One Gray Hair at a Time

Aging fascinates me. And I’m not talking about just the growing-up part from a tiny, helpless, yet oh-so-wise infant to a fiery independent three-year-old to a smarty-pants, rolling-eyed second grader. Those “growing-up” stages are captivating and heart-breaking all at the same time, but that’s for a different issue.

We were looking at pictures just last week of our trip to Florida when Alida was just a baby. Suddenly there I was in the airplane, ready to begin a new adventure with my last baby on my lap. “Oh, wow, short hair,” I commented, surprised again to see how short my hair was then and to realize how long now. And then Patrick said, “Wow, Mama looks young.” Yes, indeed, I do. But that was just three years ago! When did I become not-so-young-looking?

But okay, my secret it out. I had already noticed my saggy skin around my face in the picture Alida took while I was hanging upside down for yoga. By now I just try to tame the unruly gray hairs sprouting all over my head, instead of yanking them like when they first began appearing. And I admit, I have spent time in front of the mirror checking out the beginning of soft wrinkles around my eyes and mouth.

But it caught Patrick off-guard in that moment, just like when Burkhart announced to me he had discovered and been examining my gray hairs during a funeral service. It seems often certain individuals in my community are surprised to find that I too have aged. Not because they didn’t think it would happen, but because I have always been that young, vibrant Dora.

I heard once that during the phase of life when one is naturally beautiful, it cannot be enjoyed because of the immutable thoughts determining otherwise. In youth we are all gorgeous, but we can’t really enjoy it. And the great irony of it is when, later in life, we have come to terms with ourselves and feel comfortable in our skins, we have to work hard to prove we are beautiful. It is no longer effortless. This straining – just a bit too much make-up, the hair arranged perfectly, eyebrows overly plucked – reveal that unspoken wish to again be effortlessly beautiful without the complicated teenage anxiety.

But at some point, we women who are aging will have to come to terms with the frivolousness of this desire and relinquish it. Does this mean we have to “let ourselves go” and can only find it acceptable to wear ugly, bulky sweaters and baggy pants? Of course not! I think it means I need to somehow grow old gracefully? But how?

Often I can convince myself that I am “as cool” as your typical teenager. I remember what it was like; I was sort of a part of that “in-crowd”. But then when I do in fact find myself in a room with teenage girls, I am smacked with how far removed I actually am. And it’s not just about the newest mode that I happen to find absolutely awful, but it’s about the years of wisdom and life that separate us. Yes, they are beautiful in their innocence and youth, but I would never willingly give up the wisdom I have gained to again become one of them.

I believe this is a part of grace: learning to accept ourselves, not as we were twenty years ago and always striving to become that person again. No, as we are in this moment.

I am struggling with whether or not to color my hair and if yes, when should I begin. Patrick, luckily, is very much against it, but I also sympathize with those who choose to color. I say “Patrick is luckily against it” because I feel it takes off some of the pressure to “stay young”. On the other hand, there is certainly pressure from what is accepted culturally. My sister colors her hair because she feels she would otherwise look ten years older. And I have seen a woman who colored her hair, suddenly appeared as a white-haired woman after she briefly stopped and has decided to go back to coloring because she indeed looked at least ten years older. Why is it only acceptable to look ten years (or more) younger than your real age, but (gasp, God forbid!) looking ten years older is absolutely intolerable?

It is not really surprising, however, in a culture that aims to forget their elders, at least when they seem to become cumbersome. It has been declared that no one has to grow old, not if you eat the right foods, drink the right amount of fluids, use the right hair dye, engage in physical fitness, meditate enough and go under the knife before the wrinkles really start to catch up with you. It is a farce, and it is time to stand up and proclaim that I too am growing older, one gray hair at a time. And it is good.

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About doralynelle

A would-be writer, stay-at-home mother of three, I find joy in the smallest things, love to laugh and can be super grumpy. Reading, writing, yoga and running are my favorite free-time activites, although enjoying a nice red wine is pretty high on the list too. Living in Germany as an American gives me lots to think about and certaintly to write about.
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11 Responses to One Gray Hair at a Time

  1. Jodie Gahan says:

    Ha! I too struggle with this question of colour or not to colour? For 6 months late last year I stopped, wanting to also age gracefully but gave in for my wedding in mid-March this year. Haven’t coloured since and am still resisting. (I also used to pull them out at first lol!) For me it’s a waste of time & money when it requires constant re-doing – a bit like housework & grocery shopping actually 😉
    I also tried the Shellac nail thing for a while but found it also to be expensive, time consuming & damaging to my nails.
    Have decided that I’m not a high-maintenance gal after all & would rather spend the time & money on coffee &/or lunch with friends!

  2. doralynelle says:

    Thank you for reading and responding, Jodie! It sounds like we would probably get along off-blog too! 🙂 I hope you have a great weekend! And let me know where I can find your blog, so I can follow you too!!

  3. Oh Dora, I want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you again! I have exactly one blog right now that I’m following, but starting today, I’m making it two. 🙂 Love this endeavor you are embarking on and can’t wait to hear more the thoughts you are thinking and the lovely way you have of putting it into words. Your first blog post made me think of a book I just read “Traveling with Pomegranates” by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor – a mother-daughter book, a traveling/journeying book, and a lot about being a writer. I think you’d like it.

    • doralynelle says:

      Megan, as if you spoke from my soul….the book you mentioned actually played a VERY significant role in accepting the desire to write that drives me. I wrote a response to the book after I wrote it. It’s pretty personal, so maybe not so much blog material at this point, but I would be happy to send it to you if you were interested. But really, I so had to smile when you named “Traveling with Pomegranates”. Thank you for following! And please give me honest feedback – only so can I improve!! Much love to you and your gorgeous family!

      • oh oh yes! I’d love to hear your response to the book. I haven’t had a chance to process it with anyone else who read it, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

  4. Bethany says:

    Horray for Patrick! I’m glad he doesn’t want you to dye your hair. I agree – don’t do it. When I was a teenager, I decided not to dye my hair, meaning dye the greys away, and so far I’ve stuck to it. My mom dyed her hair for a long time and then let it grow out. Now she’s got white hair and it’s great!
    You’ll always be young to me Dora. That crazy trainee girl. Keep up the blogging!

    • doralynelle says:

      Thank you, Bethany! You are an encouragement to me! (And you had gray hairs as a teenager?! I’ve never noticed any. I think your natural color disguises them well. 🙂 Not so much with darker hair like mine. The white ones feel like they need to shine even brighter. 🙂

  5. brenna says:

    Dora, for what it’s worth, you were my idol throughout childhood and I wanted to be just like you! With total innocence and a constantly watchful eye, I thought your entire family was incredible: beautiful, kind and charismatic, all of you! (I wanted to marry Chris… and also Michael Bustos. But definitely Chris.)

    In particular, I still carry striking images of both your parents and memories of the time they spent interacting with me (a random little kid); they looked infinitely “old” like anyone older than me, but also infinitely beautiful. When I imagine my own elder years I often think of both your parents and hope for the luck of grey-then-silver rather than the slow overall fadeaway typical in my family. A weird thing to worry about but I’ve thought often that it comes from finding your parents so striking.

    More than appearances though, there are some special women in my life who cause me to think often about how to age gracefully: a few who model (my) ideal way of embracing their age and changing beauty, and many who fight it, therein making their age all the more dreadful to themselves. I find those who are comfortable with themselves the most admirable of all–and the more valuable friend to esteem.

    Thanks for being honest and real! I’m not sure how many years apart we are, but the reality is that women today are faced with a haunting neverland of distorted reality. I really don’t like it when I find myself worrying over fine lines–when I’m not even 30! The positive results include starting to take care of myself (avoid sunburn, wear a hat) in a way that could prevent more serious harm, and beginning to process a graceful way to be who I am at all times.

    Stand up, glorious in your reality!

    • doralynelle says:

      Thank you, Brenna. What a beautiful comment to be allowed to approve. And such compliments for my family – yes, my parents have aged wonderfully, and I agree with you that accepting it plays a big role in that. By the way, I have always admired you as well. Funny how that connection we both noticed as children has kept our interest in each other’s whereabouts strong.

  6. Johannes says:

    Liebe Dora, auch wenn ich deinen aktuellen Text inhaltlich nur begrenzt nachvollziehen kann (ich bin ja noch so jung ;-)) – wir kommen bestimmt dann ins Gespräch, wenn ich a) graue oder b) weniger Haare habe. Das dauert hoffentlich noch mindestens Jahr. Und bis dahin werde ich mich mit Haarveränderungsberatungen schön zurückhalten.
    In jedem Fall: Eine gute Idee, das mit dem Schreiben. Ich bleibe dran und bin gespannt, mehr von dir zu lesen!

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