Beauty-Marked: Going Grey

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, 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.

Barb & Lor Selfie

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.”


Barb went online later to see the responses to the FB post…Barb Going Grey.jpg

 

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40 years to learn

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.

Grade 10

Follow along the full #theawkwardyears series on Facebook!

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).

On Friendship

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.

17877_430546365446_200261_n2. Do not fear conflict. When addressed properly, it has the potential to deepen your friendships.

On Marriage

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.”

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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.

On Faith

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.

On Parenting

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.

61911_10152334595785492_1861113051_n15. One’s role as parent has a progression from protector, to teacher, to coach, to friend. Try not to put these in the wrong order.

16. Your example will be the most powerful lesson for your kids, so love well, fight fair and make your bed too.

On Truth

17. In order for truth to be the strongest voice in your head, immerse yourself in it. Preferably daily.

On Work

18. You must put your time in the trenches. The most mundane task, done well, leads to growth and opportunity. Everything is useful.

On Decision-Making

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.

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