And then reflection time came. Turns out I am actively engaged in a kind of mirror work. Who says you must use these words, "I love you" to the mirror? There are other ways, other words, other actions - like say, not running away screaming, not spitting in disgust - you get the picture. Now, I do not look in a mirror and want to run screaming or spit, but my aversion to looking and therefore judging the reflection goes deep. I understand society has decided that my appearance is not awful and I don't need to be shunned, but I rarely look in the mirror and think, "Hey beautiful! You look great today!" There is an obvious disconnect. Aging has not helped this disconnect at all. Gravity happens, things lossen and slide south, fat pads are acquired, muscle tone changes, fine lines appear.
I have had all of those things happen except the fine lines are near absent. I have finally acquired a few, but at a slower rate than my peers. It is a genetic thing, not an anything I do on purpose thing. I have been easily grateful for this in the past because I understand the societal benefit of it in a culture that worships a youthful appearance. I understand and cash in on the benefit while at the same time feel badly for doing so. On the flip side of that is I started going gray at age 20. At that same age I started to play with my color because of the appearance of the gray. I loved my natural color - except for the gray ones. I may have not spent the next 32 years alternately dyeing to cover or highlight to hide the gray if not for the value placed disproportionately on youth in the USA.
It did not help that the people around me expressed shock and dismay at the gray hairs and encouraged me to cover it up. I was then (and apparently still am now) swayed by the culture I live in. Even now when the subject comes up the people who did not go gray early (and some who have not gone much gray "late") say with a bit pride how little gray they have as if they have any control over that. As if having it = lesser. And this comes from other women. I understand it (no, I don't). I never was proud of not looking my age in my skin because hey, not my doing. They add to the shaming from society with their smug assertion about lack of gray hair. How sad. This culture shames women who choose not to cover their gray at a younger age and only marginally accepts it in much older women. Once they've accepted it at whatever magical age society has chosen the woman is slotted into the Grandma category which means no sex appeal, but great for baking cookies and sending money at the holidays. Other women cover part of their gray and not all of it as a beauty statement that they are accepting the aging process which falls short of sounding true.
I am not writing to advocate covering or not covering the gray hairs for individual women. I feel strongly that each woman should choose for herself. I would prefer it be the choice that makes her happiest outside of society's expectations, but that is a hard thing to do. I am trying to make that choice. I've not colored my hair in 2 months. It is growing out gray and darker brown. Some places it is mostly gray, others half gray, and still others wee bits of gray. I keep looking in the mirror and telling myself it is okay. It is okay to be gray. It is okay to be exactly as I am. I am going on faith right now that it is okay because I do not yet believe it. The hardest part is this in-between time when I have multi-color hair that looks like I just don't give a shit. I actually do give a shit, just in a different direction than before.
I'm doing this because I am so over the maintenance of graying hair. Three decades is a long time for bending one's will to the surrounding norm. I also want to push back at society and its bizarre double standard for men and women and the value system surrounding appearance, youth, and worth. I don't know that I won't just cave and run to the stylist and get highlights. I don't know that it would be such a bad thing if I did as long as I can get to the place where it is truly just a choice for me absent of the shaming and undermining from outside sources. I don't know if I can get to that place. For now I'm just biding my time, resisting getting a crewcut to get the growing out stage over with, and waiting.
Mirror work after all. Imagine that.
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