I’ve always said that when my hair started to go grey I’d simply let it go and embrace it. When I found my first white (not even grey!) hair a few years ago at around 26 or 27 years old, I found it more than a bit startling. I remember staring at it in the mirror before yanking it out of my head and discarding it as if that would stop the onset of the inevitable and went on about my strangely misguided twenties. Gradually, over the next year, another appeared and then another, all around the same area of my head and in pointless effort I deliberately moved my parting to the other side so I could cover up what was going on.

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Image by Volkan Olmez

And I forgot about this small but growing reminder of time until this past week. As I played with moving my parting to change-up my look, I found where my hair used to naturally fall and for a second wondered why I’d ever changed it. It looks better this way I told myself before I stopped in my tracks, staring at the spattering of white hairs all gathering in the same place. There they were and now they had brought friends as if my hairline were a rave they could secretly invite other follicles to…

It’s probably not that visible to other people. Like most of our hang ups, others tend not to even notice what we see as we scrutinize ourselves; 10 or so hairs, but it was enough for me to see a glimpse of how the next few years would turn out. My hair’s future was plainly lain before me.

I’m becoming a woman with a stripe; a badger of sorts, maybe a zebra? For about 10 minutes I glared at this aging woman in the mirror, detesting her for defying my youth. How dare she become old. She’s not done anything yet; her life can’t be over. A massive over reaction, I’m sure you’ll agree.  I cried. I’ve always admired older women with this flash of silver in their hair. It’s sleek; stylish, sophisticated and elegant. I always wanted to look like that…when I am OLDER.

But when is older? When I feel like I have life sussed out? Because I’m sure that most people, no matter their age, feel like they’ve yet to accomplish what they’ve set out to do. We’re always chasing ourselves and we won’t ever catch up no matter how hard we try.

It’s interesting to me how we let our looks and age define us. “I’m this sort of person because I’ve coloured my hair a certain way.” or “I’m old because my hair is grey.” Where did I get this perception from? I’m progressive, damn it!

My mum once told me that she’d started going grey at 19 and looking back some of my fondest memories are of us picking out hair dye together in the supermarket or with her head over the bathroom basin dying her hair and the cleaning that came after as she tried to remove her “natural” colour from the bathroom basin (and the curtains because that shiz gets everywhere!). She spent her life trying to regain her youthful looks amidst what I’m certain were body image issues that were never discussed but picked up on as us children tend to do. Determined to not follow this path I had openly stated  as a teenager that I would not dye my hair when I started to go grey. Growing old gracefully with elegance, I’d say. I just didn’t think it would come so soon.

I read  somewhere recently about women becoming ageless, deciding to let go of their numerical age to live without the constraints and expectations that come with age. A freeing concept, but could I honestly live the rest of my life without acknowledging how far I have come; I don’t know. I do know, however, that I wouldn’t be impressed having to give up the one opportunity I have in the year to have a party. I guess in the end it’s about how you view it all and how you actually live your life. I could spend the rest of my days dreading the next birthday, when the next grey hair is going to pop up, worrying about what people think of me and how I look, are my wrinkles showing, or am I too old to wear this? Now I’m 30, all this hair dying, worrying and stressing about staying young seems like an awful lot of work. That in itself is enough to make you look older!

My initial instinct was to cover up this grey/white army of hair marching its way to my shoulders. I could go red again, or blue. Or cover it with something darker. Black, like I’d covered my dyed red hair with for a friend’s wedding… or go natural… and just dye it brown. Just make it go away. Something in me felt so betrayed by my attempt to fix this.

We live in a youth obsessed world. We’d all love to look as young as we feel, but it’s not realistic to reject yourself for precisely who and what you look like, so as much as I would like to dye my hair a vibrant shade of blue to hide who I am becoming I’m not going to. This is me, cultivating a badger stripe, and I’m working on being OK with it.

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Written by soulcartographer

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