“Where’d she go? Excuse me…I’m looking for a woman… a girl about 30-something, long brown, sexy, bouncy hair?… Heeeeelllo. (Jump jump. I’m right here!) She was just here a minute ago? Hmmm…”
Maintaining great hair on the road is a pilgrimage of sorts. This experience became symbolic of a spiritual change within my soul.
Okay, maybe that is a bit dramatic, but my hair journey woke the sleeping giant: ‘Vanity and Ego.’
I am not one to judge a person by their appearance; however, I did discover I have a bias toward an older generation. Guilty.
The gray kept coming. Ready or not. ‘I am not old!’ Denial.
I knew going into a lifestyle of continuous travel and maintaining my typical hairstyle would be a challenge. Every two weeks I had new growth of the woman within me. Literally and spiritually.
Once hitting the road, I thought, “How perfect will it be to go to salons around the world?!” I would get to meet local people and hear beauty shop gossip. So exciting! Part of it panned out as I expected: I met some wonderful people sitting in “the chair.” On the flip side, who knew that prices are insane in some countries and how much my vanity would eat into my travel budget (even when I opted for hair dye in a box — $23.00 — come on!)? My determination to control my age demons was being destroyed with disgust and fear. What I didn’t realize was that I was just turning those demons into piles of insecurity.
I was running out of money, time, and patience. How embarrassing to ask your tour guide if you can have three hours to yourself to try and schedule a hair appointment in a foreign land because at any moment the white hairline around your face will soon look like a shiny mackerel? (Thank you, Dee.) I started to add on days before or after a tour just to have time for personal grooming. I almost skipped a sacred tomb to get this done. Ridiculous! Something had to change. Vanity and insecurity rear their ugly heads. Preconceived opinions of older people? I’m not there yet, I’m not ready… this can’t be happening. Time to reevaluate.
Continuing on my travel journey, I meet more and more amazing people, old and young. They didn’t know the brown, crazy-curly-haired, previous versions of me, and they had no judgments. I don’t know why this is a surprise to me, but much to my delight I still made friends and enjoyed the company of the younger and older humans that crossed my path, no matter the color of my hair.
I thought I had an open mind before I started this journey. I wanted to see the world. I didn’t realize how much I worried about how the world would see me. With one piece of luggage and a modest budget, I knew there were limits in my ability to change wardrobes (quite a challenge for a Gemini). So what has changed, along with my hair, is my perspective… several times.
My spiritual growth is guiding me to a more authentic life. I find myself staring in the mirror. What am I hiding? Let it go. Why am I ashamed to have gray hair? Let it go. Is it how society perceives older people? Who will be attracted to me? How did I not see this coming? It is time for me to embrace the woman I am and let go of my prejudices. Wait, I’m a Woman? When did that happen, Ma’am? Does that mean the little girl inside me will be gone forever? Will I feel sexy ever again? What will I wear? Will I look ridiculous cave abseiling, dancing like I am a teenager? If I fall, will people laugh or rush to the aid of an older woman? Why do I care? Fear.
In my attempt to gracefully transition: four processes later, I went from garish orange to brassy yellow, to a scary color I can’t even put a name on. Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Dubai… (Experience tip: do not go bleached blonde in a Cambodian side street salon… just sayin’.) Also trying to match the gray is NOT an option; you’ll wind up with major damage and breakage on already over-processed hair. Then there is the guilt as I cheated on my hairdressers in NY: my lovely niece Marissa and beautiful cousin Lenny. I knew there would be major eye-rolling, hands up in the air, and huge sighs when I returned to NY begging for help. Thankfully, I was welcomed home, and they did their magic. I left feeling beautiful, not because they fixed my hair, but because they are professional hairdresser therapists.
The gray, the silver, the white… here they are, in all their glory, all day long. I’m not gonna lie, it has been most difficult for my ego. Still, I wonder why I am kicking and screaming about aging. I know I am no longer young, but not yet old. Time to swallow that denial.
I had no idea this transformation of my hair would render me invisible and cause such a reaction simultaneously. Okay, to be fair, I outright asked everyone for validation, and it wasn’t always pleasant to hear “You’re too young… no way, don’t do it… you look so much older.” I weighed the decision every time I saw my reflection or noticed the difference in how I was treated. Ageism is real and not in a respectful way.
As I mourn the passing of my youthful hair, I am embracing the beauty of wisdom, freedom, and authenticity. No more headache after dyeing. No more anxiety staring in the mirror waiting for the gray to show up and give me up. No more planning my life in 2-week intervals. I don’t want to pretend to be anything but what I am. For me, it is an emotional, mental, and physical adjustment. If you look into my eyes, you will see the girl of 20, still optimistic about life.
Do I sometimes look in the mirror and say… “What the heck are you thinking?” Of course! I am a woman with an ego. Do I want to dye it back to brown? Every day! I also want to eat french fries and not gain an ounce, run a half marathon, and go out for an all-night celebration. I am not ready to be “old.” Just because my hair is “old” doesn’t mean I am. The greater need to be authentic is winning. Play with the gray. Oh, how I love the feel of healthy hair. Transition complete; and when I put it in perspective, this should be my biggest problem.
I realized I went invisible mostly due to my desire to hide as I struggled with my new identity. Did it age me? Yup, my face was long and sad. Who would notice that? Slowly, as I came to peace with my new look, everyone else around me accepted it as well. Once my smile was back, so was the light in my eyes.
Good luck to all you women crossing over. May the course be with you.
“…Excuse me. Have you seen a young woman, lovely figure, strong core, shoulder strong enough to carry the weight of the world, long legs, firm ass, arms that juggled, not jiggled? She was just here a minute ago…”