All of my private students are interesting to me, but some more than others. One of them, a woman around 65 years of age, utterly fascinates me. She is married to an oncologist and they live in a huge Western-style house in a part of town known as “the Beverly Hills of Japan” because so many celebrities choose to make their homes there. She does charcoal ink painting for a hobby, and is rather good at it. She goes to Paris every year just for fun. She collects Leonard Foujita prints. She loves Italian food, and is planning to spend next summer in Tuscany at a cooking school. She assures me that she likes cats, albeit “from a distance.”
She is also one of the most ruthlessly self-centred people I have ever met in my life, who thinks of nothing but her own happiness, and doesn’t understand why anyone would want to do otherwise.
For all these reasons, she is interesting to me. But the reason I’m most fascinated with her is that she doesn’t dye her grey hairs black, or any other colour. Unlike most Japanese women, she has let herself go naturally silver, and it’s a good look on her, in fact it’s very striking. (Of course, it helps that she flies to Tokyo every six weeks to have her hair cut and styled by one of Japan’s best, but still it’s a very unusual decision for a Japanese woman of her age to let nature take its course, and choosing to do so is really swimming against the tide.) I’m still trying to pluck up the courage to ask her about her hair – what made her decide to leave it be? Why is she content to look her age, and not younger? Whatever the case, she looks exactly like what she is: an extremely happy and beautifully turned-out 65-year-old woman, who is extremely happy to be 65 and not 35.
Needless to say, I’ve added her to my list of role models, which gets longer all the time!