Maybe not dying my hair would be as bold as jumping out of an airplane which I would never do, terrified, but it would be my way of being bold, walking down the street gray-haired and feeling beautiful. It would be my way to rebel against … the culture? Aging? Probably death. Maybe it would be my way of facing death.
I think about dying all the time, and I think about not dying my hair anymore all the time. I've been doing it since my early 30's. I keep looking at pictures of women on line who look beautiful and have gray hair, wondering if that could be me, or will I just be a hag, a crone, gone, past. Dying my hair feels like I’m trying too hard and I try too hard at so many things, maybe this could be one thing I don’t have to try too hard at. It used to be easy, it used to be I had beautiful hair and I did nothing to it, I just had it, something I could count on. Always complimented on my hair and I could look up at the sky and sigh and feel a little guilty and weird for having something good and also smug and happy that I had something good.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’ve still been dying my own hair every three weeks. My husband helps me. That gray stripe that starts to appear is humiliating – an insistent reminder of the passage of time. I’M HERE, nothing you can do, but keep hiding -- hiding a big secret, a big lie, a big something. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to be free, but I’m afraid. I want to stop fixing and just be. But who gets to do that?
I made a pact this week with my 22 year old daughter to stop dying my hair in ten years. She already has some grays that stand out against her dark hair. When she’s 32 and wants to dye her hair and I’m … much older, we agreed she wouldn’t start and I would stop! Ten more years? We’ll see.
She stood in front of the mirror and wondered what other people saw. She checked the mirror so many times a day she couldn't count, didn't want to count. There was a mirror in her bedroom, of course the one in the bathroom, many times a day, and there was one in the hall. She glanced every time she walked by and as she spent most of her hours at home she walked by all the time. Sometimes she played a game to see if she could walk by without looking, impossible. She probably did walk by without looking sometimes, but she didn't realize it. And she probably walked by and looked and didn't realize it. She just needed to glance. Most reflective surfaces out in the world caught her rare bird's eye. How was she doing today? What were they seeing?
Sometimes she saw the sad, older woman with the hanging jaw line and furrowed brow and stooped shoulders. The shoulders were the worst. You cannot stoop. Stop it. Sometimes she saw that silly girl who could never quite get her thick hair right, with all those freckles/spots, and that timid look. Sometimes, the lucky times, she saw the sparkling beauty. She'd catch her when she was dressed just so and she was hurrying past the mirror and then oh, she would stop and take it all in and wonder to herself, "Where have you been?! I've been looking at that crone for weeks, so unpleasant." And the sparkling beauty would smile wryly, put her hand on her hip and her chin up and say, "I have to go, so much to do." And then the girl would stand there with her messy hair and dark eyes and weird moods and try to call the sparkling beauty back, but she was gone, whisked away. The crone would laugh at the girl, "What did you expect? She's not sticking around. She's not one of us." The girl would get so angry she couldn't speak, tears would well up and she would whisper, "Yes, I am like her, I am a sparkling beauty, I am! No one knows it yet."
Of course underneath lurked the nagging thought what if all this thinking about what people thought of her and her specialness and what she should do with it had been a waste of time? What should she have been thinking about ... good works and duties and tasks? Oh, there she is again. Her eyes looked pretty today, dressed up with lots of colors and black hard lines and sticky eyelashes. She loved the seriousness that always came back at her, stern, mysterious. Sometimes it made her want to smash her face though.
Wait. She was going to think about other things, not herself, things that matter in the world outside.