And A Lock Of Gray Was The Key

Ok, so I admit, the only reason I stopped was cause some guy asked me why, and to be honest I really didn’t have an answer.

When I started, years ago in my 20’s it was because I wanted my hair to be red, or Auburn, or something more romantic than my bog-standard brown. Over the years, box after box, I went from one red to another. The labels promised “Golden Copper”, “Ginger Red”, “Cherry Brown”, “Red Mahogany”, and for years I fell for it.

When the gray started to sprinkle in, I continued forth, trudging down to the drugstore to buy more whenever I saw some of those silver strays pop out. It was like I feared them, or somehow having them would make me less, so I was instructed to cover them. That’s what you did.

My Mom covered hers, every 6-8 weeks, from a box or otherwise, she never let a strand stand, that I can remember. Course, she died at 54 so I doubt she had many.

So when that guy asked me, he asked in all seriousness, and when I didn’t have an answer, I stopped. At first because of him, but then, after him, I still couldn’t justify the expense or the vanity, and I realized I had not seen my own colour, my god given hair colour since I don’t even know when.

And it illuminates something else, something that I have struggled with for a long time, that feeling of not being good enough. You know? Not good enough unless your hair is like this, your clothes are like that, your whole physical being somehow at the mercy of all the Dick And Jane’s out there, I suppose, dictating how we should be, and like soldiers, some of us fall for it. Or, fell for it.

My hair now is to my waist, and gray streaks my temples, more on the right than the left. With random abandon, a new one pops out every day I imagine, but I don’t even notice it any longer. It was about 4 years ago when I stopped, and still there remains I guess maybe now only a few inches at the end hold any foreign bodies, the rest is pure me. Undoctored me.

I have other rules I live by now. Such as face cream – I don’t buy it. Instead, I use Coconut Oil and use a mineral based powder, old lipstick for my cheeks, a splash of mascara, and bobs your uncle, my natural face is born. WHEN I wear makeup, which isn’t often, and generally only to work. I’ve learned over the years that anything more just sinks into my wrinkles and makes me feel like one of those Apple Dolls you used to see, you know, the old granny wrinkled faces in little apron dresses?

Let us just say, that sometimes the way I look to go to the grocery store would have horrified Mom, who never left the house without makeup on. I remember her sarcastic comments, generally, when I wore my long hair she never wanted me to have in a bun, telling me I looked like a Mennonite.

At the train station during WW2 - thetemenosjournal.com

Aunt Lex, Grandpa D and Aunt Helen at the train station, WWII

I will say this, I do come from a family of honest folk. Honest, em, and brutal at times.

Once, back when I was married and wearing 50 more pounds than now, heck, who am I kidding, probably almost 60 or 70 more than now. Anywho, my Great Aunt Helen walked in one day when I was visiting, and the first thing out of her mouth is not how ya doing, or good to see you, nope, she walks into the kitchen where I’m sitting on a stool at the counter island and says “well Paula you’re getting fat!”

Yeah, thanks Aunt Helen, love you too.

Don’t get me wrong, they generally wouldn’t say this shit to anyone else. Well, Great Aunt Helen probably would have, but otherwise.

a lock of gray - thetemenosjournal.comSo when I read of Chrissy Teigen going gray I was quite amused. I don’t tweet, so this is as close as I’d get to sharing a pic of myself with my gray locks. Though, that’s not why I wrote this.

To be honest, it’s sort of goes along more with the whole women’s liberation 2.0 (or is this 3.0?)that’s rocking various factions of modern life. Knocking down walls that men created to distance women from some areas of the highly coveted inner sanctum of power, of glass ceilings and #metoo’s, and just this general sense of transformation happening around what it means to be a woman today.

Well past the times of aproned matriarch’s dominating the home and hearth, women have since the 1950’s been bashing in blockades that, really, do not serve anyone but a select few. Concentrating power within the hands of white privileged men was never going to work out that well. Cordoned off power to this select few serves but a few, never the many.

Hair colour, and those strands of gray, they have become for me a victory, of sorts, I suppose. I had become a woman I didn’t really know, and I had come to care too much what other people thought of me. Stifling any sense I had of who I really was, what I wanted, and what being female meant to me, and not to anyone else BUT me.

Confining myself to a box of hair colour that contained some kind of fantasy that no longer defined me was only the first step, but it was an important one.

And, yes, I do see the irony in it being a man who prompted this change.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have since glanced at those boxes on the shelf and thought one more time? But I won’t, as I have come to love my long locks of brown, tinged with silver. If anything, I’m looking forward to more silver as I want to streak it coral. You know? And wear something hideous that doesn’t go, and go to the grocery store in my pyjamas, that would make my Mom’s hair turn gray, I bet, if she were alive (shhhhhh, I already do that).

In this world of fakery and bots, with this hyper-sensitive sense of right and wrong, where strangers wade in with their two cents on everything from hair dye to gun violence, with every little bleeding detail splashed over every screen we encounter, in this constant barrage of unsolicited opinions and options, it really is no wonder that young men and women today are so confused, so stunned into believing their not good enough.

How could they be? If they spend enough time on any social media platform today they’re inundated with perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect life, filled with cool gadgets and stylish handbags, as if that is all that and a bag of chips. As if the colour of your lipstick and the size of your waist is some sort of superior thing to, oh, I don’t know, EVERYTHING else.

Cause it’s not. Never was, never will be.

Coming back from the hockey game of my youngest niece last weekend, my sister and I were talking about some of this pressure. Of how much anxiety young girls have now, of hissy fits and raging hormones, competing for space with other things, like school and grades and exams and what are you going to be when you grow up sort of decisions, foisted onto the shoulders of some kids who are far too focused on fun, and boys and toys and not being bored.

This niece sitting behind us in the backseat, by this point in our drive home now ensconced in her phone, is heading to high school next year. So as we were turning on to my street, after a wonderful afternoon, and a Thai Dinner, I said to her “just remember, it’s only 4 years, believe me, that shite won’t matter, you know. To be honest, the people you hang with in high school often you never see again after, ‘cept maybe on Facebook. Anyways, don’t listen to them, just go with your own damn gut“. And yes I said damn, cause she’s turning 14, not 2.

This coming from the Aunt with the gray laurel locks down to her waist, who lives in the cool part of town, and who’s job defies the laws of what someone my size is supposed to be doing, well, I hope it holds some value for her.

I mean, seriously, don’t you wish someone had tried to tell you that in high school? I mean, whether I would have listened is another matter, but still, it would have been nice to know.

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6 thoughts on “And A Lock Of Gray Was The Key

  1. I don’t know. Kids have thought they aren’t good enough for decades, long before social media. So I don’t think that was a reason. Parents try to monitor their children’s social media, but if they work 2 jobs not so easy also.
    I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t want me or my children told that. Insulting the school system, etc. Saying the girls have hissy fits and only say girls have raging hormones are pretty sexist comments.
    Are you saying it’s bad for kids to be asked what they think they’d like to do? How will they be put in either vocational or “regular” school’s?
    How are the kids bomb barded with a barrage of stories and unsolicited opinions & options. Where is this coming from? Why shouldn’t people have options?
    The top part was great and I applaud you!! I dyed my hair maybe 2x when I was much younger. I’m 54.
    I can’t grow my hair that long so I am sure it looks lovely.

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    • Thank you so much for your comment. There is a context to this I maybe should have included, but didn’t for various reasons. Some of that context is in early posts, though not all.

      Primarily in that my older niece, the older sister of the one who was in the back seat, is going through some personal stuff, and I was merely trying to let the younger one know that those four years come and go quickly, and to see past all the drama. She’s not like the older one though, and is actually going to be going to a different school .

      So, my point was for her to look past the drama. Both those girls have very clear ideas of what they want to do after school, unlike another friend who’s daughter has not one clue.

      Basically, I guess one could say that bit was a snapshot out of context. But hey, I actually think she probably will take my words with a grain of salt, cause that one is one smart cookie.

      As for social media, there are many psychologists who are now advising parents very strongly to limit their children’s’ social media use, as depression in young people has gone up in step with the increase in social media use. It is a very serious issue, and one I don’t feel we will really no the consequences of until it is too late. My post the Blessed Bench Of Boredom was about this very issue, in that new social media platforms are taking away that time we had growing up where we had to make our own fun, our own play. Now entertainment is a swipe away, no need to creatively make your own, and that is a troubling factor, as creativity leads to innovation, is born from those early days when we had to create are own way, chart our own thoughts, make our own fun. The experts call it “unorganized play”, when we make the rules, make the game, using imagination. Social media is removing that boredom gap that forces us to go out and do something different, think in a different way.

      New technologies always have bumpy patches, and for good or ill, progress marches forward. I suppose each generation looks on in horror as the next blindly marches through the morass that is their own realities. Realities that are far far different than our own, perhaps, but no less challenging. Just different. Which I guess was my point. That we are all different and unique and that the best of us look past the insignificant dramas, towards the things that really matter.

      Hope that elaborates a bit.

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      • Yes, a little.

        If the parent is lucky enough to be home enough after 2 jobs to monitor and take the kids outside or get them engaged.
        I’m curious what drama? What really matters varies from person to person also.
        I’m not lookin on in horror as the next generation marches forward. Recently yes I believe they do have to march threw the morass.
        HS drama yeah I can dig that, you mostly wrote about that with your niece, but then seemed to move on to something else.
        Not everyone in HS knows what they want to do. If they go to college they don’t need to know right away.
        Lastly, if you are talking about me being the “she” above who will probably take your words with a grain of salt & that one is one smart cookie, that is not any kind of niceness to anyone.

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        • “She” as in my niece, the younger, as all young people take the advice of their elders with a grain of salt, I know I did.

          THe older ones drama is, maybe drama is the wrong word because it somewhat belittles it… she’s been feeling depressed, and thinks there is something wrong with her, and is very concerned about whether or not she pretty enough, skinny enough, and such.

          Often I find it’s adults that are more concerned about “what they are going to be when they grow up” than the kids are. Guidance Counselors in Gr 10 and 11 begin to start nudging kids, not just parents, making them start to consider things like college vs.university (in Canada there is a distinction, I don’t know where you are), trade school vs. apprenticeship etal.

          Also, my sister is lucky enough to have a good job, good pay, but it doesn’t mean she has any more control over her kids social media use. My criticism is not towards parents, but just the reality of today. Really difficult, and I think counterproductive, to think one can control such a thing.

          However they are involved in Hockey and alot of spare time is spent in Arenas, which is good. Extra-curriculars are a healthy means of getting their noses up from those rectangular boxes we all love so. : )

          Cheers.

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          • Now, THAT is wonderful. I’m glad you took the time to talk things out. I also think extra-curricula are usually a good choice. Most here in the US make parents pay for sports & other programs. Sports are not cheap.
            I do think parents can take all the phones & tablets and no laptops on a weekend or any 2 days off and plan family days. Take them to a museum, go to lunch, play football or some other game they like. If they can’t think of one, play one of the old ones you liked as a kid.
            I’ve seen parents & their kids do it & the kids always like spending time with the family first!
            I am sorry I misunderstood your other comments. I think it may be we just communicate differently.
            Thank you for taking the time.
            Cheryl

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