adulthood · aging · authenticity · confidence · femininity · joy · life · self-acceptance · self-love · vulnerability

"Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure!"

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I am likely not the only woman to tear up at the sighting of
a gray hair on her head. But I may be one of the few who wells up with tears of
gratitude.
Yesterday, during my morning primping, I noticed a gray
hair. I usually don’t pull them out; this isn’t the first I’ve noticed. But
this one, I decided to.
About 5 inches of silver, shiny, light-catching hair. 5 inches
that have grown back since it all fell out from chemo in late 2012.
Call me crazy, but I’ve never been scared of going gray. I
had none at all before cancer, and several now. But, even before then, I always
thought of it as a rite of passage. As a crowning achievement, really. You’ve
made it
. You are alive to go gray at all. You are passing into the stage of life that
is for richness, boldness, satisfaction, self-esteem and a greater degree of self-assurance.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading about aging
generations, it’s that so much of our self-questioning begins to fall away once
we reach “a certain age.” We begin to think less about how others see us, and
more to question what we want to leave as a legacy. And this brings with it so
much reflection and truth-finding.
Who wouldn’t want to
age into that category?
Surely, you don’t have to turn 50 to begin to assess your
values and your desires for the remainder of your years. Like me, and surely
others, you can do that at most any age. But it helps to have some experience
behind you to make those choices from a place of peace, not fear.
The first memoir I ever looked at, I didn’t read.
I saw it on a shelf in Borders (when it still existed) about
7 or 8 years ago. I noted the title, looked at the flap, and went on with my day.
But I never forgot about it, and last year finally picked it up to read.
The title? Going Gray:
What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and
Everything Else That Really Matters
. A
woman’s exploration of what that means to “go gray” in our culture and society.
A lifelong hair dyer, she made the decision to give up the illusion, and embrace
whatever lay under the chemicals, for better or worse.
Author Anne Kreamer looks at the history of dying our hair;
goes “undercover” as a woman trying to reinvent herself to re-enter the
workforce to see if image consultants will tell her to dye her now growing-out
grays (none do); and comes to discover that with her new look comes a new clothing
color scheme, and a new confidence.
She also doesn’t purport the superiority of letting her hair
grow out. She talks with successful women who do and don’t dye, and let’s them
have their experience. All she can speak to is her own.
Surely, it helps that she goes gray in a “nice” way, with
silvery and dark chrome strands. Which is much the way I anticipate I will.
With my dark coloring, I imagine that I will go silver,
instead of stale gray, or as my mom describes her (dyed) fading blond: dirty
dishwater.
So, that “beauty in the beast” helps my acceptance, I’m sure.
But what brought me to tears yesterday as I stood there,
admiring this newly-found strand, now plucked and held like a precious object
in my hand, was the reality and giddy reminder I feel every time I find one: I made it. I am alive to have gray hair.
I’m alive to see what will happen with it: if they’ll turn out
all spidery texture and I’ll lament I ever praised finding them. If I’ll
consider dying it after all. Or if I’ll love every single thread of life these gray hairs represent.
I tear up when thinking about this, because it’s true.
Because, like someone admiring a sunset, or their sleeping child, or the taste
of a food never eaten, it means I’m alive.
Which itself means I have a chance and a choice to make my life whatever I want
it to be.
My gray hair represents possibility, transformation, and
authenticity.
Who wouldn’t rejoice? 

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