To Dye or Not to Dye?

This has been on my mind the past week, then I saw a NY Times article written by a woman in her 60s who decided to stop dyeing her hair. Made me think about my own decisions…

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I noticed my first gray hair when I had only recently turned 20 years old. My mother had turned gray prematurely and so it wasn’t too big a shock. More of just a surprise. I told my friend and she said, “Pull it out!!” What? Why would I want to pull out my gray hair? It’s interesting! Surprising! I admired the lone hair in the mirror. I had long hair and this single gray hair was pretty long itself meaning it must have been there for a while and this was just the first time I had noticed. My hair was pretty curly at that time and my favorite hairstyle was making a bun and sticking a carved “hairstick” into it to hold it in place. Not surprising that I hadn’t seen the gray hair. A couple months later I saw my brother who was two years older than me. Somehow the gray hair came up in conversation and he admitted that he had found a couple gray hairs himself, but he was always diligent to pull them out as soon as he found them, “so they wouldn’t invite company”. Apparently this premature graying thing was a pretty strong gene since we had both inherited it.

I really didn’t think about my gray hairs too often until I was in my 30s. By then I had a noticeable amount of gray hair. I had a lot of older women friends and I would listen to them exchange reports on hair dye and touching up the roots and their favorite hair stylists. I always felt a bit like an outsider. I didn’t go to a hairstylist. I had long hair. I liked it long. When it got a certain length where it started looking scraggly, I would just have my handy husband cut off a couple inches. I started looking at people’s haircuts. Most of my friends had short hair and since I’ve never been interested in short hair, I was only mildly interested. But every once in a while I’d see a woman with longer hair that was bouncy and curled just so and you could tell that it had been layered professionally, and it looked very attractive. And I would ponder whether I should go to a hairstylist and get a haircut, and maybe, just maybe, try out a new hair color. Two things always stopped me though. One, I really didn’t have money to go to a hairdresser and my Keep It Simple motto had to question why I needed to pay money for my hair when I had always been perfectly happy with how it looked. Second, and this was the big one, what on earth would I do when, a couple weeks later, my hair started growing out and the gray started showing up at the roots? There was no way I could afford to go to a hairdresser regularly. A friend tried to encourage me and told me how she did her own color at home from a box. I asked her to give me a blow-by-blow description of the process. By the time she was done, I knew for sure there was no way I would have the patience or skill to do that. Especially on a regular basis. I am a low-maintenance person. I don’t even wear makeup. Personal preference. I think all my friends look beautiful in their makeup, I just don’t have the patience for it, and my husband prefers me without it anyway, so, win-win.

Now I’m 40 and I’m starting to struggle with the concept of being “old”. One of my teenage daughters thinks it’s funny to say, “You’re so OLD Mom!” any time I mention something that didn’t happen during her short life span. I find myself staring in the mirror a bit more often. Staring at my gray hair. Maybe I would feel prettier if I dyed my hair. Maybe I would feel younger. And then one day my husband came up behind me and twined some of my hair around his finger. “Your hair is so beautiful! Look at all those different colors. It’s so unique, and it shimmers in the light. I love your hair!”  Well then. I apparently had a fan club of one member. But a very important member. He’s the only one I’m trying to impress, and it seems that dyeing my hair was not going to impress him. I put my hair dye musings onto the back burner again.

There is one other reason that I have hesitated about dyeing my hair. I have 5 daughters. The actions I take are going to have a very strong influence on how they see the world. I really want them to have a strong message that it’s ok to be yourself. You don’t have to change your appearance to be acceptable. I want my daughters to know that as a woman you have options. You can choose to wear makeup and dye your hair, but it doesn’t have to be your only option. You can choose to go out in public bare faced and gray haired if you want, and you can do it with confidence.

Who knows, maybe down the road I’ll have a surplus of money laying around and I’ll be feeling really adventurous and maybe I’ll go to a fancy hairdresser and get my hair all dolled up and colored pretty. That would be fine. Probably would be fun. And maybe I won’t. That will be fine too.

Thoughts On Being a Woman

This past year I went on a journey of sorts, trying to figure out just what it means to be a woman in the day and age that I live in. I really struggled with the stereotypes that I saw in our media, struggled with the injustices that so many woman face, struggled with where my place was in the church. It’s a subject that you could write books about, but these are just some thoughts I wrote down while I have been on this journey.

What does it mean to be a woman?  In my own personal experience, a big part of being a woman has been having children. The joy of sharing my body with another person. The irritation of having to share my body with another person. The intense fear as I awaited my first delivery. The intense anticipation as I waited to meet my first child. Later, as I had more children it was the dread of the morning sickness that always put me in bed for about 4 months. It was the excitement of telling the kids they were going to have another brother or sister soon. It was the awkwardness of feeling judged by strangers because I had so many children and was visibly pregnant again. It was the feeling of vulnerability when I reached the last weeks of pregnancy and could hardly walk. It was the agonizing pain of giving birth, the intense mixture of agony and joy as I held my baby for the first time while my body still screamed in protest from what it had endured.

Being a woman for me has been about being a wife. Laughing at my husband’s antics. The feeling of completeness when he walks in the door after a long day at work. Looking up and realizing he’s been watching me. The laughter that bubbles when he grabs me up in his arms and spins me around. The frustration when we aren’t able to communicate with each other. The comfort of rolling over in the night and snuggling into his side.

Being a woman has been about having deep friendships with other women. Sitting around solving the world’s problems in our living rooms as our children play together in the yard. Sending funny texts to each other that cheer up a grumpy morning. Venting and ranting. Sharing recipes and ideas about potty training. Affirming and encouraging each other.

Being a woman has been about struggling with my looks. Battling the feeling of never being enough. Not thin enough, not pretty enough, not fashionable enough. Listening to my husband tell me he thinks I’m beautiful and looking in the mirror and feeling like he is lying. And finally, when I am almost 40 years old, looking in the mirror and smiling and saying, “It’s me, and I like what I see.”

Being a woman has been about confusion. Feeling looked down upon because I didn’t finish college and pursue a career. Finding out that my career friends feel looked down upon because they don’t stay home with their children. Feeling looked down upon because I married when I was only 20 years old. Finding out that my unmarried friends feel judged because they have not ever married. Feeling judged because I homeschool. Feeling judged because I don’t homeschool. And it’s not the men in our lives who make us feel judged. It’s other women.

Being a woman has been about spiritual confusion. Feeling loved by God. Special to him. And then reading about so many women in the Bible who were treated subpar. Why did God allow it?

And then, as I read deeper and deeper into the stories, still seeing a trace of God’s grace and love even in the worst examples of man’s inhumanity to man (or in this case, woman). .

Being a woman has also been about inclusion. Coming to the understanding that every woman has their own journey they’ve traveled. And so many of their journeys look nothing like mine. And yet we can still be friends. We can still support each other and encourage each other. Listen to each other. Without feeling the need to compare ourselves to each other.

I am thankful for who I am and the role that I fill in the lives around me. I am thankful for the women in my life who have lived their lives courageously and modeled what a full life looks like. I am thankful for the women in my life that have lifted me up and encouraged me. And I am especially thankful for the women who have allowed me to just be myself and share myself with them with no fear of judgement. My hope is that I can be that person, that woman, who is a safe place, free of judgement, ready to listen, ready to embrace my women friends as themselves. Perhaps we can keep each other company on this journey we are on.