I need to color my hair this morning. That is, cover the white stripe running down the top of my head and the white fluff in front of my ears that could have you mistaking me for Paulie Walnuts in another week. I’m dreading it. It’s not fair. And I’m pissed. Who’s with me?
I’m guessing many of you are with me. How do I know this? I have six sisters ranging in age from 40 to 60, and they are ALL with me. We’ve all thought about letting our gray hair grow out a million times. My sisters and I have talked about all doing it at the same time and documenting it on social media, and the actual process we’ll go through. But when it comes time to pull the trigger, at least one of us admits we are just not ready.
I want to be the girl who doesn’t care about looking young forever. The girl who isn’t influenced by the constant images of beautiful, young women who obviously have it all. The girl who doesn’t feel bad about herself after looking at those images. But alas, here I am. Just as the advertisers hoped I would be, ready to mix up those chemicals and slap them on my head for 45 minutes as I clean and cook, pretending I don’t look ridiculous in front of my 12-year-old. (Poor kid. Can’t pick your parents 😂.)
I guess the truth is that I’m afraid I will look older if I stop coloring my hair. Like most women, I pride myself on looking my best, and I suppose I have to admit that for me, my best actually means “as young as possible”. Why is that? Well, I’m going to blame the fact that youth has always been associated with beauty, at least for women, and that’s a fact. And this didn’t just start folks, it’s been going on for millennia! Beauty and Anti-aging are billion-dollar industries that continue to grow every year. That’s right, there are entire industries hoping you are going to search for your younger, more beautiful self in the mirror each morning. I even work with one of them.
Now, not all beauty products and interventions focus on looking younger. Some promise health benefits as well. Take skincare for example. It’s a fact that when the skin is cared for, it’s healthier, and as such, looks more youthful. Healthy skin means intact, supple skin that is free from disease. Taking care of your face and body from the outside rank right up there with eating well and good dental habits, and beauty products play a huge role in that. They fit into the “self-care” category too now, which is viewed as something we all should do in order to feel and look our best both physically and mentally. And there is an undeniable connection between looking our best and our self-confidence. Basically, look better and you’ll feel better is a real thing. So looking beautiful apparently has some other perks besides getting all the attention and having all the fun. 😉
Body size and shape have also historically been very strongly associated with the definition of beauty, but we seem to have made at least some progress here. We are finally seeing runway and magazine cover models of all sizes, and clothing lines that fit everybody. So are we moving towards broadening the definition of beauty? Well, not if you look at my Facebook and Instagram feeds! They are flooded with ads including young, thin, pretty girls, some called “influencers”, telling me I can look like them if I use their hair tool or buy their recommended cosmetics or clothing. Oh, and they can coach me into feeling better about myself too. “Just click here for my free introductory e-booklet and I will convince you that you need my help for $695. Because after scrolling through all these gorgeous women with their air-brushed ‘natural’ makeup and perfectly manicured brows, you’re DEFINITELY not feeling beautiful and need my help.” I’m sorry folks, but this is the majority of what I see when I get online. Beauty and youth still win. And it enrages me. But apparently not enough for me to stop coloring my fucking hair.
Talk vs. Walk
So, what the heck? Are we really walking the walk when it comes to changing the way the world sees beauty and aging? We say that we are ok with getting older, but are we really ok with looking older? For me, it seems not much has changed since I was a chubby high schooler without a boyfriend, longing to look like the girls I saw in the magazines, and hoping to find a decent fitting pair of jeans at the mall. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize I’m a part of the problem. I have at one time or another invested in expensive face and body products, injections, weight loss attempts, exercise routines, plastic surgery, high-end clothing and accessories, hair products and procedures, pedicures, spa treatments…the list is exhausting. I counted how many products it took this morning to get myself ready for the day. Are you ready? Twenty-one. Yup, it took twenty-one products for me to get myself looking good enough to present myself to the world. What. The. Fuck. I’m exhausted already…I can’t do this another 30 years damn it, and I’m not sure I can afford it either. And on top of that, I feel like a shallow, small-minded girl who is just pissed she is 52 and knows she will never be a size 4.
So where do we go from here? I’m sad to say I have no game-changing ideas, and I really don’t see change coming anytime soon. I’m happy for you if you made peace with your gray hair and if your crows’ feet aren’t all you see when you look in the mirror. I’m jealous if your weight doesn’t bother you. I’m cheering for the bigger and older girls on the runways and in the magazines. But for me right now, I will continue to fight the good fight, slap that color on my head, use the best anti-aging skin products on the planet and skip with delight when someone guesses my age at 10 years younger.