Hip Without The Replacement
I met Cheryl at a swanky Glenwood house party the other night. She marched over and introduced herself and we quickly got chatting about her rather obvious blond bob cut wig. It’s horse hair,’ she said, flicking back her mane, slurring into her glass of double jack ‘Human hair rots, synthetic hair looks kak, so now I only buy horse hair, the best! Cost’s a fortune but ‘it’s changed my life. Makes me feel schhhwenty years younger.’
Cheryl it turns out is a sixty- five year old grandmother from Sandton. I’m hardly surprised when she begins reminiscing about her high kicking years in the Brickhill Burke chorus line. I had always maintained a weird curiosity over what became of showgirls past their sell by date and here, standing before me in a ‘horse hair wig’and toking nonchalantly on a spliff, was the answer. While the transition from false eye lashes to false teeth, stilettos to granny slippers was never going to be a gracious one, Cheryl demonstrated that what she had lost through the years in agility, she certainly made up for in Chutzpa. A chutzpa she held a book titled ‘Purple Hat’s, Red Dress’ responsible for.
The Purple hat Red Dress’ movement, I soon discover , is a self help sensation for sixty something’s, right up Ophra’s alley –in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if she set the ball of chanting grannies rolling on one of her shows. Whatever it is, it certainly seemed to have given this old girl a new found bounce in her recently purchased wonder bra. She spoke of it throughout our encounter with an almost biblical delight, making it sound as if an entire generation of vigilante grannies were about to be unleashed across the globe. I couldn’t help but shuddering a little at the thought.
‘You know Neil, at my age I do what I feel.’ Cheryl continued ‘I shouldn’t have to give a shit. If I wake up and feel like wearing skimpy sequence skirt and blonde wig, then that’s exactly what I’ll do. My Grandkids don’t let me pick them up from school anymore, they’re so embarrassed, but that’s a small sacrifice I’ve had to make’. I cast my mind back to my own Grandmother , picking us up from school once having forgotten her false teeth, that was bad enough, but arriving in feather bower and blonde horse hair wig was thankfully a humiliation we never had to endure.
‘You only as old as you feel, only as old as you feel’ Cheryl kept muttering, one of the many ‘purple hat mantras’ I would hear her repeat through the course of the evening.
‘What does your boss think?’ I enquire ‘Trying to run a respectable law firm?’ Post show girl days, Cheryl had gone on to become a secretary in a law firm in Jozy, her long suffering boss now had to put up with her inconsistent hair do’s and the alter ego which each provoked .
“Respectable, smeptacle,’ she snapped. ‘He thinks I’ve lost it, just shakes his head when he sees me in the mornings. For Christ’s sake Cheryl can’t you just wear one! It confuses the clients, they never know who they dealing with. So now when ever he gets angry I sneak him into the board room, and before he gets the chance to shit on me, I go the cabinet, pour us both a little reconciliatory drink and that’s the end of that!’
‘You see,’ she continued, in between frequent and generous replenishments of her glass ‘I pride myself in being a purple hat ambassador, ladies like me get to an age where they’re expected to pack it all in, sit around waiting to die, but this…this ‘Purple Hat’ book encourages us to live out loud, think young. Do whatever we feel like- after all age is just a number not a handicap.’
At this stage my bewigged friend seems to sense my skepticism. So, to make a point, she yanks me onto the dance floor- a cleared lounge with Jamoroqia’s ‘cosmic girl’ blaring. I hold her awkwardly, taking the same amount of care one takes when handling boxes marked with fragile stickers but this sort of caution proves insulting. Cheryl pushes my hands naughtily towards her hips, swaggering to the ground and back up again. All this topped by a creaky ‘Beyonce’ inspired bootie wag that leaves me hoping an emergency wheel chair might be waiting in the vicinity. Fortunately, the execution of each ambitious move is salvaged by a miraculous (if not wonky) recovery. Till I’m left with little option but to relent, laughing ‘I’ll give it to you old girl, you are ‘hip’ without the replacement’.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the notion of growing old gracefully. Watching Cheryl behave like an oversexed groupie that night, I wasn’t sure if this ‘purple hat evangelism’ was maybe pushing things a bit far.
At about that morning, I caught sight of her again, making her way over to the swimming pool in skimpy bikini. It wasn’t long before the creepy crawly was slurping on a detached horse hair wig and Cheryl was submerged except for a hand raised above the water (it’s purpose sadly not an indication of defeat but rather to salvage the remnants of a freshly sparked spliff) ‘Never say die’, I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ –Cheryl gave certain clichés new impetus. She would be here till sunrise, I was sure of that, long after the other party poopers had traipsed home, Cheryl would be here, pissed and passed out on a pool lilo. A tenacity that only old age and a certain ‘Purple Hat’ philosophy could teach.