I never saw my mother’s face surrounded by gray hair. I wish I had.
There is a memory of Mom with an old towel around her shoulders, her old fashioned white bra underneath, wearing her black “pedal pusher pants”. We call them capri pants nowadays. She was dyeing her hair from a box. Dark hair dye ended up on the white bra, there were some choice words about that. My Mom was married to a sailor and she knew how to cuss.
How old was she then? Forty? When did she start dyeing her hair? I wish I could ask her.
She never stopped. Once my mom started dyeing her hair she never stopped. Trips to the hair salon were a part of the fabric of her life until the end.
Many times I stated emphatically that “no one will ever see my gray hair. I’m going to be just like my mom and brunette until the end!”
At age 24 I went to the salon and had my hair colored. There were some sneaky little gray hairs in there. Little did I know I was making a decision that would affect how I felt about my hair, my looks and the process of aging for the next forty years. I had no idea of the investment in time and money. More importantly I had no idea of the investment in denial.
Cover the gray. Deny aging.
Ha. That’s hysterical. Deny aging.
My hair is longer than it’s been since I was in grade school. Somehow these last few years it just seemed easier to let it grow. It’s easier to braid and keep out of the way. But the color had to be put on every four to six weeks or the dreaded silver skunk stripe would start to appear. My kids delighted in informing me from their superior height that it was “time to go to the salon” as they peered down at my silver roots.
Last year I talked to my stylist Jason about going gray. He had all kinds of wonderful advice, we finally agreed that I would go lighter. And that was the extent of my delving into going gray.
I caught on to the “message of the universe” pretty quickly when the salon closed and I realized that I may be social isolating for quite a while.
Am I supposed to explore this opportunity? Isn’t this a perfect time and place? I live on a mountain outside of a small Colorado town. Wearing a ball cap and a ponytail are how I spend the summer anyway. Wool caps are the go to during the winter. It makes sense, doesn’t it? I am on this wonderful journey of discovery and authenticity, shouldn’t the outside start reflecting truth and authenticity?
So the decision was made. The emotional shit storm commenced.
I am going gray
I am getting older.
Everybody can SEE that I am going gray
Everybody can SEE that I am getting older
Hide! Hide the FACT that my hair is silver under all that dye.
Hide! Hide the FACT that the vehicle I walk this earth with is getting older. Wrinkles, bags, rolls of skin, cellulite, sagging everything ,age spots and scars.
Clothing, makeup and miracle lotions and potions may camouflage all of the above a little, but when I look full on at myself in the mirror it’s all there. Not only is all of the proof of age right in front of my eyes but the change is accelerating at an alarming rate.
Let’s not even talk about plastic surgery. The siren call that gets louder and louder.
Don’t get me wrong. I fully support coloring hair, cosmetics , lotions and potions, surgery and everything else we choose to use on face, hair and body. I did. I did because I never really thought about the alternatives. It was part of the culture I grew up in. It was what my mom did, what my friends did, what was expected of me.
This is my opportunity to think about how important is the appearance of this body? Isn’t this body just the mechanism for my soul to move around in? Do I have the courage to quit trying to hide the fact that I’m aging? Who do I think I’ve been fooling?
Why am I expending energy and money, experiencing real mental anguish and pain, over THE NATURAL PROCESS OF AGING. Don’t I have better things to do with my time and money?
“She has not aged well”
I’ve thought it. Hell, I’ve said it.
There is a whole book of judgment in that little phrase.
Who am I to judge anyone on their looks? Isn’t that the most superficial shallow thing I can do to another human being? Don’t I know for a fact that the real me has nothing to do with how I look? If I’m heavy or light, toned or padded, with makeup or not, wrinkled and gray or smooth and brunette it’s just the outside.
Who got to decide all these rules that I have somehow agreed to?
Who wrote the rule about how we are supposed to age? A bunch of beauty industry executives that trumpet “anti aging formula” and “fountain of youth” while fueling our insecurities? Or a twenty something Instagram “influencer ” that panics over a pimple and spends hours a day on makeup. To cover up what she really looks like. Or how about the drop dead gorgeous former model that has a new career of “aging gracefully ” with glorious silver locks and wrinkle free skin. And what does “aging gracefully” mean? I know it doesn’t describe the process for me, I’m more of the three stooges version.
And of course there is the group think of the “they”
They will say I look old.
They will talk about my looks in a negative way.
They will judge me.
They will say I look old.
It’s almost like it is the ultimate insult now.
They will say I look old.
Who is “they”? The whole world? My friends? My family? You?
” They” compare the outside of Michelle from last year, or ten years ago , or 20 years ago, with the outside of Michelle today. Guess what. I’ve gotten older. I look different. Not better. Not worse. Different.
Is someone is going to make a judgement about my value based on that?
Yes they are. It happens every single day. And it says absolutely nothing about how I look, and everything about the values and thinking of the other person.
I think I shall explore going gray. An exploration of honestly looking at the process of this change for me. I am already overwhelmed at times with the disconnect between how young and free I feel and what I see in the mirror. What a wonderful opportunity to explore all kinds of things.
Change. That’s really what this is about. What a difference that word makes in how I react to this process.
Change is good. Change is growth
My hair is changing. It is growing
I’m changing. I’m growing
Change is good.
Last but not least. I reserve the right to panic and run back to the hair salon at any point during this process. If it’s open.