October 16, 2005

I wore my hair in a ponytail every day. You know what that says to the world? It says: I've given up.

A few weeks ago, my father and I were on holiday in Cannes. I noticed that French women are very elegant. They dress well and they're exquisitely groomed. Being around them, I felt like such a slob. A Frenchwoman ties a scarf around her neck and it looks chic. I tie a scarf around my neck, I look like a flight attendant. My hair does badly in France. I wore it in a ponytail every day. You know what a ponytail says to the world? It says: I've given up. Add a pair of sweat pants and I'm an advertisement for involuntary celibacy. The one time I wore my hair loose my father liked it.

"See? It looks better when it's... What's the right word?" He paused.
"Frizzy?" That was the right word? Frizzy? "I meant curly," he said quickly. But it was too late. Frizzy was out there. I put it back in a ponytail.

Every morning he read the newspaper, while I did my daily thinking about all the things that could go wrong. My father is 77 and always in a good mood. He feels lucky to be alive and lives in the moment. It's very stressful to be around him. I've tried to live in the moment but it's too much pressure.

For his birthday I took him to lunch at an expensive restaurant. He was touched and said he'd remember it for the rest of his life. Then he added: "Providing I die this week." Finally, my fatalism was rubbing off.

So there we were, with a view of the Cote d'Azur, the sun was shining, and I asked, cheerfully: "If you only had a few months left to live, what would you do?"

He stared at me. I offered some ideas. "How about going to an amazing penthouse hotel suite? Then, when all the money is gone, you could jump."

He considered this before saying he didn't think he would be able to go through with it. The jumping part.

"What if you drank a bottle of expensive champagne first?" He nodded. I could tell he was impressed. I enjoy making him proud. Everyone knows if you have a short time left, you should make the most of it. I've often thought I'd choose a luxurious hotel, spend all my money and live it up.

But then what if I found out I wasn't dying? I'd be stuck with the bill.
I'd have to jump.

"I have another question," I said. He gave me a look of "It had better be worth it." I hate that look. What if it's not worth it? What if I just want to ask a question and not have to wonder if it's worth taking up too much time? All my life I've felt rushed, the meter's running. What's the problem? Questions are important.

"If you could have one wish, what would it be?"

"For you to stop asking questions," he replied.

I moved on. People say life is short but I don't get it. It seems pretty long to me. I got up from the table and took my hair out of the ponytail. I still looked like Bette Midler, only without the talent or money.