Yesterday my hair went grey.
Now there are plenty of reasons why my tresses would whiten, given the way of the world around me. It could have been caused by a number of things, ranging from my mother's latest snoop session in my room to the sight of Duminda Silva. I have also been known to drop a few strands every time I receive a new brief from a particularly shitty client of mine.
But yesterday was entirely different.
It all began with the phone ringing a few days ago. I received a call last Tuesday from a guy I'd worked with way back when he was a youngster with a handycam, looking for cheap work in video editing. I vaguely recall having given him headaches over an AV edit five years ago, and I honestly thought he'd never speak to me again. It turned out he's now a young director of sorts and had an acting job for me. How worms turn.
"Hi", he says with the typically glib I've-made-it-in-life-and-you're-not-my-client-anymore tone of voice. "I'm doing a short film for a really big, important client and we've thought of you as our lead actress.”
At this point I'm preening like a poodle on the other end of the phone. I love it when directors grovel at my feet, begging for my talent and participation in their work. This call would count for a total of two times that such a thing has happened. The last one was for my 12-year old cousin's class project. Next step, Hollywood.
"Ummm... I'm not sure... I need to check my schedule...", I say, careful not to give away my eagerness and play it cool. Like Nicole Kidman would. I’ll bet you anything she doesn’t have a schedule either. He begs a little, which pleases me immensely. I ho and hum through the praise he is showering on me and then make little modest giggly sounds when he claims I would be perfect for the role. Giggly sounds are good when trying to act uninterested but still keeping the carrot dangling.
I decide to be magnanimous." Alright. For you, ok. I'll be in your film." I consent like a queen. Nicole would have done it that way. "What's the film about?" By now I'm seeing myself draped in finery, smokily swaying into a room full of adoring men who stop and stare at my entrance. One might even drop a glass of whiskey out of sheer admiration. I can visualize the drama and aplomb with which I will deliver my lines and render my audience speechless with my magnificent screen presence. I am so blown away by my excellence in the day dream that I take almost two minutes of silence to digest what Director boy has just said in the meantime.
"It's about ageing" he explains. "We need a woman who can be an old granny."
If he hadn't continued to beg, I'd have slammed the phone down so hard it would have rendered him deaf for at least three years. I could have sworn I heard him wrong.
"I BEG your pardon??!?" Temperature rising. Palpitations. Sweat. Nostrils flaring. Was I having a stroke?
The director formerly known as my friend chirped on happily. "You need to age on film. We're looking for a good Aachchi." Noticing my silence and realizing he may have just lost the deal he hurriedly added, "And they'll pay you. Plus can we use your boyfriend too? He could play your husband."
Ok. That's different. There's money in it and I'm broke enough to be old for a buck. Having the Doc around to suffer the same humiliation was also a plus point. I could also then cross out June on my ‘weird couple things to do’ calendar. I took a pause. A pregnant one, because that's what we actresses do at times like this, and then said 'ok' in a not-so-pleased way. I let the irritation linger in my voice so that he knew just exactly how much I liked the idea of being told I suited the character of an 80 year old. I quoted my fee and he rang off, happy that he’d clinched the deal.
A day later he called back to tell me that his client felt that my boyfriend didn’t seem right for the aged husband, so could he play the role of a young photographer instead.
I spluttered, frothed and took a good day before revealing that point to Doc. Luckily for Doc’s well--being, he’s been around for long enough to know that hooting in victory and jeering at me would have cost him dearly. So he stayed quiet and supportive, occasionally coughing politely while I ranted and raved at him for looking younger. He’ll make an excellent diplomat, that boy. I think G.L. Peiris should step down and hand things over to Doc.
And that’s how I ended up at a production studio last evening with my hair grayed. In retrospect, it wasn’t as bad as I’d foreseen. I even found myself enjoying the whole shenanigan. The make-up artist was a real wizard, and by the time he’d finished with me even I couldn’t recognize the face in the mirror. He used wax plastic and texture to create bags and wrinkles. I looked a typical kooky old bat – the kind you find squatting and muttering to themselves on street corners in Fort. He’d even aged my TEETH, dammit. Some odd tasting varnish made it look like I had a load of gunky plaque on severely yellowed aging teeth. My hair was whitened from root to tip and parted in the middle into a granny bun. It was kinda sorta beautiful, if you consider butt-ugly wrinkled old women beautiful. By the time they'd dressed me in an ancient Kandyan Sari costume, I’d thrown myself into the role completely and had a whale of a time hobbling around the studio and wheezing at the production crew, who couldn’t stop laughing at the transformation.
They’d made Doc up to look older too, since the script called for the ‘photographer’ to grow old alongside his model (me). Unlike my new look, his actually SUITED him. If there’s anything that can piss a girl off more than being told she fits the role of a geriatric, it’s that her boyfriend can actually end up hotter in old-person make up while she just reeks of Quasimodo. I put it down to the chauvinist in the make-up guy…. Doc looked far too good.
And so we shot the film. I put on my best attempt at walking with a hunch and arthritic difficulty. I squinted through the enormous glasses they made me wear and gave my hands a shiver. I guess I must have been a natural, coz someone’s kid who turned up in the room started referring to me as ‘that aachchi’. Aside from making mental notes to kill the kid on my way out, it was fun.
Somewhere towards the 14th hour of shooting, I was struck with an epiphany. Whilst watching a playback of a take of us - me the horrible wrinkly witch and Doc looking like a sexy French aristocrat – I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. I think it happens when you get that old. The scene in front of me was disconcertingly, dare I say it, nice. Watching ourselves standing side by side, old and feeble as hell, smiling at each other. At one point I witnessed myself touching his face fondly and him nodding sagely at me with an adorable smile. We looked comfortable. We looked old and demented, but super cute together. An ‘awe’ moment.
I fleetingly wondered what it would be like if we REALLY did end up together at that age. It didn’t seem as frightening a thought as I’ve previously considered being. Heck, the man even looked GOOD in white hair. I could tap that. Suddenly I felt the fierce need for us to grow old together. I wanted to be with him at the stage when I’m sagging everywhere. I smiled at Doc who was watching the monitor beside me and I took a deep breath, pushed my inner feminist aside and choked out, “will you still love me when I’m that old?”
He looked momentarily startled. It's rare for me to so openly endorse the idea of a lifetime commitment. He took a sharp breath in, undoubtedly moved. “Hell no!” he shuddered. “Yuck!”
And that’s why I love Doc. Coz I know he meant the exact the opposite, even though he did refuse to kiss me goodnight on account of my yellow plaque-filled teeth.
Now I can’t wait till my hair turns grey again. This time for real.