Monday, May 14, 2012

going gray and the myth of youth

I was born a redhead.  Not the flaming, shield-your-eyes type, no.  Kind of an auburn red, pleasant, actually pretty... along with that came my connection to Red.   Redheads, in particular, do get singled out at an early age as unique. 

I grew up in the 50's, a time when people would call you "carrot top", or ask you where you got your red hair (a question that would usually illicit the wise-ass "from the milkman" response).  I identified with being a redhead, felt it was part of my personality...I had spunk, fire.   Wasn't that attributable to the redness?

As with most tones of youth, the red faded... I began dying my hair in my forties, mostly just a rinse, to brighten the color that was going brownish.  My mind perceived me as a redhead, but when it would come up somehow that I had brown hair, I was actually shocked, taken aback at this foreign notion.  I did not have brown hair, I had the heart of a redhead...wasn't that certainly shining from me like an aura around my head?  A sure sign of my Irish lineage?  So, I colored.  Sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss.  Most of the time, it was successfully natural looking and I was content with the outcome. 

I always thought I would dye my hair till I breathed my last breath, of course assuming this event would take place at some ripe, old number.  Of late, at the age of 61, somehow, it doesn't fit anymore.  Seems inauthentic somehow, not really me.  I look around, see women of my age, and colored hair just says, "who are you fooling?"  It's the "of course my hair is gray, but I'll play-act that I'm young and pretty, with this bottle of dye" syndrome.  I think we understand in our minds, that somehow this color deception is carried through to the general public...and, for some, that may be the case.  But, for most, it is is a person of a certain age who colors their hair.  That's it.

Now, I don't wear makeup, choose not to, think it's silly really, plus my skin does not agree with all the crap in most of it, sometimes resulting in swollen eyelids.  I have a friend who would never think to leave her house without "her face on".  What the hell is that?  I see women with makeup and sometimes it just here is a face which has stuff applied to make it appear in some other manner, hopefully, more attractive.  Now, I'm not taking a femme-Nazi approach.  Just seems somewhat like acting, getting ready for a show.  I will put makeup on, when the occasion arises that I'm getting dressed up a bit, and want to add alittle bling to my face, but in general, for every day, no.  So, it seems to me that this should go hand-in-hand with this hair business.  There has been a shift.  An epiphany of sorts.  Don't bother being red anymore.  Just let it go, see what happens.  I'm letting it go.  Now, since I did just use rinses, I'm not getting that skunk stripe where the gray and ungray is coming in, so it's not so bad (so she says).  I'm trying to keep an open mind as to the end product, thought of just cutting my hair very short, to shorten the process, but that is not a look that my head and "pixie" ever agreed upon. 

The other day I saw an old friend from high school, we're very close, she has known me since I had the beautiful red.  We live in different states, but get to see each other as often as we can.  This is my oldest friend, who once had beautiful chestnut brown hair, which was traded in for blond, an image that I can never truly accept in my mind's eye.  At one  point, I bent over, and she noticed the top of my head, commenting on the grayness coming in.  Says her husband calls women with gray hair "bird watchers".  We laugh.  But there's a difference in our laughs.  Hers is in agreement.    Mine, I think, is thinking that "bird watcher" may be a PC euphemism for "Birkenstock Lesbian".  Now, I've been thinking about this since that day, only a couple of days ago.  I don't want to judge him, but can't help but feel that this is narrow thinking under the guise of humor.  Here is a successful, fit, attractive 62 year old man, with a full head of attractive gray hair, pigeon-holing women who choose to make the same choice he did...allow nature to take it's course.

Now, all this must have you thinking that I am judging everyone out there who makes the choice to color their hair...  I'm not.  Color is fine, most times it's an enhancement of the overall image.  Sometimes it's a tragic mistake.  It can be fun too...a pink or turquoise shock has quirky appeal.  I am just feeling that this may be the time to stop coloring.  As if there is some inner need to have all parts match. 

So, the jury is still out.  I'm waiting for growth and will judge the final result...probably by the end of the summer.  I'm thinking convenience may out-weigh any negatives.  I'll see...


EMaybeck said...


quicksand said...

funny, but, you are still red in my head. always will be.
your hair may have faded...but your intelligent writing hasn't.