Friday, January 6, 2023

new year to cheer or fear: January

     Time to take stock, whether in facts or feelings.  Much news comes out of census reporting - if you are statistical minded - now that the past decade's assessment has been (mostly) tallied. Of national and rural/urban living. It seems the urban population in the US has - no surprise - increased: we are now 79% urban vs 20.4 % rural. Definitions have changed, too,  so that an urban area is now 5,000 people and above and there are now 2,646 urban areas in the US, Puerto Rico and US islands. 

How this matters, of course, is how much federal support - in funds and services - is given to different areas. That's a fight at the national level by and large, where elected representatives and agency heads are critical.


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    On a less sweeping scale, my thoughts of the day focus on yet another periodic conversation with my hair care specialist Walter, a cancer survivor- just barely. While I sit covered in plastic sheeting and a towel, he cuts and talks, sprays and enlightens. We gossip a bit over another woman client whose feud with yet a third client means Walter cannot really keep up a relationship with both since they both live in the same residential complex where he works. The two women have had a spat over a job that is apparently the reason for their existence, as relatively useless and unimportant it would seem to be. The one cannot stand to be in the same room with the other. Then there is the ultra-rich client who confesses her facial makeover at age 38 cost $23,000 and made it look like a 16-year-old. The problem with the botox-plus-surgery for yet a fourth woman is her total self-absorption as she must be constantly reassured of her good looks. Her droopy mouth has gone but not her fear of its eventual return. How she must be constantly on guard.

    But Walter has plenty of other topics to talk over while he works. He is a professional guitar player who recently joined a group performing what he calls Peruvian waltzes, folk rhythms he now  hums to me when I ask. And his wife the accountant who would like to retire but whose boss begs her to stay on until his cancer treatment is over - and longer, too, just in case.  Walter's treatment has left him a thin man without much taste for food and a perilous weight for a tall man of only 140 pounds. He sees a trainer once a week to learn how and whether certain exercises will improve his body, to grow muscles - which he finds ridiculous since 'the age thing' never can be overcome. 

    I'm the client but am I also a therapist of a kind - sitting in front of a mirror, welcoming the ministrations of a professional whose hands are flitting back and forth, chop chop, while I am embalmed in his chair. He needs me as an audience, as someone who can respond to his talk. We go back and forth:his wife (always), his grandkids, the ways of a diminishing world. He is diminished - he should be 20 or more pounds beyond 140 and he worries about this. He worries about the price of a trainer - $85 a session, he confides as though it were a secret shame - helping him in some way to sustain - not quite build - muscle.  His style has changed since the chemotherapy. He applies the same low lights (not highlights - I don't know the difference), I hold the 4 inch square foil while he bends hair strands around them.  This is a coloring job that will blend with the gray and not let gray get the upper hand. I sense a weaker yet obliging hand. We are really four people: two bodies and two mirror images.