I was writing in my journal the other day and playing with the thought – “If I had no fear, what would I do?”
Much to my surprise, one of my first responses was “let my hair go gray naturally.” Wow.
Not train for a marathon. Not skydive. Not take the kids out of school and sail around the world. Not move off the grid. Not say whatever I think.
Just, let my hair go gray naturally.
I guess I have to ask myself – why am I so afraid to let my hair go gray naturally?
(Spoiler alert – this post is not going to end with a big “come to Jesus” moment where I decide to let my hair go gray naturally. This is a purely hypothetical mental exercise and any semblance to my real life is completely coincidental. I am still just as shallow and vain about my appearance as I have always been.)
Without editing out anything that is ridiculous or irrational, here is my list of “Fears of Having Gray Hair.”
1. That I will look “old.” And looking “old” means that am not current or relevant anymore. I am already afraid this might be true. I don’t need my gray hair announcing it to everyone.
2. “People” will not pay attention to me because I have gray hair. Yes, the general population. All of them. No one will listen to what I have to say.
3. Having gray hair means that I have passed the half-way point of my life. I do not feel ready for that. I still have a lot of figuring out to do. I need more time. Please.
4. I will look like an old crone with crazy gray pubic hairs growing out of my head. Children will be afraid of me. Young women will try not to stare. My only friends will be other old crones. I want to have old friends and not just friends who are old.
5. I will be presumed to be a stereotypical middle-aged lady – whose kids are grown and don’t need her much anymore, so she has meaningful conversations with a bunch of cats and reminisces a lot about how things used to be. I don’t want to be a stereotype.
6. I will have to get in great shape, wear flawless make-up, and have a nice, year-round tan to compensate for how drawn and gaunt my gray hair will make me look. I don’t want to have to worry about my appearance so much.
7. Men my age will think I am way too old for them. The bar is already set way too high because men my age date women who actually are 10-20 years younger. I don’t need gray hair to widen that gap even more and make me appear even less desirable.
8. Gray hair is like announcing to the world that I am starting to go through menopause and all of the indignities associated with that time of life. It just seems like it would be easier to go through all that without people watching.
9. If I let my hair go gray, maybe I will start to think it is okay to stop shaving my legs or wearing a bra. I am afraid gray hair is the beginning of “letting it all go.” I want to keep it all together a while longer.
10. My son who thinks I should let my hair go gray because, as he says, “you are old, mom,” will be right. Then who will I be?
I don’t have everything in my life figured out, but brown hair is not making it any easier. Thinking about what I would do if I had no fear is so much more productive than avoiding gray hair. Owning up to fears and looking at what is beneath them is the real job. The things I am afraid of will not be avoided if I dye my hair brown forever.
We get in our own way without realizing it and often give ourselves excuses that keep us stuck. Being stuck is more familiar, and therefore more “safe,” in a way, than trying something new. If I could come to terms with my ambivalence about aging, I bet it would feel like becoming unstuck. Because I would be working on the real issues, not wasting time worrying about a few gray hairs. And I might be able to do even more and feel more free and safe in the world. I am not there yet, but I am working on it.
How do you feel about aging?