Janice

Side by side in salon chairs a few days ago, our hair cooking with color, I fell into conversation with a sixty-something woman whose interests and personality matched my own to a degree that was almost eerie. It was like talking to a future version of myself. I take it as an auspicious sign that we liked one another.

It started like this: my stylist (who's also a friend) and I were catching up, chatting about restaurants and shows we've been to lately. He and his wife are foodies, so we were discussing the pros and cons of spending money on concerts vs. dining out. I explained that if I have cash to burn, live music will almost always be my first choice. That while I absolutely understand the joys of gastronomical exploration, it's just not my jam. I get much more emotional fulfillment and sensory excitement from the experience of music than from even the most gourmet of meals.

An older woman seated at the next station leaned over. "Sorry to intrude," she said, "but I have to agree. Music feeds the soul, and that's a satisfaction that lasts much longer than dinner."

And it went from there. We spent our twenty minutes of processing time gabbing about opera, festivals, fashion, drugs, and dreams (the long-term kind vs. the sleeping kind). She was blonde, pretty, and open-faced in a way that made me think of Kirsten Dunst. She was clearly monied, but there was nothing entitled or presumptive about her. When I inquired as to whether she lived downtown (knowing, of course, that she didn't; seniors are the only demographic more rare than children in DTLA, and those are about as common as dodos), I found out she's been faithfully following her stylist (another friend) from salon to salon around LA for years.

That's so gonna be me.

When Janice (we finally exchanged names at the shampoo sinks) asked me how I'd gotten so into music, I heard myself giving an answer I didn't even know was the case until it came out. "Well," I started slowly, "I think it was a response to what I went through personally, over the last five years. A lot of loss. A pretty painful divorce and the deaths of both parents. I think music became something safe for me to latch on to. Music isn't going anywhere, you know? It was the thing I found that made life joyful again."

Incidentally, my voice didn't break once during this disclosure; that surprised me as much as the words themselves.

Janice was all empathy and knowing nods. She got it, she assured me, and I believed her. Her eyes were bright and her skin had escaped the harshest of lines, but you don't hit your sixth decade without saying goodbye to at least a few loved ones.

I asked her about opera, which she characterized as "her festivals." She sees as much as she can, usually five or six performances a year. But she demurred when I called her an aficionado. She's just a devoted fan, she insisted. When I asked if she'd been raised on opera, admitting how utterly lost I'd been coming to it for the first time myself so late in life, she told me a story that made me instantly love her. Paraphrasing, but...

"Well, one night back when I was still single, I drew myself a bath. The television was on in the background - there was a show playing, that series Live From the Met, do you know it? Anyway, when I shut the water off, I heard the most unbelievably beautiful music coming from the other room. I jumped out of the tub, grabbed a towel, and sat riveted in front of the TV. I was dripping wet but I couldn't move. I'd never heard anything like it. It was Pavarotti. The very next day I bought myself a ticket - they were showing Madame Butterfly. I didn't know anyone else who wanted to spend money on an opera ticket, so I just got one. I splurged on a Givenchy dress {here she gestured with her hands, running them lightly down the sides of an invisible gown; for some reason I imagined something form-fitting, red, and woven through with gold sparkle}, and I went to the show alone. And I had the time of my life."

Her anecdote concluded with a facial expression that was less triumphant than matter-of-fact. It just was who she was; it was what she would do. Trying to be tactful but curious as to her age during this experience, I asked her how long ago that was. But she knew what I meant. "Oh, I must have been about thirty-five I guess?"

I almost leapt out of my chair to hug her. Instead I told her how much I enjoyed going to festivals by myself, how intimidating it was at first (despite being in my mid-thirties) but how empowering, ultimately; she'd concluded the same thing about opera. We agreed that the company of another fan is best, but going solo is a close second. We agreed on a lot of things, in fact:

We are both mystified by the appeal of jazz.
We both love Radiohead and Muse. Yep, sixty-something Janice used to be a rocker, and she's come back to it later in life.
We are both vain about our hair, despite the challenges that aging presents to it.
We both have enormous respect for our friends (the stylists, a married couple who own the salon), who are fantastic, hardworking, and generous employers.

The subject of drugs came up, as it invariably does when talking about festivals. She wanted to know whether pot was still commonly used. I stifled a LOL and started to explain the newer, more popular choices du jour - but my authoritative feeling evaporated when Janice filled me in on her own former experimentation. Duh, I thought to myself, she lived through the sixties. Three words: ell, ess, dee. Acid isn't something I've tried (*cough*yet*cough*), but let's just say I left the salon with more interesting and helpful tips than what to moisturize my ends with.

We didn't talk about jobs. We didn't talk about our partners. We didn't talk about children. I don't even know if she has any, and she didn't ask me, either. Few and far between are the conversations I have that exclude these Key Adult Talking Points. Few and far between and kind of nice.