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.
It’s a work in progress. I’m reading Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters, by Anne Kreamer (and I’m loving it, btw — she evens split-tests her attractiveness with her real gray hair and photoshopped-brown hair on Match.com, to her husband’s immense amusement. And interestingly, she got twice as many winks nationally with gray hair than she did with brown. She was so startled by this she repeated the test in other parts of the country, and found the same result.)
Kreamer says, “Letting my hair become its natural color would be an unmuddling of the age issue, a definitive announcement to the world that I’m no longer young.”
That’s it. Having white hair will say to anyone who cares: Rachael is not young. The truth is: No one cares about that except me.
Yeah. I’m not young. But I’m pretty fabulous.
I’ll keep you posted on the experiment.
If you’re moved to it, tell me how you feel about your body as it ages?