Very cool opportunity to write about going grey on The Huffington Post Canada blog! Have a read!
Yesterday, royal watchers celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. 63 years ago, HMQ first took her oath to uphold the laws of England and of God and to profess the true gospel. Then a crown was placed on her head, symbolising the honour and authority bestowed upon her.
Today, there’s another, less famous celebration of a crown of another sort, the second anniversary of growing out my grey hair. It all started with a tenacious little Bible verse that I couldn’t get out of my head.
Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.
Proverbs 16:31 (NIV)
I wondered what I was missing by covering a physical trait that the Bible deemed honourable. I decided to carry out a two-year experiment to understand better both our cultural views and Biblical truth about grey hair by growing out mine. Continue reading
This is my brother, Mark.
He thinks it is a terrible idea for me to go grey.
I’ll give you a sec to think that one through.
I asked J-M if it would be wrong to post Mark’s picture, seeing as I’d be ungraciously outing him for an obvious double standard. J-M paused, then suggested I should add arrows.
Now we’re talkin’! Like this?
This guy thinks I shouldn’t go grey. He says it’s a TERRIBLE idea.
Interestingly enough, it’s only been over the last few weeks that I’ve discovered just how much I am greying like my brother, with those J. Jonah Jameson silver temples.
That has been an interesting part of the experiment, realizing what weirdos your hair follicles are. The right side of my head is much whiter than the left. There are parts that are mostly brown (at the back) and only a little bit of salt with the pepper at the top of my head and bangs. If I had a brush cut, I’d look like my bro, but since I wear my hair down and long, it hides the grey underneath and it confuses people. Sophia suggested I tell people I’m going mousey greyish brown instead.
I have turned a corner since my last update. It happened quite by surprise when a friend tagged me in this article showing 26-year-old actress, Zosia Mamet, who decided to colour her hair “antique grey.”
I don’t even know who Zosia Mamet is. Wait, now I do, I just Googled her.
That’s another side effect of aging, I don’t recognize anyone on magazine covers anymore. While I’m in line at the drug mart, People Magazine tells me they’re famous, so they must be. But as far as I’m concerned they just look like the girls who go to my kids’ high school. Mallory, isn’t that girl from your math class? You should tell her to put on a sweater. I feel a small comfort when I see Julia Roberts or Jennifer Aniston in the magazine stands – yes, I recognize these people – and Oprah’s a constant, so that puts me at ease.
Anyway, Zosia’s new hair has made her a little more famous in the middle-aged circles as this article was shared around Facebook. My first reaction was, “No, no, no, no, no, no! Grey does not belong to the young! She has not earned this!”
Crazy, right? Since last month I was sad-ish about it and this month, I’m defending it as a prize. My reaction showed me that I do indeed believe that grey hair is a treasure, only for those who have been through some significant years of experience. Through such experiences, we have also received stretch marks, wrinkles, minor sun damage, and, hopefully, a bigger, better understanding of the world around us and our place in it. Grey hair is an honourable, outward expression of our inward maturation. (Wow, does it feel good to feel good about grey hair again.) But when young adults or teens colour their hair grey it feels like a white lie.
But if that’s true, if the young do not “deserve” Gun Metal Grey, do the middle-aged deserve the Medium Roasted Chestnut or Luminous Honey Golden Blonde? I suppose fair’s fair – we started this, borrowing from our youth, we can’t be upset if the young want to mimic old age. Perhaps we should be complimented.
Then, another friend sent me this article that grey hair is an actual, bona fide trend for 2015!
I let myself become thrilled that I might be TRENDY. I encouraged my baby sister to go grey too!
“Becky! What do you think! Everybody’s doing it!”
“I told you, I don’t have any grey,” she said.
“Oh no! Poor you!” I said.
I’ll let you know she is also against my growing out my grey, but posting her picture doesn’t have the same effect as posting my brother’s. But she’s still cute, so… here.
Now I’m starting to see this in a couple different ways. When grey hair goes trendy and the starlets and young ones try it on for size, it could actually be a good thing as it puts a premium on grey hair, perhaps a small improvement from when we were collectively devaluing it (if not for others, than for ourselves). Maybe it gives us the push we need to explore it for our own heads or embrace it when our friends/siblings do.
After reading the Zosia article, I contacted my hair stylist. “Barb, can we do something about this? Can I just colour my hair grey??” I was elated to think that I could cut out the time-dragging part of this experiment and move straight to trendoid!
Barb is not only the best cutter and colourist, but she is a good friend and I’ll tell you why. She asked very tactfully if it wasn’t important for me to go through the whole process? She could do it – strip my hair and then add a fashionable granny grey toner to it… but it wouldn’t match my current hair growth, of which I have already put in seven long months. More importantly, it might be skipping a valuable process – the learning that only comes with the experience of growing it out. I was trying to skip out on the meaningful stuff.
Wasn’t she kind to remind me of that? To actually turn me down so that I can reach my goal for my hair and for my soul. It’s selfless really.
You know, another time (more recently than I like to admit), I asked her if I should get a perm and she didn’t laugh at me. She’s a keeper.
So this is me, with my mousey grey brown hair roots and J. Jonah Jameson temples hiding underneath, at 7 months.
By the way, that’s my friend Sharon with me in the pictures on the right. She is my exact same age and not a stitch of grey. Poor thing.
As of today, it has been six months since my last colour appointment. Six months since I made that fateful decision to grow out my grey. As an experiment, I said. It’ll be worthwhile, I said. Oh, if I could talk to the six-months-younger me now.
I’d say, listen, you young, innocent thing. Enjoy those breezy ponytail days when you could toss your hair in the wind without a care and your biggest worry was whether you should get highlights or lowlights, cut your bangs on an angle or straight across. What you think are “bad hair days” are really just “hair different days” – no one says your hair should have body every day! Drink in the compliments about your colour and highlights, even if that colour doesn’t really belong to you. You still wear it well! (And that summer tan helps too!) Straighten that hair, curl it, braid it, pin it, scrunchy it, but promise me, six months younger self, that you will EMBRACE your colourful locks. Fear not what’s ahead (but don’t look forward to it either). Continue reading
It has been exactly five months since I last coloured my hair. I’m missing my hair stylist, Barb, like crazy.
A couple weeks ago, I had my very first pang of regret for having decided to grow out my grey hair. I had my hair up to wash my face before heading to bed. J-M walked into the bathroom, stopped in his tracks, and looked at me soberly.
“Your hair is really white, eh?”
“It is, isn’t it,” I replied.
I could have cried myself to sleep that night. Continue reading
At noon on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, I announced to my hair stylist that this would be my last visit for colour. I’m growing out my grey.
She was understandably horrified.
This is not a decision I’ve arrived at flippantly. In fact, I commit to (and make public) this decision with knee-knocking fear and a boat-load of doubt.
Let’s refer to my hair stylist as “Barb” …because that’s her name.
Barb figured I had a good reason to make this big decision and she became willing, after a while, to hear it. In essence, it’s a two-year experiment to help me understand both the Biblical view and our culture’s view of grey hair. I could – and will – interview those who have gone through this process, but I also want to experience this myself. How will this affect others’ behaviour towards me, how will I feel about myself, will it increase the generation gap between me and my daughters, what will my husband think when I look 10+ years his senior… etc. etc.
I want to challenge what up till now has been a *need* to cover my grey. I can’t help thinking, once again, there’s a better way.
As I said in my previous post, I am on a quest to discover/develop a foundational understanding of beauty. I know it’s important to God because he has breathed wisdom into scripture on the subject of beauty… and hair is a big part of the beauty equation.
Our culture has equated beauty with youth and doing everything we can to maintain it. This means we’re fighting a losing battle from the get-go because – newsflash – none of us will stay young. It’s actually impossible. And yet, we are continually “anti-aging,” putting on the aforementioned creams, getting surgery, colouring our hair, resenting inevitable signs of aging, hating ourselves for not living up to an impossible ideal.
The Bible gives a place of honour not only to the aged, but specifically to grey hair.
Proverbs 16:31 (MSG) says, “Grey hair is a mark of distinction, the award for a God-loyal life.”
It’s honourable to have grey hair. It is an award, a mark of distinction. Some translations call it a crown of glory and splendor.
Why do I have a standing appointment to cover up my crown of glory every 4 weeks? I want to grow out my splendor.
I expect this will be a painful process because, as my friend Marguerite, who has done this already, says, “It gets ugly before it gets better.” And I don’t know if I can yet claim the better part.
So I make sure to soak in the lasts of my colour appointment with Barb. The cold paint on my scalp, being forced to relax for 45 minutes while the colour takes, the luxurious shampoo and head massage…
As Barb works her magic one final time, we talk about beauty. It’s a complicated thing because where is the line between caring about your appearance and vanity? I honestly can’t say at this point.
Barb says she isn’t against aging. “Aging is beautiful!” She’s generally against plastic surgery, but – don’t tell anyone – would be open to getting botox herself. She feels she has a wrinkle developing in her forehead that she thinks makes her look angry and it’s reflective of something she’s not.
Except I can’t even see the line she’s talking about.
She thinks I’m too young to go grey. Underneath Barb’s fabulous, funky burgundy hair, she is covering her own head of grey hair – she went prematurely grey in her 20s. She leaves me to let the colour take and to contemplate her use of the word “premature.” I was in my 20s too when I started going grey. Wonder how many of us there are.
As I pass the time, I pose the question on Facebook, “For those of you who colour your hair, have you ever considered going grey?” The responses come fast and furious and a complete range of answers. (Oh, y’all didn’t know your comments were fodder for my blog?) Here is a sampling:
- Nope! Hair dye is ‘in our budget till death do we part’!
- Have thought about it many times because of cost but nope “grey” is not one of my colours.
- …have always hated the inequity of the sexes when it comes to youthfulness…one of these days, I just might give the world the finger (the male half anyway) and do it…if my daughter was 20 and not 2, I might consider doing it sooner….until then it is Loreal #51…
- NO! I’m going to fight the grey hair until I’m too old to go buy the box of colour!! Even then, I’ll make one of my kids go get it. Of course vanity and societal expectations keep me from taking that step. And, well, I just don’t want to look older.
- If we all did it, we’d prove that aging gracefully has nothing to do with hair colour!
- Um … you first.
Also, can you imagine the conversations we’ve had at home about this? My family is absolutely sick of me. J-M has reluctantly agreed because, I’m guessing, a happy grey-haired wife is better than a frustrated brunette. Mallory says she’s OK with it except she resents having to explain to her friends when I have 6″ roots that her Mom’s not really that weird. Sophia’s answer gave me pause, “I don’t want you to look so old that I won’t relate. I’m afraid I’ll notice all the old things about you rather than all the fun, young things.” I can’t say that won’t happen, but I want to challenge that because – and this is a theme for another post – what makes us think old is negative?
Barb unveils my colour for the last time. I think it’s fitting that I’m “bronde,” neither blonde nor brunette. I document the event. Barb is definitely forcing her smile.
As I pay ONE FINAL TIME for hair colour, I tell Barb – and Kristin at reception – “You know and I know that mid-winter is going to hit hard. I’m going to have half a head of grey roots and an extremely depleted self-esteem. When I come in and desperately say either cut it off or colour it all…”
Barb interjects, “We’ll be strong for you… even if we don’t want to be.”
There’s less than one week till my 40th birthday. Oh, have I mentioned that already? Well, anyway, it’s on Friday, October 25th. I’ll give you a moment to mark it on your calendar.
I’m making a big deal of it. Since the beginning of the month I’ve been talking about it all over the place, reminding my friends and family daily about this upcoming milestone. Perhaps over-celebrating it will reduce the impact when those big numbers – in Roman numerals that’s XL – actually hit.
Physically, I’m noticing my age. Not just on the surface, like wrinkles and age spots, but functional things like failing eyesight and a chronically sore left knee.
But I’ve recently come to view the aches and pains not as a sign of what’s to come, but as the sign of transition. This is what trade-off feels like. Wisdom for beauty via pang, spasm and twinge. And that’s when I realized that I am going to be A-OK with 40.
Because (a) I never had this beauty thing down, certainly not in my teens.
And (b), I was a foolish young woman with regrettable behaviour. It’s taken me 40 years to learn some very important things, things I wouldn’t trade for the world. And they’ve come with age and most often they’ve come via heartache. Strangely, it’s resulted in a gift worth more to me than gold and I wouldn’t give it up for minimized pores or rocking skinny jeans.
At 40, I understand I get to be obnoxious, correct? So indulge me as I share 20 things that took me 40 years to learn. 20 things I didn’t know at 20… because I hadn’t yet had the full experience of it (which can mean doing it the wrong way one or a few times).
1. Life is meaningless without friendship. Therefore, work to keep the friends you have (especially your family) and be a friend to those who need one.
3. .Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’ve won. I’ve bolded that because this was the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned – which cleansed our marriage – with a fantastic back story of turmoil and tension and those words coming from John-Mark’s mouth toward me. My insistence on being right (and trying to correct what was “wrong” in him) almost tore our marriage apart. It is much preferable to win in marriage than to be “right.”
4. A nap is often the best remedy for an argument. If you feel grumpy, critical, negative, go to bed already, then we’ll talk. Again, J-M’s words to me.
On Church and Ministry
5. Church can be so very ugly… and breathtakingly beautiful. On this side of eternity, it’s a holy mess. But at its best it’s a foretaste of heaven.
6. The key to loving the church is realizing that we are the church.
7. Hope for everything, expect nothing. Hope keeps you encouraging, challenging, and loving others. Having no expectations takes the weight off your shoulders and keeps you from taking it personally when others have their own unique journey of faith…
8. Use your gifts. God has equipped believers in a unique way to be a part of the church. How thrilling when you discover that he can use you. Also, let others use their gifts. Sometimes stepping away from ministry so that others can step in is the right decision.
9. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. There is nothing you have done that (a) he doesn’t already know about; (b) he won’t forgive.
10. There’s no more important thing to learn than forgiveness. God has forgiven you, you must forgive others. Walk in it, practice it daily. How about this – PRE-forgive! This is love.
11. We need others on this pilgrim’s progress – the faithful, the hopeful, the charitable – to teach us, to make the load lighter and the journey a joy. To seclude yourself is to weaken your faith.
12. God’s promises are not the mantra of the happy, they’re the lifeline for the suffering.
13. Neglect produces independence. Let me qualify this tongue-in-cheek statement – it’s about life skills. Let’s say that you forget to make your child’s lunch one day, they will most likely choose to make it themselves the following day. If you don’t pack their favourite PJs for their sleepover party, they’ll want to do it themselves next time. If they run out of underwear because you haven’t yet done the laundry, they may choose to learn. HYPOTHETICALLY of course.
14. Never refuse a request for a hug from your child. Never, never. You can’t over hug. Drop everything to give the hug. And force hugs on them from time to time, even when they don’t want them.
16. Your example will be the most powerful lesson for your kids, so love well, fight fair and make your bed too.
17. In order for truth to be the strongest voice in your head, immerse yourself in it. Preferably daily.
18. You must put your time in the trenches. The most mundane task, done well, leads to growth and opportunity. Everything is useful.
19. Never make a decision based on fear or solely on money. That is for those who feel they have no choice. One’s choices should be life-giving.
AND FINALLY (FOR NOW)
20. Stay curious. It is the remedy to many things, such as boredom, ignorance, and self-consciousness, to name a few.
Of course there’s a whole bunch more, like HAVE FUN, READ LOTS, GET REST, TRAVEL, but I’ve got my forties to beat you over the head with them. ;)
And so, believe it or not, despite my ranting, I’ve come to appreciate 40. Not because it’s “fabulous” or “the new 30.” Because it reveals a gift, given through the fine lines and grey hairs. There is great value in them.
Although… I’m still inclined to cover up the evidence.
On Day Five, I ate a delicious supper. J-M helped me choose Fridays as the day of the week I would eat during my fast because that’s the day we pretend we’re athletes by participating in a Christian baseball house league. I need all the sustenance I can get to keep up the act.
Let me first say that I have not played baseball competitively since Grade 8. I have not played baseball recreationally since I was 18. On Friday, I was trying to play like I hadn’t missed the last 20 years of practice. I swung the bat furiously, threw the ball energetically, sprinted around the bases zealously. By the third inning, my body started rebelling.
I was pitcher in the fourth inning because I have no idea why. I’d been able to load the bases like a pro. The pressure was on. When the next batter got up to bat, you can imagine I was getting desperate for an out. The batter was hungry and swung at what was clearly not even close to the plate. The ball, skimmed by the bat, came skidding toward me. I lunged at it with every ounce of energy I had. In that moment, I felt a rip in my thigh, but it was so much more important to me to snag the ball and get the batter out. I limp-dashed toward first base and tossed it for the out. Woohoo! I was in major pain, but did you see? Did you see? I GOT THE BATTER OUT.
When I doddered to bat at the bottom of the inning, the umpire asked if I need a runner. Cha-right! I swung furiously but got just a piece of the ball; it remained within reach of the infield. I pumped it to first base like a maniac (not unlike my sprint at KLM airport) and felt the kind of pain the shoots through your body and catches your breath. In that moment, all my brain would say it, YOU ARE NOT 18! NOT EVEN CLOSE!!!
My sister, who is a coach and phys. ed. teacher tells me that this is called Weekend Warrior Syndrome. I thought it sounded pretty cool until she defined it. When people over the age of 35 engage in sports just once a week, without stretching or regular exercise, they often have muscle injury, like pulls, tears, sprains. I am a Weekend Warrior and it is nothing to be proud of. She suggested I ice the injury for 24 hours, take it easy for a couple weeks and start building my exercise regime during the week.
In another story, J-M pulled his groin crossing the street. He’s not 18 either.
That night, we lay in bed with ice packs on our parts, looked at each other and asked, This? THIS is what we’ve come to?
I have been blogging for over six years. I jumped on the bandwagon in September ’05 with an apologetic first entry, sorry that I hadn’t adopted the trend earlier, not unlike Baby Boomers and The Facebook.
I was an almost-daily blogger for the years 2006-2008 when my husband and I, with our two daughters, moved to Ghana, West Africa to establish a mission partnership with our sister church there. After realizing that cross-cultural work is much harder than those triumphant missionary biographies would have you believe (see Jackie Pullinger for details), I found it cathartic to tell my story of day-to-day living in Africa to the internet.
The Silent Years were when we returned to Canada to change my husband’s job description from “Missionary” to “Pastor.” As faithful a listener as the internet had been, I didn’t feel up to processing my intense reverse culture shock so publicly. You would have enjoyed some of the stories, though. Like the time, at the peak of it, at a girly get-together, I listened to my friends’ oh-so-dogmatic opinions about whether one should find out the sex of their baby before he/she is born. I might have thought “Blah… blah… blah…” OUT LOUD. And we had at least 12 seconds of uninterrupted, awkward silence. Sitcom Gold.
I kept trying to write, even got a nudge in that direction when I was published in a small Christian magazine. I tried opening a new blog (right here), but I was uninspired and my posts sporadic.
Instead, I started a Fair-Trade business. For 3 1/2 years, I built a business importing beads, baskets and batik from my friends back in Ghana. A large part of my job was marketing the products by talking about the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Ghanaian people, which inevitably opened a way for me to speak of my experiences. I may have gained friends of customers by over-disclosing.
As of last week, I have sold the business and have an itch to fire up the old blog. I’ve gained some new experiences in my recent roles as a business owner, (reluctant) Pastor’s Wife, (enthusiastic) Women’s Ministry Leader, (reluctant and enthusiastic) mother of two girls entering their teens.
As I approach middle age–I’ve been trying out this term since I recently had to move a product away from my face to read the fine print. Horrifying.–I’m reflecting on my life experiences: the different jobs I’ve had, the places I’ve been, where God has led my husband and I in ministry and our relationships… They seem so varied it’s hard to see where or how they might be channeled for use in the future.
The way I see it, there are two things that link my past experiences and my new adventures. The first is an absolute peace that God is working out the details, just as he promises. The second is that I can write about them.