Growing brave at the rate of 3/4 of an inch a month.

6 months work… to here…

 

Yep.  I have silver hair.  Gasp.
Not quite as dramatic from that back…but it’s in there!

 

Although I would hardly call myself brave, I do have a taste for adventure and seem to be able to find my way to it, whether looking or not, but what has many people making mention of my “bravery” has nothing to do with anything that would raise my pulse or the hair on the back of my neck. I have been called brave not for anything I’ve done, but rather for something I’ve neglected to do for the past 8 months.  I quit dying my hair and just as predicted, the tiny white line at my part has been growing into a large swath since last October.  Eight months in and I’m rocking a skunk do.  I’m flattered, surprised and somewhat amazed by people’s response to my “brave act.”  Is what I’m doing really all that brave?  I’m not sure, but I am surprised.  Who knew?  It wasn’t  a solo hike to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain or having to give a speech in class during my freshman year of college with hands shaking so much I had to set my notes down as they were becoming a distraction to myself and the class or anything to do with me and small airplanes and singing out loud to calm my nerves on my first few solo flights.  Nope.  None of that.  It was letting my hair go silver that has me earning my bravery badge.  (I do, by the way, call it silver as that sounds “younger” than gray… so maybe I’m not really all that brave after all…).

My monthly routine of sitting in a salon for a good hour and a half while my roots are painstakingly colored, followed by a wait time for the chemicals to do their work, is something I’ve been doing since I was 40 years old.  Every.  Single.  Month.  Which adds up to almost twenty years….twenty long years in the chair getting my roots painted to match the rest of my hair.  The only exceptions would be the times when I traveled for periods of time longer than a month, when creative cover ups and do it yourself kits would come into play, allowing me to buy a few weeks time before heading back into the salon for damage control.  Once, while on an extended stay in Lima, Perú, I closed myself in a tiny shared bathroom and sat on the toilet while impatiently waiting for the 20 minutes to pass, at which time I could stand under the tiny drizzle of cool water and rinse the dye out of my newly covered roots.  This was no easy feat, especially given that it was a bathroom shared by many.  I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to fess up as to what was taking me so long in there and that it had nothing to do with traveler’s stomach.  I’m not sure which bothers me more today… the memory of my clandestine cover up in the small bathroom or the fact that I shrouded myself in such secrecy.  I went in with gray roots and came out with dark roots.  Seriously.  I wasn’t fooling anyone.

While at my 20 year high school reunion, 20 plus years ago,
OK, I’ve got to pause a minute here… it’s been over 20 years SINCE my 20 year high school reunion???  Holy cow.  Time flies, but hair grows slow.

Anyway, while at said reunion, one of my former male classmates made the comment to me that he was surprised that so many of the men were graying yet hardly any of the women were.  I looked at him in utter amazement and asked him if he really didn’t know that with the exception of  the few lucky ones whose hair just simply wasn’t going to go gray, most of the women in the room were dying their hair.  He looked confused and possibly disappointed and I realized then that I may have just let the proverbial dyed cat out of the bag.  It really is a secret that’s held within the sisterhood of women  who have passed their 40th birthday, otherwise, when going to the salon for my monthly procedure, I would have called it what it was, which was getting my roots dyed, rather than what I wanted people to think, which was getting my hair cut.  It’s like pulling up the dress to show everyone that your core strength has an assistant that’s helping with the flat stomach… an assistant called spanx. Coming clean, fessing up and going a la natural is a heck of a lot easier than having to fake your way through and like my hair stylist, Bill, says that when you go with your natural color, it ALWAYS will match your skin tone.  The gene pool color swatches were already in the works before you were even born and he’s right.  They do match because nature always gets it right, even if it wasn’t exactly what  you had planned on.

I’m finding myself stalking women at the grocery store who have the color of hair that I think I’m going to end up with,  simply for a visual aide for what my hair might end up like.  Sometimes I get too close and they’ll turn around and I swear they give me the tiniest nod of encouragement when they see what I’m growing on the top of my head.  OK, maybe I optimistically made that part up and they’re simply wondering who the creep is that has followed them from the produce aisle to the canned goods, but still, I’ve got to think there’s solidarity within the group for all of us who have let go of the covering up.

I’ve gotten mostly positive comments from friends and family, especially my sister, Robin, who went before me, but have had a handful of people commenting with the predictable,

“Aren’t you afraid it’s going to age you???”

I started getting gray hairs at age 35 and became a regular to the chair at age 40.  If this ages me back to 40, well, bring it on!  But seriously, put your glasses on.  The hair cannot take full responsibility for the aging component.  My face holds a road map of experiences in its lines and wrinkles, each and every one of them earned, although not all of them loved.

I’ve had dark hair for most of my almost 60 years (I went through a bald-headed Eisenhower look the first 6 months of my life),  so to begin to go light, is a pretty dang big deal – big enough that maybe it is an act of hair bravery.  This process still gives me a moment of having to catch my breath when I glance into the rear view mirror while driving and see nothing but silver and wonder who the hell is driving my car.  Exposed.  Vulnerable.  Real.  It’s the real part that’s giving me the nudge to stay with the game.  I wrote a blog post a while back about skiing naked, or at least feeling naked in a vulnerability sense.  This whole ordeal has me feeling slightly unclothed and a little bit stared at, but also kind of proud at the same time.  The slightly unclothed feeling has me texting my girl for confirmation that YES, it IS the right thing.  Thank you, Emery.

Besides the huge savings of time and money, the simple act of leaving the hair dye off the hair has become far more of a freeing gesture than I anticipated.  I’m claiming my age and the side effects that go along with the number, both good and according to some cultural norms, maybe not so good.  That being said,   I have of course reserved my right to a full reversal if the results aren’t what I anticipated, but am doubtful it will come to that, especially after the time I have invested. Unfortunately, for impatient me, this is not a TAH DUH I decided to go silver moment, but rather, is an arduously slow process and even though my hair does grow fast compared to the average, there are times I swear it is growing back into my scalp and will this project ever come to fruition?

So, slowly but surely, I’m transitioning into one more layer of authenticity at the rate of 3/4 of an inch per month.  This I know because I’ve stood at my bathroom mirror with a tape measure in one hand,  an outstretched lock in the other and a calculator doing its magic.  I’ve invested 8 months in this project and probably have another 8 months of two-toned hair before all is said and done and silver.  Call it what you want, but if calling it brave makes this whole process more exciting and please oh please a tad bit faster, than so be it….  I’m a two-toned brave girl.

A big ole thanks to Bill Harding, my supportive, encouraging, wise, and has done this before, stylist.  You got me over the transitional hump.

To be continued…

Knitting love.

 

There was usually a cat tucked in there somewhere…

Although it’s been over 50 years since my grandma taught me how to knit, I can still feel her presence every time I pick up my needles.  I’m right back on her scratchy, bumpy couch, tucked in tightly under her arm while she’d guide me through the process of moving the yarn from one red plastic needle to the other.  It was magic to me; long pieces of yarn growing into something I could hold in my hands and maybe even wear on my head.  Grandma was left-handed and I was right-handed so the whole learning process was backwards and terribly confusing until I gave up on trying to learn right-handed from a left-handed teacher and simply learned the way my Grandma taught me.  Left-handed.

Last year I wrote a blog post about hands and how they are the keepers of so much of our history.   Knitting is the ultimate in hand thinking.  In their callouses, scars and imperfections lie the very rich history of creating,  which only becomes richer with experience.   Grandma’s arthritic fingers moved my young hands through a process that has become refined over many years with a lot of trial and error with things I’ve created and am very proud of and a host of projects that went the other direction and are still shoved into the back of the closet waiting for me to fix them.

It wasn’t always cool to be a knitter and the patterns available were proof as most of the end products were nothing you’d ever want to wear.  Thankfully, it has become hip and yarn stores and pattern choices are much more readily available.  Much to my surprise, there is a knit in public day in April, or KIP for those in the know, a knitting awareness week in October and a national knitting night in November as well as societies for right handed knitters, left handed knitters and a day set aside for those who love yarn.  Yea, I know… and no, I’m not a member, of any, but you’ve got to love a serious knitter.

My knitting skills started off with long strips that were made into headbands and graduated over the years to a constant stream of sweaters for my babies and toddlers.  After sitting out for several years, when I did pick up my needles again in my late twenties, I re-taught myself to knit right handed, which was much easier and far less complicated when trying to follow right handed instructions.

It has always been nurturing for me and maybe that’s because of who taught me more than what she taught me.  Seriously, I would have learned algebra at age 8 if it meant getting to be squished together on a scratchy couch with my grandma leading the lesson.  Although the hopeful outcome of a wearable woolen is what gets me to the yarn store in the first place, it truly is more of a process than product situation for me.  I’ve ended up with a lot of almost finished projects that were either way off on size or simply didn’t end up to be the project I had in my mind.  The only exception were the many baby and kid sweaters I knitted, which always ended up being the right size, at one point or another because my kids did grow and if it started out too small, there was a younger one waiting in the wings.  When my oldest was 4 or 5 he asked me when he could stop wearing the sweaters I knitted and start wearing sweatshirts like all the other kids.  And that was the end of that.  All energies then went to the daughter, who hung in there a long time with my hand knitted sweaters for her.

Everyone who knits has a story and usually those stories are about projects, both the success and the failures.  Sadly, my story is one about how my own knitting caused me tremendous public embarrassment and taught me the lesson on the importance of keeping your knitting supplies, ie yarn, a bit more organized. I know when you drag toilet paper on your shoe when you come out of a bathroom it’s called a tile comet, but what’s it called when you unknowingly drag yarn from a knitting project from your car, all the way down the sidewalk, about 3 feet high, unknowingly setting up a makeshift boundary line that’s not crossable?  And to add to the fun,  there was a sidewalk sale going on so cautious shoppers were mindful of the boundary that I unknowingly put into place while I went into a bakery to get a sandwich. Of course I, also, was being respectful of the “roped off area” as I returned to my car, until I realized it was coming from my car…and this was no short piece of yarn.  Unfortunately, the yarn boundary ran the better part of the south side of Corinth shopping center.  I’m a messy knitter who learned her lesson through embarrassment.

This meditative movement of slipping stitches made of yarn from one needle to another, hopefully yielding something wearable, is far more about the history that connected me to it in the first place than anything else and that was my Grandma, and the many hours spent next to her learning.  I didn’t care if what we were knitting was wearable or not as in my 8 year-old eyes, we were knitting love.  Plain and simple.