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.
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.
So 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.