I turned seventy years old just over a month ago. Right up until the big day, I gave no thought to my milestone birthday except to wonder at its unreality – was I really going to get old?
The first realization of my chronological age came a few weeks before my birthday in the form of a critical comment from a close relative, someone who feels she knows what’s best for me and always expresses her superior opinions.
“You would look much younger if you’d let your hair grow out gray,” she said.
Grow out my hair? How can I look younger with gray and silver hair?
I began my hair color odyssey back in my early 50s, when a thin white streak made its appearance across the front sweep of my three-foot-long black hair. It was accompanied by odd single white hairs that cropped up here and there over my head of lustrous hair. Plucking worked for a time, but then there were too many. I tried to ignore them but I hated them. They were ugly. They made me look less shiny and smooth. They made me feel old.
Of course, at age fifty I was still unlined and svelte. I still had my body – the one I’d had since I became a woman. Hourglass shaped, smooth skin, no wrinkles or thickenings to signify that anything was changing. At fifty I was still me and believed I would go on as my familiar self forever.
At seventy I am a new me. Spots and thicknesses abound, the skin on my arms and legs is always in need of moisture, and my figure has gone from an hourglass to my tummy sticking out slightly more than my buttocks. This is a sad affair for someone who always identified so much with her young body. It has always been my reliable temple of strength. This body can walk for miles, has only occasional aches which can be overcome, needs no medicines. It is young, still.
But seventy has brought signs of my mortality. Fresh in my mind is the neck injury, now healed, that caused constant pain and immobility for several years. My hands are easily injured now by over-zealous gardening or opening stuck jars, which a year ago would have had no effect. My face is showing marionette lines and my eyelids have begun to droop.
I quickly dismissed my well-meaning critic’s comment about my hair. But then I began to ruminate on her comment. Who am I kidding? I may “look good for my age” but I am still my age. Isn’t it time to be the authentic me who dwells in this dimension? I don’t like to acknowledge this, but my life here is finite. It’s time to get real.
Suddenly I’m seeing all these stunning silver-haired women on the internet. I notice my neighbor’s ash brow hair has grown out beautifully steel gray right before my eyes. I see how boldly the girl down the street is letting wanton white hairs populate her curly black head of hair.
In my seventh decade, I am on the cusp of learning some things I need to know: Who am I? What color is my own hair? I want to find out.
Decision made: I’m growing out, reaching for a long-overdue acceptance of my real self. Wish me luck!