I look in the mirror and it is difficult to recognize my reflection. I see a woman with salt and pepper hair. There is a crevice that is developing smack in between my eyes. Age spots are beginning to dot the landscape of my cheeks.
When the gray strands began to appear in my 40’s I simply pulled them out. Yank! I could go back to living in denial. A few years later, I determined that too much gray meant I would look like an old hag. Down the aisles of hair color products I would tromp trying to find just the right magic potion. This worked for a while until gray prevailed, and it got harder and harder to cover it up. Yes, I could go to the salon and have professional coloring done. But, in reality, I’m too cheap. I’m also, in many ways, a no fuss, no muss lady.
I never tried the wrinkle creams. I’ve been blessed with senile acne and this would make it worse. My dermatologist announced this meant acne that continues into older age. Now, that’s just a cruel trick that life has played. Now I have graying hair, wrinkles and zits! My vanity is surely being revealed.
So, I decided to just to go with it au naturale. Then low and behold, an issue of one of my favorite magazines had a bold and glossy advertisement for an over the counter hair color designed to cover up the most resistant gray. I found myself tearing out the ad. As I went grocery shopping, the hair color section kept calling my name. But, I resisted. The urge felt like my battle of trying to ignore the candy basket filed with chocolates in my office.
Would I have this struggle to stay looking young if I were aging in another era? Is this obsession in society over maintaining a youthful look part of baby boomers’ need to live life to the max? Seems to me that older women who walked this path before me never had the struggle to slither out of their favorite pair of blue jeans and exchange them for the polyester pants with the elastic waist.
Yesterday, I roamed the mall. I felt irritation as I entered store after store designed for young, if not teen, women and girls. Skirt lengths were skinny mini and blouses were very low cut. Showing your midriff is now the cool look. I would like to stay somewhat stylish, but my varicose veins and sagging skin are not something that everyone wants to view. I make my way into the larger department stores thinking that maybe there are clothes there that might fit my bill. I find a huge gulf—either they are runway real life unwearable or down right frumpy. I imagine designing my own line of classy everyday wear for the more mature woman.
I guess that deep inside I feel angry that I am aging in a time that is all about “anti aging.” At 61 years, I have certainly outlived many women who lived at the turn of the century. I “should” be thankful for my longevity. My grandmother died at 101 and one day. I’m told that I am a carbon copy of her. So, if I live that long or older, I had better find a way to make peace with my soul.
Where do I turn for wisdom? Not many women have walked through this amount of societal pressure to hold back aging. I turn to the Word. Proverbs 16:31 tells me that
“Gray hair is a crown of spendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 20:29 says “The glory of young men (and women) is their strength; gray hair is the splendor of the old.” C.S. Lewis writes that “autumn is really the best of seasons, and I’m not sure that old age isn’t the best part of life.”
“Acceptance” can be a word that is hard to swallow, but it is one that can bring peace. Reframing my own beliefs about older age and looking older will be crucial to my living this next chapter of life well. I can choose to allow the prevailing remain-forever-young culture to scratch at me, or I can celebrate my age and be a role model for the women who follow after me. The choice is mine and mine alone. I think I’ll have a party to thank God for my healthy body and sound mind. Who cares what I look like or wear. I’ll just let my soul dance, sing and celebrate the fact that I am blessed to have another day to live.
Kathy Milans is a member of the Soul Care Collective Steering Team and is a regular contributor to our collective.