I just did a google search to see how much I’ve blogged about my gray hair in the past. Turns out, I’ve done it quite a bit! (One post reminded me that once, while I was growing out my gray, a coworker said when I asked what she thought about it, “Oh, I thought you were just being lazy. You’re not kidding? You’re doing that on purpose?“)
People. We have to talk.
Right now there is no gray except the inch of white I’m rocking out of laziness, because even though I grew out my gray five years ago, I only kept it up for about a year. Some days I felt amazing! A young person, flying her white! Some days I felt awful. I looked older. I felt older.
I broke one day and dyed the underneath bits red, and I loved that phase. That was fun.
(This is how much white I am — all the color you see is from a bottle, the white is real. I’ve been gray since I was about thirty.)
But the upkeep was hard, dyeing the underneath but keeping the white out of the dye and the white strip got smaller and smaller as I screwed it up. And one day I broke again because the white made my hair look SO thin. You could see my scalp, and it freaked me out. I dyed it all over and since then, I’ve been a bottle gal.
I’m tired of it. I’m seeing my hair stylist tomorrow and I think I’ll get a new cut and go lilac and let it grow out naturally and see what happens.
But I’m worried because of this: my hair has thinned SO MUCH MORE since surgical menopause at 39 (I’m life-threateningly allergic to synthetic and plant-based estrogens, so no HRT for me). Four years ago, when that photo was taken at 39, I had thin hair. Now it’s even thinner. I’m worried it will look terrible. I’m worried I’m making the wrong choice.
So why not just keep dyeing my hair? I do it at home, it costs $6/month, and it takes half an hour, total. What’s the big deal?
I don’t know, really.
It feels like it’s about authenticity, although I judge no one for dyeing their hair, not even myself.
I just want to look like me. Like myself. Honestly.
I don’t want to look older, but I am older. I’m 43 now, and guess what? Every day I stay on this side of the grass, I’m getting older. So are you. Snaps for that! Good on you, you getting-older-you!
Why on earth am I still trying to fit in with American beauty ideals? Why on earth do I still want (on a lizard-brain level) to compete with twenty-one year old starlets in bikinis? Let me be clear: I don’t want to compete with them for attention. I do not, actually, give one little tiny rat’s ass. In the front of my mind, I would be THRILLED to wear a shapeless caftan and Birkenstocks and let my hair grow wild and white for the rest of myself (but I keep my lipstick because mama needs red). Caftans rock for real.
But in the back of my brain, when I see fit women–younger women with no belly, older women with thin necks, women my age with natural(looking) chestnut hair–I despair in my lizard-brain that no caveman will pick me to protect when the apocalypse comes.
It’s so dumb. And it’s made worse in the time of Photoshop and Instagram fake-perfection. I’m guilty of it. I post pictures in which my best side is caught, in which my belly is in-sucked and my neck out-turtled.
I love myself. Honestly, I do. I feel sexy and smart and fun most of the time, which is awesome. But I want to love my body for real, too, and I want the mirror to be my actual friend, not some Judgy McJudgerson of Judging Pants.
I don’t want to wince when I see crow’s feet. They’re marks that signal my face made it here and laughed a lot along the way. I don’t want to wish I were thinner. This body of mine is stunningly strong and ridiculously stubborn. I don’t want to hate my thin, gray hair. It proves that just as I’m early to gray, I’m early to the wisdom conferred by it.
Here. Me this very second.
My wonky lazy eye is listing inward, and I have no makeup on except tired lipstick from this morning, and I’m shiny and I could go on.
But I won’t. I’m gonna love THAT lady. That one. The one resting her laptop on top of her strong, not-thin thighs. Just as she is.
I get to be bitter: I don’t have a mother anymore, and I really had a good one, so that sucks. I don’t have kids, and I don’t believe that any of my pets are my fur children because no. Just no.
I do have women in my life who are like mothers to me in many ways. I love you, darlings. And I do love a lot of mothers, so if you are one, and the day feels good to you then happy mother’s day to you! This missive is not for you, my lovies. Collect your sticky kisses and lopsided waffles and enjoy your day.
The rest of you: let’s kvetch a moment, shall we?
Did you know that Mother’s Day, the one we celebrate now, was established in 1908 by a woman celebrating her own deceased mother?
Anna Jarvis told a reporter she was sorry she’d ever started Mother’s Day.
Celebrating her mother’s work, Anna Jarvis pushed hard for a day of recognition. She quit her job at Fidelity Mutual in Philadelphia in 1912, where she’d been the first female editor, in order to work full time on her mission. She worked tirelessly, sending thousands of letters. Finally, in 1914, President Wilson declared it a national holiday.
Anna Jarvis selected carnations to be the flower of Mother’s Day, saying, “The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying. When I selected this flower, I was remembering my mother’s bed of white pinks.”
Then things skidded off the rails.
The flower, card, and candy companies grabbed the idea and ran. To sell more flowers, they promoted red carnations to honor mothers still alive, white ones to honor dead ones. The price of carnations went up thirty-fold in the first six years of the holiday.
Anna said clearly, “As the founder of Mother’s Day, I demand that it cease … Mother’s Day was not intended to be a source of commercial profit.”
Reportedly, she brought at least 33 lawsuits against entities profiteering on Mother’s Day, even threatening to sue Eleanor Roosevelt who sponsored a fund for needy children and mothers, saying Roosevelt’s fund trespassed against Jarvis’s idea of honoring motherhood.
Did it work?
Well, in 2014, it was reported that Americans spent twenty billion dollars on Mother’s Day gifts.
I like flowers, myself. I like sending them. Cards are easy, and cards can transmit difficult feelings. But as Joel Oliphint says in this great article about Anna Jarvis, “Those sappy cards seem harmless, even helpful. But the trickle-down effect of their trite sayings and inflated prices is sneakier than one might imagine. Perhaps Jarvis knew this. It was a losing battle, but maybe she could see the future more clearly than her contemporaries. Maybe she could see that the Hallmarkification of Mother’s Day would actually make it harder, not easier, to communicate a true, deep, and loving appreciation of mothers.”
I guess that’s what this post is about. It’s hard to be honest about this day. How can I be bitter and angry, when over on Facebook so many of my friends are delighting in being a mother, something which is incredibly worthy of delight? How can I be angry at a day honoring women?
But I miss my mom. I’m jealous of people who still have theirs, even people who have trying or impossible relationships with them. I’m heartbroken for one of my best friends in the world who lost her only child twelve days ago. I’m pissed off that she’d already lost a good mom, and now this Hallmark holiday will always serve to stab her right in the heart, twisting the knife, year after year.
Sisters, friends and I have an unofficial uncelebration most years of gathering to raise a glass to our moms. Dead Mother’s Day, we’ve aggrievedly dubbed it, and the bartender at The Alley expects us to be in. We’re not holding it this year—2016 is already too sad to make it sadder. But the next time we do? We’ll raise a glass to Anna Jarvis, a stubborn, childless woman who fought bitterly until the day she died penniless in a sanitarium to honor the memory of her beloved mother and to get others to honor their own in a non-commodified way.
I guess this is my way of honoring my own. Definitely non-commodified — I’m pretty sure I’ll actually lose some readers with this rant.
So let me change the tone here at the end.
Dead Mother’s Day Celebration:
In a spirit of nothing but love, I want to tell you three things about my mother that I adored with all my heart. Then you share some with me about yours, okay?
1. I loved the fact that my little mama unconsciously whistled harmonies to songs in fourths. Not thirds, not fifths. Strangely, fourths. I spent half my life thinking she was tone-deaf before I figured this out.
2. I loved the way she got pink and giggly on two glasses of wine.
3. I loved her battered, callused, dirty, and always barefoot feet. My feet are turning into hers, and sometimes I marvel at their ugliness at the same time I’m impressed with their sheer stubborn sturdiness.
Tell me three things about your dead mother that you loved? (If your mother’s not dead, for the love of god, don’t tell us. Tell her.)