Rerun: Mistaken Identity

First run Friday July 26, 2013  (The photos are from 2015)

Today in the middle of a five mile walk I stopped at the Rite Aid to take a break and look at make up.  I didn’t want to buy anything.  I just felt like looking at the little pans of powdered hope before I hit the road again.

I was feeling pretty cute if you want to know the truth. I’ve been exercising all summer and I’m tan from swimming with my kid. I was wearing a tank top that in my mind showed off my glorious biceps, and a ball cap through which my swishy ponytail swished.

Then this man I don’t know came up to me and said, “Is that Phyllis?”

“No,” I said. As soon as I turned he jumped back a little and looked sheepish.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I thought you were Phyllis.”

“I hope she’s a nice person,” I said.

“She is.  She’s—my neighbor,” the man said. And looked even more sheepish before he hustled away.

My name is not Phyllis.

That’s when I realized that his neighbor Phyllis is an old woman. He had mistaken me for an old-aged woman and once he saw I was a medium-aged woman he became embarrassed.  How do I know this?  Because it’s happened before.  I never get mistaken for women named, say, Brandy or Kesha.  People come up when they can only see my hair and behind and call me names like Elsie and Phyllis. There I was feeling saucy and awesome, and this guy was thinking, oh look there goes my little old neighbor.  I should go up and say hello.  Maybe see if she needs some help crossing the street.

I’m never going back to dyeing my hair.  I’m not even tempted.  I love my hair long and gray. It’s thicker than it was when I dyed it.  Regular dye jobs were not working out for me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that every box of hair color was an environmental nightmare. I’m not reconsidering the decision I made three and a half years ago to let my hair grow out in its natural white and gray.


My kid is brushing my hair as I write this.  She’s applying oils and unctions and it smells great.  She just looked over my shoulder at what I’m writing. “I love your hair,” she says.  “I don’t think you look like an old lady.”

Okay.  But still. Phyllis?  Damn.

Maureen O’Leary Wanket is the author of How to Be Manly and The Arrow.


  1. Your hair may be grey but you look very youthful to me!!


    1. When I first met you, I found the combination of your young face and halo of grey hair pretty interesting. Even from the front, you don’t really look like a Kesha, though. Just sayin’.

      Liked by 1 person

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