Miz Grumblebutt

I had my hair done on Wednesday. I’ve been going to the same stylist for the past several years. I’m picky about hairdressers. Like Paul, I believe that a woman’s hair is her glory, especially after she reaches a certain age. It may be the only reminder of the youthfulness that has long sense faded or given way to gravity. I hope to go to my death bed with the hair of Rapunzel as my cover.

The way I figure if the gal doing your hair has bad hair, you better find you a new stylist. My hairdresser is a beautiful woman. Ivy has long, golden hair that always looks great.

I’ve had my share of really bad hair days, months, and years. I’ve even had the dreaded mullet. I’ll spare you the photo but the hairdresser who gave it to me was a high-priced fella in Walla Walla. I never went back to him after that haircut.

Since God didn’t give me naturally glorious hair the way he did my son and my youngest daughter, going to the stylist takes up either my morning or my afternoon. Today it was my afternoon.

Because the gal who does my hair owns her own salon and works alone, she is often answering phones and talking to other clients as she does my hair. I don’t mind. Beauty parlors are their own little communities.

Today as I was “processing” — that’s code for getting rid of the grey — an elderly lady wearing polyester slacks and worn-out loafers shuffled into the parlor. She was carrying a picture book and a small black purse.

“You’re appointment isn’t until next week,” Ivy told the lady as she paused from cutting a young girl’s hair.

“Next week?” the old woman asked.

“Yes,” Ivy said. “Tuesday.”

But the old lady hadn’t really come for a hair appointment. She had come to show Ivy her Christmas gift — a picture book of her great-grandchildren. It was a lovely book, full of colorful photos of a tow-headed girl and her chubby-cheeked brother.

I know because after she had passed the book to everyone else in the room, the old lady brought it to me.

“You know who that is you are talking to?” Ivy called out. “Tell her who you are.”

I was confused. I thought she meant for the silver-haired gal to give me her name, but instead Ivy meant for me to give the lady my name.

“I’m Karen Zacharias,” I said.

“She is always bringing me your columns from the newspaper,” Ivy said.

“You don’t look like your photo,” said the old lady.

“No, I reckon not,” I said, my hair matted from the processing.

I looked at her picture book and commented on her beautiful great-grandchildren. I told her that she had the prettiest head of white hair I’ve ever seen. It was thick and nicely cut and well, just glorious hair.

“I guess it’s pretty good for a woman my age,” she said. “I’m 90.” I didn’t ask her age, she offered it.

Oh. And you should know she has excellent hearing for a woman her age, my hairdresser said after she called me back to the styling chair.

“She’s sweet,” I said.

“Oh, no she’s not,” Ivy whispered, rearing back from the wash basin. “She’s not sweet at all. She says the meanest stuff. I call her Miz Grumblebutt.”

Apparently Miz Grumblebutt has been through her share of hairdressers in town and she isn’t pleased with a single one of them. In fact, there isn’t much in her life that Miz Grumblebutt has been happy about — other than those great-grandchildren of hers.

Miz Grumblebutt has a potty mouth that would leave a veteran slack-jawed. Once when my stylist was washing somebody’s hair, Miz Grumblebutt came over to her and asked, “Do you mean to being showing this much butt-crack?” She held her fingers four inches apart. “Because with those pants of yours that’s exactly how much you are showing.”

“Why no,” Ivy answered. “I wasn’t intending to show any.”

Then she laughed. What else could she do?

Recently Miz Grumblebutt approached a client who had just paid good money for a perm and asked, “You aren’t going out the door with your hair looking like that are you? Because that would be bad advertising for Ivy. You should fix it before you leave or soon as you get home.”

The woman didn’t know what to say and neither did Ivy so they both just stood there in wide-eyed shock, while Miz Grumblebutt rattled on.

When my hairdresser got pregnant by a man who wasn’t her husband, Miz Grumblebutt gave her the what for, chawed her up one side and down the other. Lest you think Miz Grumblebutt was compelled by fundamentalism to chide those less moral than she, you should know that Miz Grumblebutt doesn’t ascribe to a faith of any sort. She’s just a woman who says what she pleases no matter who it displeases.

Ivy got so fed up with Miz Grumblebutt once that she told her she didn’t have any appointment time to see her but Miz Grumblebutt kept calling. So Ivy jacked up her prices real high, thinking that Miz Grumblebutt wouldn’t pay that much money to have her hair done but she did. She kept complaining but she kept coming back to heap out more abuse.

Over time, her whining wore Ivy down in a good way. Ivy has grown to love quirky old Miz Grumblebutt. On her birthday she baked her a cake. When Ivy took it over to her house, Miz Grumblebutt opened the door and told Ivy she didn’t have time to talk. Instead she took the cake and shut the door in her face. “I got company coming,” she said by way of explanation. Ivy couldn’t even remember if Miz Grumblebutt ever thanked her for the cake.

It doesn’t matter.

Ivy will likely make her another one next year.

Next week she’ll call Miz Grumblebutt and remind her that she has a hair appointment on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Miz Grumblebutt will call Ivy six times to reconfirm that appointment. If she can’t get ahold of Ivy, she call her mama and tell her to call Ivy.

I think the reason Ivy has grown to love Miz Grumblebutt is that she knows there’s a bit of grumblebutt in all of us.

A spirit of discontentmentment.

A sense that no matter how much others do for us, it’s never enough.

I guess it only goes to show that whether we are 19 or 90, we are glorious works in process.

God isn’t finished with us yet.

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  • I see a lot of Ms Grumblebutt in me. Makes me very uncomfortable when it reveals itself. Excellent piece, Karen.

    Now, what will it take to get you to show us a picture of your “Business in the front, party in the back” mullet?

  • I think the Ms Grumblebutts of the world irritate me so much because, as you said, there’s a little (or a lot) of her in all of us. And you just reminded me, gotta go cover up my skunk stripe.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Send us photos.

  • Mary Cooke

    I laughed as I read this. I have just returned from visiting my sister in Waycross, Ga and while there, she kept talking about her hairdresser who doesn’t hesitate to tell people what she thinks they should do (hair and life). Apparently her own life is quite the soap opera and I think her customers probably just keep going to see what is next. I think Ms Grumblebutt would love it there. Happy New Year!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Been to Waycross a time or two in my life and what I didn’t tell you is the rest of the story on my own hairdresser — She was married to another man at the time she was having a baby by a man she wasn’t married to.
      Did you get that?

  • Greg

    I’m a guy, and probably not supposed to love this post, but I do. I especially like the extra ment on discontentment. Probably a typo, but great emphasis!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Absolutely a typo…but it does have a nice echo, huh? And now I can’t fix it because you put up this response. Ah…that I am flawed will surprise none of you.

  • Diane

    Let’s hope Miss Grumblebutt isn’t one of the 90 yr. olds with a computer and nothing else to do all day but read blogs…LOL
    Most of my friends are quite elderly 80’s+ and I am 52. I have just learned not to hold against them the things that they say (and I hope I am offered the same grace) especially for the 3rd time in 10 mins. LOL Older people are precious and somtimes cantankersous at the same time. For some reason I seem to be able to have the patience of Job with them but not so much with the young adults in my midst.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I think I was more of a Miz Grumblebutt in my 30s than I am now.

  • John in PDX

    I want to be a curmudgeon someday!
    Happy New Year everyone.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Happy New Year, John.

  • Lillian

    Karen, I am one of those nearly 90 and I am trying real had to not be one of those ‘elderly’
    old women that sit in front of the computer all day. I try to stay busy with other things. I do a little writing, a lot of praying, (thanking God for for His love mercy, blessings, goodness, and forgiveness). Don’t have time to be a curmudegeon!

    I have a marvelous recipe for you: Put two cans of Cresent rolls, buttered and packed down in your buttered bundt pan. Bake about 15 – 20 minutes at 350%. Slices beautifully!

    You can sprinkle cinnamon, brown sugar and chopped nuts on the rolls before baking for delicious breakfast treat.

    Win friends with quick and easy recipes, short stories, and prayers!!!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Lillian: You couldn’t be a Miz Grumblebutt if you tried. You don’t have the character for it. And remember that trip to B’Ham when I asked you if you look around the room and ask yourself why you are in a room full of elderly women and you answered yes? I don’t think of you as an old woman. I think of you as a writer and a friend.
      Sometimes when Tim and I see old classmates we wonder how they got so old while we stayed so young. HA!

    • John in PDX

      The house will be full of young men this evening. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I hope they don’t shoot an eye out. Mikey caught me off guard the other morning but I blinked. It’s nerf guns, hot wings, soda & your rolls.
      You have to be 110 to be a really good curmudgeon. Invite me to your birthday party.

  • DaveLou

    Totally off topic, but had to stop by and mention that I drove across Sand Mountain this afternoon, which made me think of Dennis Covington, which made me think of you since you mentioned him and his interesting book … in yours.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Totally off topic but I love Salvation on Sand Mountain. One of my favorite all time books, ever. Something about snakes and me.. Been over Sand Mountain a time or two myself. Thanks for thinking of me.

      • DaveLou

        I’ll never forget how you mentioned Dennis right across the page from your mention of Jerry Sittser – another great underappreciated author with a compelling life story.

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          Sittser has one of the most profound stories of forgiveness and grace I’ve had the privilege of hearing. I interviewed him not long after the tragedy that took the lives of his mother, daughter and wife. I will never forget him telling me, “I lost my past, my present and my future” yet, he had the faith that enabled him to hope again.

  • Shari Salois

    I have been “reading” you since I lived in Fayetteville, NC a couple of years ago, and love your work. This elderly lady reminds me of the character that Shirley Mclaine played in Steel Magnolia’s. What a Hoot!!! Someone actually acting like that in real life….

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Shari: So good to have you chime in after all these years. Thank you for letting me hear from you. I miss my friends in Fayetteville, miss the newspaper there, too.
      And yes, you are exactly right, Miz Grumblebutt would be right off the pages of Steele Magnolia. I bet we all know a Miz Grumblebutt. The trick is not being her. 🙂