I am letting my hair go grey.
“It will age you ten years!” My daughters and hairdresser protest.
“No, it won’t,” I smile. “I will still be the same age.”
I am doing it to make a statement.
When my seventeen year relationship with my children’s father ended abruptly, I lost forty pounds in two months. Previously a dowdy mother of three, men would stop mid stride to open doors for me. Heads turned and smiles of appreciation showered me. I was no longer invisible. I felt curiously vibrant in the midst of personal darkness. I also felt like a fraud.
Growing up, I was the third youngest sister in a house with only two mirrors. My mother would insist that I brush my hair, but it was impossible to find an opportunity to view my efforts, so I usually did a haphazard job.
“Who is ever going to love you?” my mother would shake her head.
I was confused. Was love only accessible to those with well preened looks? No wonder my sisters spent so much time looking at themselves.
Vanity, I decided, was not going to be my precursor to love. I wanted someone who would love me for what was on the inside. So I read more, and wrote, and designed, and played, focusing on developing a personality that included empathy, compassion, a sense of humour, and intelligence.
“No man wants to marry a woman who is smarter than him,” my mother warned.
Not sure I believed her, I started to pay attention. Wives of important men, I noted, were attractive, and for the most part silent. Intelligence was associated with the bra-burning feminists, and everybody knew they were radicals and bitches…..and single.
So I dumbed myself down, but continued to be nice, and outgoing, and fun. I did, after all, desire to be loved too.
But I couldn’t hide my natural passion, and aggressive ambition, and impatience with ignorance, forever, and I came to see myself as a dark horse, with unbridled energy and a spirit that needed to be tamed, and I chose a man who would do that for me: put me in a stable and take me out in little jaunts and break me. And it worked.
Until he set me free, and the dark horse in me reawakened, and I vowed never to let her be extinguished again – love or no love.
But I found myself suddenly being that physically alluring woman, and I realized a new sense of power: sexual power, and for a time, I coveted it. Men noticed me, flirted with me, went out of their way to do things for me, which was soon became tiresome. None of them knew me. There was nothing authentic about their actions; it was self-serving: a primal reaction. By now, I knew enough from my sisters’ failed affairs that physical attraction does not equate with long-term commitment and love. It is only a shallow beginning.
Yet, advertisers spend billions of dollars of money to convince us otherwise. The message is that we can never be too thin, too fit, too young. Mastering our physical perfection is the key to true happiness, they imply.
Something inside me screams Stop the madness! Stop it people! This has all gotten so out of control!
What should matter, in the greater scheme of things, is the person that we are on the inside. Our achievements, accomplishments, willingness to help others, and the gifts that we bring to this community that is humanity are what really count. Think about it.
In my times of despair, it was not the fact that someone looked ten years younger that soothed me, it was their willingness to listen patiently, and hold my hand.
When I was wounded and needed surgery, it was not some size zero nurse with the latest do that helped me through, it was the efficiency and expertise of my caregiver.
I have grey hair. It is part of being fifty-five. I have wrinkles and a soft belly that protrudes. They do not make me less of a person, nor do they diminish my capacity to problem-solve, or participate as a successful citizen of life.
So I am making a statement. To all young women out there who think that they are somehow less than they should be, deficient. You are perfect the way you are. Embrace it.
That is divine.
I think it was St. Augustine who said that to reject self is to reject God.