My hair is turning grey...
My hair is turning grey, and it's gorgeous.
Every day when I'm sitting in some parking lot, I look in the rear view mirror and pull out four or five pieces, but I don't know why I keep doing that.
Even as I weave my thumb and my second finger through a snarl of auburn to get to a single line of silver, my spirit is almost congratulatory.
"Look how pretty that is!"
I hold each strand up to the light once it's out, marveling. This is perhaps the most beautiful change my body has ever given me. Despite every terrible mistake I have ever made, I am becoming elvish. This is unmerited grace.
It's not even grey, it's pure, perfect white. At least it looks white one piece at a time. Maybe I am just too in love with it to know the difference or to care.
How could I have made something so exquisite? And even better, it's untamed, going against the grain of hair that has never behaved anyway. This new grey is not compelled to please a single earthly soul.
I tried to dye it the other day just because I felt like I should. Loving the grey makes me feel guilty, like I'm being a bad wife who has just given up on herself or something. My husband has always had a thing for older women, but still... it feels almost ostentatious to let this happen without a fight.
So, I put this box of stuff on my hair and for about three days walked around with a flat, single color that looked like the hair of a corpse. Three days is how long it took for the grey to shiver, and shake, and laugh itself free. Every strand of auburn stayed dull and dark while the silver blared, "Tada! I'm back!" all bright and clean as a newborn babe.
I cursed something about "resistant grey," but secretly I was delighted.
I've wanted to be a 50-year-old woman as long as I can remember. I've wanted to be one of these delicious ladies who wears a shawl at the beach and funky, swingy clothes. I love those glasses that sit on the end of a nose. I love messy white hair that's cut in a wild crop. I love laugh lines.
But walking into grey hair is like being 15 and wearing 3" heels for the first time. It's not comfortable to stand up straight. You feel like a siren, and a fraud, and a fool. You feel like a little girl pretending to be a woman. You wobble. You twist your ankle. And now I feel like a woman pretending to be an angel.
A few months ago I was looking at my thighs, five pounds heavier than my summer weight - just like they are every January - and before I remembered to hate them, I thought that they were utter perfection.
Seeing them was like passing a beautiful woman out in public, in the corner of your eye catching her with her head thrown back laughing, and you feel light on your stomach because her joy is contagious. In that split second I forgot to despise myself for being unconventional, for not being worn down, for not being compliant to the communal disgust.
I saw paintings from a hundred years ago, and I saw memories of women in my family from when I was a child, and something deep down in my instincts was smitten with softness and maternity, with a visible tenderness that the bodies of gym rats can never evoke.
I don't mean that critically. I know it's unkind to body shame, and that's not what I'm trying to do. But there is a poetry to every body, and sometimes women hear the opposite message so much - we hear that our only permitted ideal is sinews and angular hardness. The yang of femininity is lauded to the point that we can barely remember that the yin of our kind is also a wonder.
The slow. The soft. The yielding. The the moon. The nighttime. White cotton gowns. The smell of Noxema and Oil of Olay. A gentle hand on a fevered forehead. A kiss on the eyelids. The smell of pie in the oven.
Ever since I can remember I've wanted to grow a moonlight garden, to fill it with white, fragrant plants, and to set a painted iron bench out among all that magic, angled to a clear view of the stars.
Because while being twenty-four is a hot pink bikini, suntans, loud music, and a tight little backside, being forty-four is my favorite of all, for it is a peony and a Russian lilac under an indigo sky. This latter time is the best of all times, and better times are coming, because fifty and sixty and seventy are the Milky Way, flickers of flame in darkness. Grace in shame.
Those next years make a wide, soft lap to welcome the hurting, and as you grow into them, all the world becomes your offspring. Those next years are the time for laughter, for warmth, for seeing things through to their ends, and here I am being offered the first strands of that coming glory.
I will try to hate it, I suppose. I will gripe and complain, since propriety demands grief of me in these circumstances. But beneath the mourning clothes, I will also feel giddy, because I am growing silver hair, and silver hair is (above all things) a coronation.