stop coloring my gray hair?”

I have been coloring my hair since my 40’s, maybe even since my 30’s. I got my first gray hairs in law school. (go figure!)  Coloring my hair back to its earlier brunette incarnation has been a constant.

Now that I no longer have to show up at the law office every day, maybe the time has come to let Mother Nature do her thing.

How would I look with all gray hair?

This is a slightly tricky question which Katie gracefully evades by pointing out that my natural hair color is by now actually all white, not gray.

Lovely!  I am not only getting older but now I have white hair, not gray.

Then I think,  maybe I could be a blonde?

How far is white from yellow on the color wheel anyway?

I could be a blonde! My husband will be thrilled.

Before I get too excited, Katie looks at me in the mirror and tells me that blonde is not going to happen.

I am going to stick with brunette for awhile longer.

3. “Will you cut my hair short in the summer?”

Every summer I look with jealousy at women with cropped hair. It looks so modern and fresh. The wash-and-go look has never worked well for me. Perhaps if I cut it all off, I can join the hip crowd that is liberated from the electronic tether to their blow-dryers.

Katie side-steps this question as well. She points across the street, where a very popular place called “DryBar” recently opened up.  Blow-outs only, no hair cuts. And free champagne!

Women pay $40 just to get their hair blow-dried in a number of styles including the “Straight Up”, the “Manhattan” and the “Cosmo”.

My hair is stick straight, I grew up about an hour from Manhattan and I once drank a Cosmo.

So I will stick with Katie’s subtle hint that I not go back to the pixie cut I loved as an 8 year old.

4. “Can you make me look like Meg Ryan?”

Ever since I saw “When Harry Met Sally”, “You’ve got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle” (movies I admit I could recite line by line, so many times have I seen them),  I have wanted to have my hair cut to look like Meg Ryan’s.

Tousled, shaggy, seemingly effortless. It was an iconic look.

One that my straight, fine hair was never going to emulate.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

“Katie, can you just cut a few layers, wave it a bit and see if I come out looking like Meg Ryan? C’mon, let’s try. How awful can it look? I just want to try it once.”

Katie, who has heard many, many clients before me tell her they want their hair to look just like a celebrity’s hair, avoids this question entirely.

Instead she changes the subject. “What are you reading in your book club, Nancy?”

Point scored for Katie.

5. “Do eyebrows eventually turn gray (or white!)?”

After I see Katie, I venture to the back of the salon to see the young woman who does my – let’s call it, “facial” waxing. Soft-spoken Sherry casually mentions that a single eyebrow hair is completely white. I had noticed this myself but had been avoiding its significance. Instead of plucking it out, she suggests that she can tint it darker. O.K., by me, you’re the expert.

Then, wait , it occurs to me that this could be a glimpse into my eyebrow future.

“Sherry, when women get older, do their eyebrows also turn totally gray – 0r in my case, white?”

“Not always” she says politely.

“Is that the truth?” I ask, seeing her try not to smile.

Sherry laughs, “No, it’s not. Do you want the kind answer or the true answer?”

“The latter, please.”

“Your eyebrows will eventually turn the same color as your hair.”

Yay, something else to look forward to! White eyebrows to match my hair.

 

-Photos of my latest hair cut are available upon request-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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