Over the summer, I’ve managed to lose 10 pounds and 25% of my hair. I didn’t understand what could have triggered the hair loss, but I was so convinced that it was due to a medical problem that I gave up five vials of blood to test for hypothyroidism, hormone imbalance, vitamin deficiencies, and mange (ok, that’s a canine condition, but I did shed more hair than a golden retriever). All labwork returned normal, which led to a startling revelation.
There were subtle hints of this “problem” throughout my hair; auburn strands replaced by silver ones. I should have seen it coming (maybe it’s the damned cataract), considering what lined the shelves of my medicine cabinet:
Anti-aging skincare serums
Caffeine gel for undereye bags and circles
Sunscreen — SPF 110
Root touch-up dye
Sun spot bleaching cream
Cellulite firming lotion
Fish oil capsules (for my brain)
I’m spending a fortune (and a tremendous amount of time) trying to stop, or at least slow down, the inevitable. I never thought I’d start to see evidence of aging at 38. I thought I had at least ten more years of primetime before I had to worry about these things.
But with thinning hair that was growing back in an unruly, lighter shade, I decided that it was time to cut it, which horrified my daughter, Ava. She burst into tears and begged me not to “mess up” my hair, arguing that she liked my ponytails and headbands. This is also the child who fell apart when her father recently traded his cherry red Ford Mustang for a cherry red Chevy Silverado. She doesn’t like change, and quite frankly, I don’t either. But we have to grow up whether we like it or not.
“Honey, we will always look alike, but I can’t look like you. I have to be my own age.”
I tried to explain that while our genes are the same, our jeans will not be. “I’m your mother, not your older sister.”
Am I judging mothers (a.k.a. women) who are able to make 40 the new 20? Not at all. More power to them! Some women want to put up the good fight, and some women don’t. I don’t.
When my stylist chopped off nearly six inches of distressed hair, I admit that I had a similar reaction as Shelby in the movie, Steel Magnolias. She turned the chair around and revealed my layered crop — which once skimmed my shoulders but now curled around my ears. I sucked air. “Oh, gosh. It’s all gone.”
While it was a bit of a shock, I have to admit that I felt lighter. Liberated, almost. I liked it, but I confess that I wasn’t crazy about what motivated the change. It was a new me that had its hand forced; I’m not 18 anymore. I have greater responsibilities: I have a business to run, an active family, an ailing aunt to care for, volunteer work, a houseful of pets, and a home that’s slightly larger than I can keep up with at times. It would be nice to spend more time on myself, but the truth is, I find it exhausting, frustrating and terribly expensive. I’m getting older and I can’t stop it. So I’m not going to. I’ll do my best to exercise, get enough sleep and eat the proper foods, but as far as the rest — well, I surrender. As Buck Owens (and Ringo Starr) sang, I’m going to “Act Naturally.”
I ran into a friend a day or two after the salon visit, and she complimented me on my new style. I look like my mother, I laughed (but only half-joking).
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” she began. “Your mother was attractive, Katy. She dressed like a lady and she always looked classic. You should be proud to resemble her.”
I felt a tad ashamed after that subtle lecture, but I felt better about letting my late-thirties have a mind of their own. But this also meant that my daughters’ image of me needed to be adjusted.
“I will always be the one you can talk to about anything,” I began. “I will love you unconditionally and I’ll be honest with you about everything you ask. But I can’t be your BFF. I have to stay your parent. We can enjoy each other and have a great time doing what we always do, but you have to remember that I’m your mother.”
As they get older, I want Ava and Maryn to choose to spend time with me, to laugh with me, and to be the first person they call when they have exciting news to share. I want them to invite me to go shopping, and not because I have the debit card. I want them to tell me what’s on their mind, but I have to make sure the lines aren’t blurred. They have to respect me. They have to respect their father.
With respect to my hair, however, I am happy to report that gray is the new “it” color — a statement of a woman’s inner and outer confidence! Removing hair color from the cosmetic routine has actually been applauded by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. Another beauty editor claims that gray hair is much more than a trend, but a trait of a bolder personality. Of course, this editor writes for Dazed and Confused magazine.
While platinum locks look absolutely stunning on women such as Dame Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep and on men such as Anderson Cooper and George Clooney, I’m learning to like my new ‘do. Yet there is one thing I know for sure: Motherhood continues to be a hair-raising experience. But I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.