Hair color and pattern are genetic traits so I have always known how my hair will look when I get old. My mother started going gray when she was in her early twenties. She now has a beautiful head of white hair ~ as did her mother. I definitely had strands of gray in my early twenties, increasing from the front to the back as every decade passed.
I started coloring my hair in my mid-thirties. It was easy ~ a $5 box of Clairol and I was good to go. It changed my outward appearance just a little. Made me look my age, rather than a few years older. After a couple of years I threw caution to the wind and dyed my hair bright pink. That was fun but it wore thin pretty quickly. After that I went back to auburn brown but kept a pink streak in the front. Eventually I got tired of the two color dye job, gave up the pink streak and was content to be an anonymous brunette.
The great thing about hair is that it grows out. That is also the drag of it, when you color your hair; always dealing with the racing stripe. For blondes, it’s the dark roots. For older gals like me, it’s the silver shining through.
Several years ago I stopped coloring my hair. I wanted to see how much gray there was and I just wasn’t bothered enough about it to put forth the effort of maintaining the color. I let it get a pretty good grow-out and then cut it short. I really liked it! I liked it short and I liked it gray.
That was when I truly became aware of the invisibility factor.
Old people, especially women, are invisible in our society. We are not valued in our youth-obsessed culture. I was surprised at how people’s eyes just slid over me as if I wasn’t there. I have always enjoyed/suffered attention from oglers – not that I am fabulously beautiful, just pretty and friendly. Oh, and I have big tits. I was surprised when that stopped happening; and surprised at how immediately it stopped. (As an aside, I was talking with two of my best friends about this and they said it is the same for large women. They feel completely invisible unless they are an object of scorn.)
So, I was mulling this over yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day and I left work a little early to walk home. I walked through the Portland State University neighborhood, and past St Mary’s Academy (a catholic high school for girls). I was part of the stream of pedestrians going about their business but at the same time, not part of it. When surrounded by college or high school age students, it is obvious that I am much older. I am already fading into the background.
I was thinking about it especially because my 50th birthday is coming up and it’s a good time to assess one’s life. I have decided to cut my hair again and let it grow out to its natural color. I’m not going to cut it quite as short as the last time – I’m thinking chin length – but definitely going back to gray/white/silver. I’ve been coloring it of late so that I don’t look so much older than my girlfriend. But, I’m getting over that. I know we’re the same age; I don’t care all that much what other people think.
I’m prepared to become invisible again. One can get away with a lot when nobody pays attention to you. I may take up a life of crime! More likely, I will continue my self-appointed task of observing and reporting on life. It’s easier to do so from the periphery. And more comfortable knowing that no one is looking back at you.