On Going Grey and Going Feral

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

The thing that nobody tells you about grey hair is that it grows in different directions than the rest of your hair. As if to say, “In my mature years, I can no longer afford to simply play by the rules. I must be my own self and go my own way. I must become a bit feral,” your hair takes a new and unexpected path.

My hair is curly type 3A, which means I have large, loose curls and it’s very obvious when one goes rogue. There will be a nice, tight, shiny brown curl and from its depths sprouts a white kinked wire at an offensive 90 degree angle, as if a single strand had been struck by lightning.

I try to make friends with the grey, I really do. Like my cellulite, I try to love it and continue to think of myself as beautiful, vibrant, and relevant in a culture that shames and makes invisible women who have trespassed the thresholds of 30 years or 6 sizes (I’m currently a size 16–18, which is ten sizes too many to be risking ALSO going grey). Every grey hair reminds me that I’m going to die. Each one says to me that death is officially creeping up, that I am 36, childless (by choice), becoming irrelevant before I achieve a damn thing, and headed for the grave.

I admired my first four (known) grey hairs with polite curiosity, pointing them out to my older husband (who has since left) and now my boyfriend, both of whom tried to seem more sympathetic than they surely felt from the salt-and-pepper side of things, which is where they already stood. With my fifth, I plucked it.

There’s an old wives tale (is it called an “old wives tale” because the wives were old, or because the tale is old and is made irrelevant by the very fact that it was told by wives?) which says that when you pluck a grey hair, it multiplies — and so mine did. The next day, I found number 6. I announced to my boyfriend that I had officially transitioned from “one or two here and there” to “going grey.”

My boyfriend is 12 years my senior and has the greys to prove it. He kindly reminded me that, earlier that December day, I had seen a notice for a February plant sale and announced that spring was just around the corner, and that maybe my advanced sensitivity to the early signs of change in the atmosphere did not mean that death was nigh. I conceded that he might be right, but still, spring was coming, and so was the grim reaper!

My grandmother lived to be 103 and would have gladly continued if her body hadn’t declared that enough was enough. Her daughter, my mother, has often described the shock she experienced when her mother stopped dyeing her hair. Overnight, her head was white and she was “old.” At 103, after decades sans-hair-dye, my grandmother’s hair was very, very white, yet I still found her beautiful, vibrant, and relevant.

Our society uses “old” like a slur. “That’s old, she’s old, this is getting old — toss it out.” We put our “old” people in “old folks’ homes” and forget they’re there. I’m reading a moderately interesting coaching book right now that asks me to spend ten minutes per day visualizing how I want to feel when I’m living my ideal life. I have mixed feelings about such tools, which are the subject for a future article, but it seems wise to try the experiment and visualize myself out of the old folks home. I would like to feel vibrant and strong, and I see myself in overalls, looking young and fit, working in my garden with perfect curls (curly girls, you know the lofty goals to which I aspire).

As I was dutifully visualizing last night, that lightning-stuck grey strand #5 inserted itself into my fantasy. I fought it back, but it kept coming. Suddenly, I laughed. Of course I want to be gardening when all my hair’s gone grey! Also, at that point in my life, I want to be considerably less well-behaved. So why not start now?

I changed my visualization to a head full of wild, unruly, feral salt-and-pepper curls, and curly-ques, and zigzags. I saw myself experimenting wildly, talking with plants freely and openly in front of the people who had come to absorb a little of my crazy wisdom. I recalled a dream I had a couple of weeks ago; I dreamt I was a birth doula to a crone-friend with long, grey hair. She seemed well beyond child-bearing years, yet she easily gave birth to a healthy baby boy, who was received with love by the whole community. I held her hands, and she knew exactly what to do.

This article was re-published with permission from http://www.EcoSpiritualEducation.com

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