I’m going gray. I’ve been going gray since my late twenties. Every time I look in the mirror, more shiny silver hair sparkles back at me and reminds me how eating my own words leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
You see, my mother used to color her hair. Her gray hair was silver, shiny, and pretty, and the color she got out of bottles just looked wrong to me. Being the tactful child I was, I told her so. Repeatedly. She eventually gave up coloring and let nature take its course. Now, she has a gorgeous head of sparkling silver hair.
My gray is coming in just like Mom’s did, so if I colored it, I would be a hypocrite. Hoist with my own petard. What exactly is a “petard,” you ask? So did I. Turns out it’s an explosive charge for breaching a fortification. Well, the fortification of my vanity is certainly being breached. With gray hair. Lots of it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not morally opposed to hair coloring at all. I see hair coloring as a fashion statement, and for a few people, it’s an essential means of correcting that which Mother Nature got wrong. If you want to color your own hair, go for it. But if your gray is really sparkly and compliments your complexion, what’s the point? Spend that money on a great purse, the perfect red lipstick, a classic pair of black pants, or a bunch of rubber stamps. I do.
I am not alone in this approach. At my son’s field day last year, I met a grandmother with a gorgeous head of white hair. She looked beautiful, so I told her how I admired her hair. She admitted to feeling the same way about coloring her hair as I did. “If it were some ugly shade of gray, I’d color it in a heartbeat,” she said. “But since it’s shiny and nice, I’m leaving it white. It’s so nice not having to worry about my roots like my daughter does.” What a smart woman. Just like my mom.
I’d like to age gracefully, and letting my hair go gray without a fight seems a good start. Unfortunately, Mother Nature does more than turn your hair gray as you age. Can someone please help me locate the graceful medium between pathetically giving in without a fight and pathetically fighting the inevitable?
Like pornography, ungraceful aging is easy to spot. The nipped and tucked of Hollywood’s red carpet very publicly demonstrate that, with their fat lips, stretched eyes, and stiff, plastic faces. Don’t you love the Geico commercial with Joan Rivers in which she pokes fun at having no feeling left in her face? Plastic surgery for purely cosmetic purposes is just a really dumb idea. It’s a wonderful blessing for people with deformities or injuries, but when it’s used to keep natural aging at bay, it’s sort of pathetic. Is it worth running the risk of looking all fake and plastic or—this may possibly be worse—dying to have fewer wrinkles or a skinnier butt? I don’t think so.
Then there’s the cost. I read an article years ago about plastic surgery and learned that rhinoplasty averaged $3,000. Do you know how many rubber stamps that would buy? Sheesh. I may not like my nose but I definitely have my priorities.
In fact, when it comes to anti-aging products, I’m sort of cheap. This should surprise no one who has read my China Policy. I use Neutrogena eye cream and moisturizer. When Target raised the price of the eye cream by $6 last year, I quit buying it, and within three months, I looked ten years older. Considering my gray hair and not-so-fine lines, I pretty much look my age of 42, so adding ten to that didn’t seem graceful at all. Now, I pay for the eye cream. A tube lasts me about three months, so I feel it’s a good investment even at $16.99. Some desperate people spend hundreds of dollars on tiny jars of fancy designer “crèmes.” I wonder if the pretentious, Frenchified spelling makes them work any better.
There’s a huge gap between plastic surgery and spending $16.99 every few months. I’m definitely a long way from what could be called a pathetic pursuit of the fountain of youth. On the other hand, perhaps I’m not trying hard enough. Does $16.99 buy me “graceful” wrinkles. I just don’t know.
Then there are the clothes. Women of a certain age look silly when they dress themselves like teenagers or wear provocative necklines and navel-baring crop tops. I didn’t wear those things when I was young, and feel no desire to do so now. My personal fashion statement has always been best described as “safe and boring.” I can’t remember the word “graceful” ever applying to my wardrobe. Most of my clothes come from the casual departments at Eddie Bauer, LLBean, and Lands End. In the winter, I wear relaxed-fit jeans, turtlenecks, and big, bulky cardigans or fleece jackets. If it’s over 25 degrees Fahrenheit and relatively dry, I wear my Birkenstocks with fleece socks because they are the most comfortable footwear available to humankind. Perhaps wearing Birkenstocks with fleece socks is undignified. I just don’t know. In the summer, I wear Bermuda-length shorts or cropped pants, polo-style shirts or nice t-shirts in solid colors, and sandals. Sometimes I paint my toenails red. Would pink be more dignified?
A little more effort on my part might make me look graceful, but I’m not sure how to pull that off given the last few years’ fashion trends. It took me two days of rigorous searching to find a dress for my husband’s military retirement ceremony. Every dress I tried on made me look either a) like I was trying too hard to be hip, or b) like I was a grandmother going to a wedding. I finally located a simple black dress that I think looked graceful and appropriate, but I can’t be sure because it was on sale at a really good price, and I may just have been fooling myself.
Ultimately, will it matter one way or the other if I age gracefully? When we stop aging, we die. When that happens to me, if I’m blessed enough to go home to Jesus, I’ll be too filled with Amazing Grace to care what a graceless thing I was back on earth.
If I’m not in heaven, I’ll have much bigger problems to deal with than wrinkles and gray hair.
That sort of puts it in perspective, don’t you think?