Gray matter

Yesterday I went and got my hair cut. At the end, when my hair dresser pulled out her big mirror and spun me around to look at the back, I was surprised to find a rather large patch of gray hair. I don’t look at the back of my head all that much, so I was pretty unaware of what was going on back there. *Deep breath.*

Proof of my hair experimentations.

For most of my life I’ve been fairly ambivalent about my hair. I have stick-straight, fine, dishwater-colored hair. It’s really not much to be excited about. But as we all know, in our society hair is a big deal. We want what we can’t have. We feel bad about ourselves for having the “wrong” hair. There’s a million-dollar industry built around giving you the hair you want: curly, straight, thick, glossy, highlighted … And clearly we care about it be it for vanity or political reasons.

And women aren’t alone on this, as my husband, who went prematurely bald in college, is happy to remind me. I know better than to complain about hair woes to him. He just rolls his eyes at me and says, “Please. At least you have hair!”

When I was a young thing I would grow it out and chop it off at the blink of an eye. I have had practically every hair color of the rainbow: red, orange, blonde, green, blue, pink … and yes, there are photos to prove it.

So I had to ask myself, what’s the big deal about gray?

Well, of course there’s the obvious answer: age. Certainly the grays are a sign that I’m getting older, although I’ve never been particularly hung up on that. I felt like it was a relief to turn 30 and finally be rid of my 20s! But with so much happening to my body these days because of the pregnancy, I sometimes feel like I don’t know myself in the mirror. I can’t deny that hair plays into your own sense of identity.

Another part of me felt jealous of people who can dye their hair. My youthful days of hair-dyeing are over as I am now allergic to hair dye. There is no graceful cover-up for me. And this was fine with me when I noticed the few random strands up front near my face. I even felt sort of smug about how well I was taking it. Oh, it’s just a few grays. What’s the big deal?

Yeah, well. Now it’s more than a few! And I am loath to admit that I am not as chill about it now. As I drove home yesterday I realized that if it were an option, I would have asked my hair dresser to dye my hair on the spot. Not too classy. And what does that say about my belief that we should be less hard on our physical selves and not to worry about the societally imposed beauty standard? For one, I’m not perfect. For another, that belief gets tested!

Worse: The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I’ve felt bad about myself for thinking about it.

And I had to ask myself, again, what’s the big deal? Because I’m still not worried about “old.” I already know I’m hopelessly not hip. And I’m so excited about my new phase in life — becoming a mother — that I could care less about the bar-hopping, parties or events I’m missing. In truth, I have been having an excellent time hanging out with my husband and obsessing about baby products and have been too busy to care that I’m not young and fun anymore. What’s ahead of me feels a lot more exciting to me than where I’ve already been. There will be other bars, parties and events. There will never be another now.

So if it’s not the “old” thing then what? And it occurred to me that there is another side to this gray thing — the appearance of losing your vitality, passion, zeal and sexiness. Maybe the “old” thing isn’t just people obsessing about a number. Admit it. You’ve caught yourself looking at the gal a couple cubicles over and thought to yourself, “Those grays make her look fugly and worn out.” She isn’t sexy anymore. She isn’t as energetic (to your mind) anymore. Or look at those male haircolor commercials where the two guys are up for a job and the boss says, “Yeah, but we need his energy!” about the guy with non-gray hair. It’s the same guy!

No one wants to feel un-sexy! No one wants to feel like they’ll be passed over! And maybe that’s where I’m at with this. I can’t change it. It’s here! And when I combine that with the physical changes I’ve been going through with pregnancy, it’s a lot to take in. Pregnancy is not considered sexy or powerful. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t wondered what my body is going to be like afterward. Will my boobs be saggier? Will the stretch marks fade? Will I ever be able to run a 5K again? And when I combine that with the new gray hair I wonder: Will the world look at me as less energetic? Less powerful? Less sexy? Less brave?

I guess I’m going to find out. After all, I gotta get my shit together before I pass these silly worries on.

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