Sunday, December 19, 2010


My hair is gray. Not 90-year-old-woman gray, mind you, but more like "13-year-old girl first gets her boobs" gray: Even if it isn't trumpet-blaring obvious to the world, its still upsetting and apparent to her.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky, since most women in my family have a full head of silver by age 28. I found my first few strands by 23, but they largely held off on proliferating until the past few years.

At age 26, I blamed my PhD thesis.
At age 27, I blamed my mom's death.
At 28 years, childbirth was the culprit.
At 29, it was the terrible twos.
At 30, clearly my disaffection was to blame for the 15 extra gray hairs I plucked in one week.

But at 31 I realize, there is no excuse, other than age and genetics.

As a teenager, I honored women who wore their gray with confidence. I thought my mom and aunts were foolish when they used box dyes to cover the evidence of wisdom, sprouting from their noggins. Even as a young adult, I had immense respect for a woman in our ward who wore her "GA's wife" hair with pride - at the age of 35.

But when 23 presented me with these same locks of wisdom, I, too, went to the mattresses.

In my 20s, blond streaks were generally sufficient to trick the casual observer, and altogether stylish. But I have now reached a point where nothing but low-lights will likely do the trick. And so I must decide - do I stick to my earlier decision to mature naturally? Or do I try to reverse the tides of age?

I like the look that the gray lends my hair; it makes me look older, more mature. As someone who, at the age of 17, was once "carded" at the AMC 8 for a PG-13 movie - I have no problems with the idea of looking a little older and wiser. That is, so long as those evidences of maturity stay far, far away from approaching the level of frown lines or "chicken neck".

On the other hand, I don't like the texture of these hairs. They seem alien, rough, crinkly. They aren't soft, they don't naturally wave and flow like the rest of my hair, but kink up in frustrating ways. I'm not convinced even a dye would fix that foreign sensation, the feeling like someone else's hair has been grafted into my scalp.

Is this what it is like to mature, then? Your body moving forward with time, while your mind still feels like a child? Just when I start to understand and respect my body's goddess-like fullness, the elements change and shift.

Perhaps my body is like the moon, waning from full to crescent, and I only just realized that I have ceased waxing gibbous.


The Wife said...

I had an acquaintance ask me the other day how old I was--he couldn't figure it out. I have a face that looks like I could be 22, and a large and very visible patch of gray hair on the top of my head which he said made me look 35. He was interested to find out I am 29. I wear my gray hair with pride--it runs in my family, and I found my first one when I was 16.

C.J. said...

Last night, Mr. CJ and I watched the Chris Rock documentary, "Good Hair". It's about the relationship African American women have with their hair, but it's remarkably relatable for all women, I think. American women, anyway. Watching it really helped me regain my sense of humor about my imperfect body, hair and all. It's also great family viewing. I highly recommend it.

Scott N said...

Why is aging gracefully such a virtuous thing?

I mean, sure, it's good to accept that time brings changes, and nobody likes to be around someone who's always complaining about his/her aches and wrinkles and gray hairs.

But there's a world of difference between accepting that change is inevitable and resigning ourselves to being less than we can be (or want to be).

I'm only beginning to get a silver hair here and there, and they aren't noticeable enough for me to worry about them yet.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that when they do become prominent enough I'll be coloring them into oblivion--for the same reason I use moisturizer on my face and go to the gym.

It's not vanity (or at least I tell myself that)... It's simply a desire to look as good as I can look, given a reasonable amount of effort and a reasonable budget (no liposuction or face lifts in my future, I don't think).

Madame Curie said...

Wife- Good for you for wearing your gray with pride!

C.J.- Sounds like an interesting movie, I will have to check it out!

Scott- Interesting that you chose to equate hair dyeing with exercise and moisturizing. I generally moisturize to avoid uncomfortably tight or chapped skin, and I usually exercise for good health. Dyeing hair, on the other hand, is largely an aesthetic choice.

I do get the point, though, that for some people, aesthetics is really important.

"Growing old gracefully" is an interesting phrase. Consider the opposite, though - who wants to grow old "suddenly"? Someone who "aged 20 years in a week," for instance, is generally assumed to have gone through some major trial or difficulty. Kids who have to "grow up too fast" confers a mental image of parental death. I can't see wanting that, either.

I wouldn't particularly want too look like I was 55 at 25, but I don't mind looking 30 at 32. I'm a 30-something working mom with a rambunctious preschooler and bills to pay. Its no surprise that I have some gray hair.

For me, accepting my gray is about accepting who I am, warts and all.