“Woo hoo! I’ve joined the Silver Fox Club! Look! I just found my first grey hair,” I shouted excitedly from the doorway of the bathroom, as I rolled the tough strand of gleaming silver between my fingers, admiring it in the mirror.
My friend gaped at me in disbelief. “I have NEVER seen someone happy about finding a grey hair. You’re HAPPY to have grey hair?”
“It’s a rite of passage. It’s beautiful!” I beamed back gleefully.
We went on to discuss my excitement over joining the Silver Fox Club, as well as her attempts to flee the Club. She had never dyed her hair nor worn make-up until the day she saw her first grey hair, and then everything had changed. She feels compelled to “hide the grey”, even though hair dye is no longer remaining on the strands for very long, and she is bothered when she has gone too long between appointments to adequately cover it up. She, like many women I know, doesn’t feel emotionally ready to allow herself to “look old”.
Why are we, as a culture, so obsessed with youthful appearances? Why do so many women, in particular, eagerly pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for hair dye, cosmetics, Botox injections, cosmetic surgery and various programs aimed at creating an illusion of youth? When did we fall so utterly out of love with our beautiful selves? When did changing over time become a bad thing?
There is a lovely quote (unknown author) that resonates with me: “Never regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many”.
That quote helped me to get through some tough days. When going through infertility and loss, it sometimes seemed as though every month, every year, every milestone, every holiday was yet another brick in the wall of impending childlessness. During the low times it was easy to focus on the fact that my chances of a live birth plummeted with every tick of the clock. It would have been easy to brush aside a happy occasion like my birthday and turn it into a pity party. The hard work was in choosing to see the light through the darkness. I never regretted doing the hard work it took to choose happiness in times where I could have defaulted to misery, even before my happy ending came about.
My first boyfriend didn’t live to see his mid-twenties, let alone to bemoan his first grey hair. Fatal illnesses, accidents, suicide… there are so many ways to lose those we care about far too soon. It is heart-wrenching to watch parents grieving the loss of their child. I will never forget the gut-wrenching sobbing and the face of the grieving mother at the first funeral I attended when I was in the eighth grade. My classmate, Ragheesh, had died after battling leukaemia. Seeing the pain that his mother was going through left a huge impression on me. I remember my own mother commenting that a parent should never have to see her child die. I remember wondering what it would be like to know that I wouldn’t live long enough to grow up, to grow old.
When I was a teenager I remember seeing a lovely photo of my paternal grandmother, with her gorgeous hair in contrasting shades of black with silver streaks framing her face. Graceful. Beautiful. Radiant. No cosmetics, no hair dye, no anti-aging creams or cover-up. Just 100% natural Asian beauty. A youthful smile dancing in her eyes, which were surrounded by the sweetest little “smile lines”. I remember hoping that one day I would look like her. I even went as far as putting silver streaks in my own dark hair on my sixteenth Halloween, and proudly approving of my “future self” in the mirror.
I have earned this silver hair. It has a mind of its own. It is tough. It is resilient. It is gloriously resplendent. It came just at the right time. I will neither dye my hair nor chop it shorter in an attempt to “look younger”. I will not highlight my hair or arrange it in clips in the hopes that my silver will “blend in”. I will proudly watch my beautiful new hair grow in, showing the passage of time, showing my journey through adulthood and womanhood. I will hold my head high and enjoy the privilege that it is to be alive, growing and changing, choosing to age with dignity and grace.
I want my daughter to see me celebrate and love my body at all stages of my life. It is my hope that she will be able to readily tap into a well of self-love so deep that it will drown out the voices of those who would claim that women should look a certain way in order to be considered “beautiful”. May she be granted the privilege of growing old along with her loved ones. May she laugh at those who equate age with ugliness or weakness. May she never starve herself to fit into a dress or to fit into a peer group. May she know that she is enough, just as she is, without the addition of dyes, perfumes, cosmetics or fancy clothing, and without the loss of any part of herself. May it be so.