Thursday, August 19, 2010

Like a Natural Woman

I’m going to get my hair colored.

I want to be gray. I have lots and lots of scattered silver threads among the now fading brown box dye I used weeks ago. Not salt and pepper: more like sand and red-brown dirt. I am tired of hiding; I want to be who I am.

When I told my mother I was going to be gray, deliberately, she was horrified and told me I would look old and terrible. Imagine. What is so bad about being fifty-eight and not trying to look younger? Women are made to fear getting older: not fearing the infirmity that might come with age, the loneliness or solitude, just panic at looking older.

I don’t think this happens to men. There is the occasional ad for men’s hair dye, but it is never touted as a complete cover of the ugly gray. Rather, it enhances the distinguished salt and pepper. The culture tells us that age makes men sophisticated, sage, and charming. My father used to spray his hair with a silver coating, like the stuff for Halloween. He knew that gray looked good on him, better than his original color.

I don’t know if it will be a good look for me, but I am determined; a tide inside of me will not be denied.

As I was being seated in the salon the other stylists came over to say Hi and ask what I was getting done.

“She’s embracing her gray,” my stylist informed them loudly, with a proud tone in his voice.

I could have hugged him.

We talked as he folded the tin foil over section after section of hair. Friendly salon small talk: hair styles, fashion (he likes my handbag: Kathy Van Zeeland golden multi animal print, and gold-tone dice charms) and makeup. Talking about bleaching hair, I ask him if he remembered the overly bleached hairstyle from the 1980s that made the hair stand out like fur.

He was suddenly quiet, and I realized.

“Shit, of course you don’t remember you probably weren’t even born.”

Oh god -- I am becoming one of those sad old women who forget that they are old! For a moment I worried: will this gray be just the beginning? Am I crazy to announce I am old? People tell me not to say I am old. When is old, seventy-- eighty? Then I laugh, and so does the young man slicing through my hair with the point of his comb.

When I got my first period, I “became a woman”. When I lost my virginity I became a woman, when I gave birth I was a woman. All of those experiences helped to shape my thinking about myself, about being a woman. Going gray, wanting the silver and steel, must be one more of those moments because I have never felt more like a woman in my life.