Last year, on my birthday, I was remarking to my husband that I didn’t have any gray hairs yet and I was wondering when it was going to happen.
He surveyed the top of my head and then replied, “uh, you mean like that one?”
I asked him to pull it out, but not because I wanted to do away with it, per se. Rather, I didn’t believe him and needed to see it for myself.
Here it is, folks. My first gray hair (from a year ago). It was so significant, I documented it with a photo.
With the hair came mixed emotions.
I’ve never much lamented the passage of my youth. I’ve appreciated each new stage into which I’ve passed. I was grateful for the expanded freedom that came with college and increased in the years after graduation. The wonder of becoming a parent more than made up for the loss of that freedom. And watching my kids grow has me looking forward to each new day.
But I do feel a tummy-ache of apprehension when I think about my body aging. It’s not about the look of it. It’s a matter of feeling.
It may be decades off, but the day will come when I won’t be able to go on a three-mile hike like we did recently. It saddens me to realize that I already avoid outdoor play with my boys because my body doesn’t feel up to the challenge of chasing a soccer ball for even five minutes like I did, non-stop for a half hour, when I was a kid.
I’m happy with how I look, flaws and all. I love the look of my mature female face, and my mommy figure. I don’t mind the stretch marks and I’m even ok with the look of the extra pounds. I’ve got a pretty positive outlook on body image and I feel lucky knowing that isn’t the case for so many women. I find a way to be happy with however I look because I want to love being in my skin.
And then there’s my hair. I don’t wear makeup, I don’t shave, and my clothes are just things I gotta wear so I can leave the house. But my hair? I love my hair. I don’t style it. It’s just perfect the way it is. Long, shiny, as soft as a bunny. (Seriously, bunnies are soft. Go pet one!)
It is about this physical feature I’m vain. If it’s stringy, I’m crabby. If it’s dirty, I feel gross. If it is untamed, I feel discombobulated.
When I go gray, how will I feel? Coarse? Bland?…old?
It’s all a part of the process, I know. I can learn to love the look of it. Many beautiful women I know have gorgeous gray hair and they still command my respect and affection. I know I could choose to dye it without committing treason to other aging women. My body, my choices and all that. But how will I handle losing the comfort of the soothing texture?
As I’m writing this, I pause to think frequently, and each time my hand is drawn to my hair. I run my fingers through it, I grasp it in my whole hand and stroke the length of it, like petting a cat. When I’m nervous, insecure, scared, lonely, introspective I separate a few strands and glide them along my upper lip. It’s a habit I developed as a teenager when I stopped sucking my thumb. It was the only thing that provided me the same feelings as suckling had: safe, secure, comfortable, relaxed, calm, content.
Therein lies my trepidation. When I shift to the next stage, where will I find comfort? What sensory gesture will replace the softness of my hair that replaced the comfort of suckling like a babe? Maybe I’ll become the “crazy” old gray-haired lady who strips naked and runs out into the rain. That might just make it worth it.
How do you feel about aging? How have your comfort measures changed as you’ve aged?