Friday, October 14, 2011

Silvery Goodness and Little Tiny Hars: On Aging Gracefully

Ever since I can remember, even when I was very young, my husband would say to me, "Age gracefully." I agreed with him. I have wanted to accept the years as they've come, stepping into each added number on my life chart with dignity and pride. I didn't want to be one of those women who clung to youth such that I became a caricature of myself. And I didn't want to kill myself keeping a youthful look or spend thousands of dollars doing so.

So here I am now, quickly approaching my elder years. And I'm trying to age gracefully. For my husband and me, this means no nips, tucks, Botox, liposuction, breast augmentations, and so on. For him, it also meant no hair dye. This last one I just couldn't agree to. Not when I had grey hair by the time I was 40. So I colored my hair for 10 years. Two years ago, I decided that by the time I turned 50, I would have my natural hair color back. A half a century seemed a fitting marker for a crown of grey hair.

My very gifted hair stylist (my son's ex-girlfriend-a story for another posting) did an amazing job of slowly, slowly blending in my natural hair color with the brown and blonde that had been my hair for years so that one could barely tell what was natural and what was boxed. By my 50th birthday this summer, I had mostly grey hair and, fortunately, lots of silvery highlights. I proudly wear it, feeling I've earned it - "silvery goodness" one friend calls these hard earned greys.

One criteria for graceful aging my husband and I have not discussed is electrolysis. I think this is one procedure that he would actually be in favor of. (I haven't had a chance to discuss this with him yet. And he's still in China until next month, so this is something that will have to wait until he's back on home soil.) I haven't researched electrolysis, though the word itself scares the shit out of me. I hate pain. And it sounds painful. Any word that shares its roots with others such as "electroencephalogram," "electrocute," and "electrode" is just plain scary.

But the little tiny hairs growing on my neck, along with other places - some unmentionable, is even scarier. This is not growing old gracefully, in my opinion. When I think of little tiny hairs sprouting on my body, I just keep seeing this ancient hunched over woman wearing a rumpled hillbilly hat (see Jed Clampitt's hat in the image above), her few remaining teeth clamped down on a chaw of tobaccy, talking about "those leetle, tiny hars" growing along her upper lip. (Imagine, if you can, the drawl in her speech.)

There are all sorts of things wrong with this picture, namely the stereotypes implied, for which I apologize. But it's true. There is just something about this recent hair growth spurt that offends my ego, pride, and self-image as a sophisticated, well-educated, modern woman. I don't know. Can one grow gracefully with leetle tiny hars poking out here and there and everywhere? I can proudly claim the silvery goodness of the hair on my head, not so much the one on my upper lip.

I don't know if I'll ever gear up enough courage to submit to something called electrolysis. Meanwhile, I keep a pair of tweezers in my purse, my bathroom cabinet, my car, and my suitcase. And I work hard to maintain a certain respectability and decorum befitting a 50 year old woman.

But every now and then, I'm just tempted to let it all run wild - let the hair grow out of control, become covered in a silvery pelt, run out in the night, raise my face to the moon and howl. Maybe, one of these days, you'll see a wild silver wolf woman running through her years, fierce and graceful.


  1. I love this post so much!

    I discovered (or rather, a classmate did) my first gray hair when I was 10. It only got worse from there. I colored my hair from 15-35 and then decided to heck with it! When I began seeing my cutest little hairdresser in the world a couple of years ago, my hair was entirely natural in all it's gray/silver/dark brown glory...and I was nervous that she'd want to dye it. She told me, "Your hair is spectacular! Even if you beg me to color it, I won't."

    I've earned every single gray hair and I'm so very proud of it.

    The chin and lip whiskers though...bane of my existence. I've even gone so far as to shave (for special occasions). Electrolysis is expensive. I haven't even really considered it. Instead, I pluck, occasionally I wax, but mostly I pluck...and pluck...and pluck. And sometimes I wonder if I could just...let it my hair. Is it something to be proud of - a trophy - as I move from harlot to bitch to crone?

  2. Thanks, Jane. I imagine that there are many of us out here who don't age like Michelle Pfeiffer. (Somehow I can't imagine her plucking.) I'm afraid to shave - razor stubble. So, I'm like you, lots of plucking! Working to claim it and be proud of the crone hairs is, indeed, work.