Growing old gracefully? Yeah, harder than I thought…



I’m going grey.  

Yes, I’m using the British spelling.  Pretentious?  Probably.  I’ve always liked that spelling better than the American “gray.”  It strikes me as more refined, more graceful.  And that’s the important part, isn’t it?  It’s graceful.

When my maternal grandmother died, she had a full head of lovely chestnut hair.  I remember standing by her casket with my mother and my Aunt Jōn, and my mother tenderly petting her mother’s hair.

“She never went gray,” she said.  My aunt nodded in agreement.

I raised my eyebrows.  “Sorry to tell you this, but she probably dyed it.”

My aunt shook her head firmly.  “No.  Never.  Her hair is totally natural.”

I’m not sure I entirely believe her, then or now, but I want to, more than I’d like to admit.  I want to think that if my grandmother never went gray, then maybe I won’t.  My Aunt Jōn went gray early, but my mother’s hair is still mostly brown with the occasional thread of silver.  And I know hers is completely natural.  The only thing she does is comb lemon juice through her hair and sit out in the Florida sun to give herself blonde highlights.  I’m going to have to try that.

My husband has been going gray for some time now, his short hair peppered with silver, but he’s also been going bald for much longer, so it counts less, doesn’t it?  The progression of time has been apparent in his hair, or lack thereof, for years.  The gray is just the next step.  

But me?  I’ve always said that I am determined to age gracefully.  That I will love my wrinkles and my grey hair.  And that is still my goal.  And yet part of me wants to object, insist that it’s not supposed to happen to me.  My grandmother never went gray.  My mother barely has gray hair.  My hair is supposed to stay brown, dammit.  If not forever, then at least until I am some unspecified age that is always older than what age I am now.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  Saying I will grow old gracefully is easy to do, because deep down I believe I will never grow old.

My hair is exposing that belief as the lie it is, one silver strand at a time.

I may dye my hair at some point … I look great with red hair … but it won’t be to hide the gray.  I refuse to play that game, the same way I refuse to lie when people ask my age (I’m 35, I’ll be 36 on Monday.  Never ask a lady her age?  That’s sexist bullshit that assumes that my worth is in my perceived youth and not my hard-won years).  I am determined to go grey, with grace.

It’s just a lot harder than I thought it would be.

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