Oh. My. Word. Is that a gray hair?
For reasons unknown to my mostly rational self, this morning I got the feeling that I should be checking my hair for grays. I didn’t really think I’d find anything but I looked anyway - we all have that weird OCD-like behavior when it really behooves us not to. I took my brush and brushed my hairline up and back and leaned over the sink to peer closely into the mirror – something I had never, not ever done in my life.
My first brush stroke produced what I had really highly doubted - my very first gray hair. It was about three inches long and slightly thicker than the rest of my dull, baby fine and painfully thin hairs. It sparkled and shone in the light of the bare globe vanity bulbs and appeared blonde (which is what I was hoping for). My hubby walked in just moments into my sudden old age. I turned toward him in what seemed like slow motion and pointed. “Is that a gray hair?” I asked incredulously.
Now, let me tell you a little something about my husband. He is the type of guy women want around because he is very flattering and complimentary and will go to the grave lying to make someone (ahem, me) feel gorgeous and perfect. Lately we had been having discussions about my between-the-eyebrow wrinkles or, according to him, “wrinkles”. His eyebrows shot up as he leaned closer and I read it all over his face – I was old. “Uh, yeah. It is.” He said. “Welcome to thirty, baby! You always said you want to be all gray.” He knew his face had betrayed what was to be a little white lie (er, gray lie) and then had to make a joke of it.
“Psh.” I said, laughing but superficially worried about my current predicament. He kissed my sleep-wrinkled forehead and headed off to work, chuckling at my vanity, I am sure.
I spent the morning thinking about time and youth and gray hair and wrinkles. What is youth, anyway? An overpriced, overhyped serum at a department store? A feeling? An adjective? A state of mind? If it is the former, than I am youthful – wait, no. Ever since I was 23, I’ve felt out of place with my age. I should be thirty; I used to tell my friends. I feel thirty on the inside, I would explain. But my face and height and body shape begged to differ - I still get carded to buy wine! I was shopping with my parents (who are 49 and 51) and children a while ago and they were buying O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer (which, although non-alcoholic, you are still required to produce proof of age). The cashier asked if I was their daughter and my dad, befuddled by the question, asked, “Why? Can you see the family resemblance?” She said, “Oh, I was asking because I can’t sell your alcohol to you with her if she wasn’t your child.” At this, we all looked at each other open-mouthed and shocked. “She’s knocking on the door of thirty!” laughed my mom. “Four kids!” The cashier was surprised and laughed it off as a compliment, but a deeper part of me felt like I was being jipped out of a certain rite of passage, like developing breasts as a teenager – wait, I was jipped out of that, too. I felt like my age and my appearance didn’t match and for that I was a little sad. There have been many times in my life where I felt that I was being overlooked due to youth, misunderstood and brushed away. I knew people didn’t take a lot of what I thought and said seriously due to being mistaken for, say, 15. I wanted to look older, I wanted to look wiser. Are wrinkles wise?
Later in the afternoon while my youngest was napping, I got curious and took out my trusty, five-year-old hand mirror and brush and went to the window for better light. I began running my fingers through the hair I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with since teen years, and wouldn’t you know it – my hair was ridden with grays. Ridden, I tell you! Gray, gray everywhere. At my nape, by my ears, smack in the middle of the back of my head. Everywhere. I must have counted twenty before I stopped. When did this happen? Why haven’t I noticed them? – Well, that’s not really a legitimate question. I know why – I don’t pay too close attention to my hair as I HATE it. I wash it, brush it and pull it back. I trim it very sporadically and color it even less. It just hangs on my head like dead, thin corn silks. It’s shiny - I’ll give it that, and smooth - but it lacks about two-thirds of the volume a healthy head of hair holds. I stared into the mirror, playing with one of them for a few seconds before I was shocked back to reality by the ring of the phone. It was Hubby-of the-Year. “Hey, that gray hair isn’t the only one. I found more.” I said, expecting to hear him say something like, “You’re crazy” or “No, those are just blonde” but instead he hesitated and said, “I know. I’ve been noticing them for a while.”
Wait. What? What?! You knew about them and didn’t tell me?”
Because of my dismay, I cannot recall what he said in response to that. I do know that I felt almost betrayed, like he had lied to me. My core, normally so age-driven and anxious to be old, had just been told it was old. I was no longer the young 25-year-old-blond-with-the-yoga-butt he was dating. I was now the wrinkled, gray-haired-30ish-year-old-wife. In the course of one night (one sleep as my kids say) my whole persona seemed to change. I aged dramatically and drastically just at the revelation of the pursuit of youth. I had really never given any thought to anti-wrinkle creams. When I saw a hair dye commercial, I completely disregarded the sales pitch that it “Completely Colors Hair Thoroughly – Even Those Pesky Resistant Grays” and “100% Gray Coverage”. On this day, my afternoon was spent perusing Amazon.com for the best price/product for my situation (in case you are wondering, it’s Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Cream.)
When my boys got home from school, they were anxious to tell me all about their fun Friday, but I was anxious to shock them with my old age. “Do you see my grays?” I laughed as I pulled my hair back.
“Whoa, yeah!” said my oldest with a huge smile. “They are white!”
I had to tell myself, after realizing what a bad example this would set for my teenage stepdaughter, that this obsession with youth and beauty had to go. I sat down, opened my laptop and here I sit, pouring out my frustration over what shallow, insipid little ideas that float through my sometimes tiny little mind. Hubby and I had a little laugh over the whole deal and he turned and looked at me with the most genuine expression and said, with his hand on his heart, “This is all that matters. All that counts is what’s in here . . . and yours is beautiful.”
Gotta love my man. He sees past the shallow exterior into the shallow pool of love!