Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oh, the vanity...

As a small child I had light blonde, shiny, bouncy hair.

Me (3-ish) on the left, my sister, Karen (2-ish), on the right. I had just "trimmed her bangs" that morning.  Nice.

My hair became thicker and darker as I got older. Karen and I spent our summers running around in the sun, which created some lovely natural highlights, but eventually my hair began to resist the sun more and more.

I was probably 7 or 8 here, judging from the snazzy blue spectacles.
This is me at 12, in my first padded bra (obviously a proud moment).
Dissatisfied with the changes in my appearance (and partly, I think, to assert some sort of control over my life), I began to color my hair. It started in junior high school with two streaks of hot pink semi-permanent hair color at my temples (how I wish I had a photo of this!). Through my high school years I dabbled with lemon juice, Sun-In spray, and peroxide straight from the bottle (YIKES!). I began to notice a few gray hairs during high school, but there were only a few, so I just plucked them as I noticed them. No big deal.

After high school I started using box color from the grocery store. I have quite a few natural red-heads in my family, and had always wanted that for myself, so my colors of choice were various shades of auburn. I would change the color almost every time, but generally stuck to the red / auburn / strawberry blonde colors. I felt it worked well with my fair complexion and greenish/ hazel eyes.

The Bogdon clan during my college years - dark auburn. (How did I end up in the middle?)
On my honeymoon - strawberry blonde. (WTHeck was up with that outfit??? Wow.)

In my late twenties, when I was trying to get pregnant, I stopped coloring my hair because I didn't want to use those chemicals during pregnancy.

At my baby shower, "gracefully" growing out my hair. (Still a lot of red on the lower half.)

After my daughter, Ariel, was born I was too tired and overwhelmed to even think about coloring my hair again.  As the mommy-brain fog slowly lifted, I began to notice more and more gray hairs popping up. Too many to pluck. Time to start coloring again. I did it myself for a while, but with a toddler running around, it was difficult to carve out the 2 hours of time for myself, so most of the time it was partially grown out. I hated the way it looked, and the harsh chemicals of the cheap box color were really beginning to damage my hair. Enter: my friend Erin. She is 10 years younger than me, so when I met her I was 33 and she was 23. She was an unmarried (dating my husband's band mate at that time), no kids, beautiful, fresh, edgy/chic, smart, quick-witted wisp of a young woman. And a helluva hair dresser. After we got to know each other a bit better, she agreed to come to my home to give me a good cut and color to freshen up my style (which I have consistant difficulty with). She did an amazing job, and I was so thrilled to have that pampering again.

My favorite style by Erin.  LOVED this cut!

This continued for a couple of years, but as I got busier with Ariel's growing list of activities, and Erin's life changed around, it became harder to make the time to get my hair done. I occasionally visited her at the salon where she worked, but that was difficult, too. I gave up on treating myself to salon visits, and started (sporadically) coloring my hair by myself again. And, again, it was usually half grown out and continually more damaged by the box coloring products.

Box-o-strawberry-blonde hair damage happening here.

Then I met Kristie. Kristie is one of those people that I was immediately drawn to and wanted to get to know. She exudes beauty, light, warmth and humanity. I soon found out that she is also a fabulous hairstylist. BONUS! So after getting to know each other as friends, she finally became my hairdresser, too.

Over the last few years we have played around with lengths, thinning varying amounts of bulk from my hair, bangs of various shapes and styles, keratin treatments to help with coarseness and frizz, a plethora of colors, and occasional highlights. Her hair is similar to mine, so she "gets" it, and always made my hair look great. I am kind of (extremely) lazy about styling my hair, so for me, the more care-free the cut, the better. We also found a shade and color that is the best as far as the roots not being too horribly obvious as it grows out. There is a delicate balance between being light enough that the grays don't glare at me when they start to re-emerge, and dark enough that it doesn't look too "skunky" as it grows out.

Longer and blonde-ish, thinned out and freshly blown-out by Kristie...
Shorter and darker...
Medium-red, longer... (That's Kristie and her husband, John :)

I am, by nature, a shy person, and try to blend in as much as possible (most of the time ;).  I could easily become reclusive, if pushed too hard in that direction.  I am self-conscious about my appearance and my authenticity as a human being, and have relied on my hair as a bit of a mask for both.  I have tended to hide behind it.  As I am aging, I am becoming more self-conscious, physically and emotionally.  (Posting this many photos of myself feels very awkward and scary.)

On the emotional side, I am trying to reach out to people more, on a heart-felt level.  I am looking at my reactions to people, and trying to open myself up to letting love in, and stop judging - both myself and others.  (More on this in other posts to come...)

On the physical side, I am giving thought and consideration to letting my hair color grow out.  I have consulted with Ariel and Michael.  I paraphrase:
  • Ariel says, "Color it.  The gray makes you look old."  
  • Michael says, "Stop coloring it and cut it shorter.   I love the gray and want you to grow old gracefully with me." 
*sigh*  Bless their hearts.

My take on the situation:
  • Keeping my hair colored and the grays covered helps me to pretend that I am still young and fresh.  
  • Contrarily, keeping my hair colored and the grays covered makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. I am 41 years old.  I am most definitely NOT the 16 year old kid that still lives in my head.  
These two opposing view-points battle it out in my head, frequently doused with the hose by the part of me that says, "Oh my GOD, you are so vain!  Get over it!  It's only HAIR, fer Pete's sake!  Get a grip!  There are dogs and children starving in the streets while you agonize over your HAIR!!!  No one cares about your HAIR!!!"

I know I am not the only person to grasp at fading youth.  The beauty industry continues to boom, despite wars and recessions.  But for me, right now, I am trying to focus on living in the moment, being authentic, re-connecting with myself and my family.

So, for now, I am growing it out.  This, of course, is as subject to change as our wonderful Western New York weather...

Last week, at a party with friends.  Hair: Gray at the temples, messy, sweaty, half pulled back, in need of a trim. And me: Oh, so happy. :)

What are your thoughts and feelings about your own aging?  Do you struggle with it or embrace it, and why?  I'd love to hear other view points!