Gray hair don’t care

Gray hair is not actually gray but silver or white or pewter or salt. It only appears gray from a distance against a backdrop of pepper. Gray hair (that is not really gray) can be coarse and wiry but is also shiny and healthier than any dyed hair I’ve known. Some mornings I catch my reflection in the mirror and realize gray hair don’t care.

It has been 15 months since my last dye but only 11 months since highlights, which helped the transition or prolonged the inevitable. Either way those months are a blip in time. I finally got so sick of the demarcation line betwen new and old color that I had a big haircut. I got compliments and didn’t hate it. In typical fashion I thought well if short is good, shorter must be gooder and I got more cut off next time. I spent the next 6 weeks hating my short gray hair. In typical fashion I thought well if feeling bad about yourself is what you’re into you might as well gain 7 pounds too. It was around this time my husband put a family photo from  3 Christmases ago directly in my line of sight when I watch movies on the couch. We had a wall painted so I don’t think he did it to trigger my breakdown, but I not only had to stare longingly at people on the TV with normal hair but now a previous version of myself. Between you and me, I think my old color looked brassy, though maybe it was more Tawny.

Not really me. In case you were wondering.

And one night we were watching a movie and I saw someone who reminded me of, well, me in the mornings. If you don’t recognize the image below, sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion and if you still don’t know what the hell I’m on about, just know my husband and I are in an unspoken competition to use our most favorite-forgotten phrase because after two decades of living together, we forget things but still know how to party. But I’m pretty sure I’m the only one of us who feels like this.

grandma death
Not really me. But much closer.

I hadn’t counted on it taking this long to decide if I like gray hair on me. I don’t recall loving my brown or Tawny hair so maybe it’s just a case of me still being me. Gray definitely makes me feel older, especially in those moments when I’m already feeling insecure. I keep thinking to myself just wait til summer, I assume because my hair will be longer by then and because there will be ice cream and I’m easy to distract that way. Mostly this waiting thing reminds me a lot of sobriety and how long that took to feel natural and comfortable, and finally like Home.

I did not love being sober in my first year. I did it anyway and loved bits and pieces, but still drooled over everybody else’s ability to drink normally or abnormally but without all the pain and obsession. Sometimes I felt like a freak and a failure. But I kept doing it because I am not a quitter except when it comes to drinking.

And over the months and years, my not drinking became not only something I did quite well on the outside but inside as well. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and one day looked up and wondered when was the last time I missed drinking anyway. The next week I missed drinking because that’s how it works, but the pang left just as quickly as it came and stayed away even longer. Here I am today so full of love and zest for life that I have the mental energy to grow out my natural hair color and obsess over it.

I said something to my husband about the picture of me and my old Tawny hair and he joked “it’s like Dorian Gray in reverse” and I laughed but then said “hey wait, aren’t all portraits like that?” We’re supposed to get older and get gray hair and crows feet and laugh lines and other adorably named things that mean we’re dying. What I did was super-accelerate the ageing process and all the insecurities that come with it, especially for a woman.

What I did to soften the blow of getting old (not really) super fast is I started working out again and cancelled my last haircut. In order to celebrate my real hair color (which, how insane is it to feel the need to hide the natural color of our hair? think about that for a second), we picked new vinyl siding for our house and went with the color swatch named silver-gray. Just kidding – pebblestone-gray cost extra – but in the end it’s just siding and it’s just hair. Gray hair don’t care and hopefully I’ll get there myself some day.




Radiant (or how not to give a spider a bath)

  It’s Wednesday night, just me and my 7 year-old daughter, and I’m having a hard time settling into the play time I promised earlier when I wasn’t thinking about dinner or checking and signing off on homework, which will probably require a Notary by the time she is a parent. The thought of Candyland exhausts even her, so we browse an extensive movie library of mostly crap and stream Charlotte’s Web, which my daughter tells me they’re reading in class.

This is the live-action remake, not the funky 70s cartoon, which I think we can all agree had a jazzier take on Templeton’s fair binge, but it’s very hard to get kids to watch old stuff without being reminded how boring it is to new people. About an hour in, I realize my daughter has no idea how it ends. We’re heading to heartbreak at breakneck speed.

She innocently asks what radiant means and I offer a rushed definition that does not clarify how radiant could possibly apply to a pig because I’m not sure, and then I casually warn her the movie has a sad ending. Then I wind up spoiling the whole thing because I don’t want her to think the pig dies, which I think would be sadder. When the (spoiler alert!) deathbed scene happens and Wilbur pulls away in the back of a truck while Charlotte takes her last spider breaths, I realize I’m wrong.

In real life, a spider is a terrifying thing you might see in your washing machine after you already added water and the costume clothes you bought at Goodwill and left in a bag in the garage to quarantine for several days (because the only insect scarier than spiders are bedbugs) and you scream a scream even you don’t recognize as coming from yourself and slam down the lid, and later you will make your husband switch out the laundry but will not ask about the limp, spindly carcass the size of a small rodent he must have pulled out and had to bury in the backyard. You do not inform the children their hobo costumes are now haunted by a spider. This is all hypothetical, of course.

The movie version of a spider has fur that looks soft and inviting and pretty eyelashes and a voice like Julia Roberts’, and she has just died poignantly, heartbreakingly.

My daughter crumbles and tells me she needs a hug and I hold her while trying to hide my own tears. She says “I don’t want you to die” and breaks into fresh sobs and I tell her I don’t plan to anytime soon and make a weak joke about being compared to a spider but she forces me to stay with her grief. She says “At least we’ll get to see each other again in heaven” and I wonder when she came up with that because we only recently discussed heaven as one possibility. I like that she thought about it more and made it her own.

This makes me think of my own mother, who is presumably up in heaven waiting for her mother to join her and later, if all goes well, my brother and I. The mother I barely know is a collage of outfits and happy poses from photographs I’ve seen and stories my grandmother told over the years, and yet I’ve felt her love my whole life, especially in the last year, which is interesting but not surprising because I wasn’t looking as hard before.

I start to think about how it might work in heaven, like at what age are we preserved and how do family members find us, presumably not all at the same time since who wants tense family dinners in the afterlife. And what about the cats I’d love to see again, plus my aunt’s golden retriever that used to let us lie on her like a pillow. I don’t care how peaceful heaven is, my old cats won’t put up with other cats, much less a dog. Plus there are possibly spiders in heaven. 

I say to my daughter that when someone dies, their spirit lives on in our hearts and memories and they never leave us. I think to myself that her and I are making a memory right now because we are both 100% in the moment together and crying on the couch (me silently). It reminds me of how I used to hold her in this same spot and stare at her tiny perfect face in the weeks after she was born in an effort to make maternity leave feel as long as possible. Heartbreak is everywhere, but instead of waiting to possibly see someone in heaven again, we get to love the ones we have right now and create and savor new memories, each more delicious than the last.

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