The Fast Forward Effect

by Gigi Ross on February 11, 2013

going grey

He had just come over for a quick hug while I was working at the computer.

“Mom,” he said, “You have gray hairs right near your ears.”

He didn’t need to tell me.

I had spotted them the day before, when I pulled my hair back into a ponytail to walk the dogs.

I noticed that the hair near my temples looked unusually streaky blond. “Face framing,” the hairdressers call it.

But as I leaned closer to the mirror and turned my face to the side, I could see that it was not face-framing blond highlights that had caught the light. It was gray hair.

My shoulders sagged like everything else on my forty-four year old body does now.

Why was this gray hair different?

I’ve been coloring my hair to cover gray on the top of my head for at least ten years. When I noticed my first few strands of gray, I chuckled about it and brushed it off. I had plenty of time to worry about being salt and pepper, being old(er). I was 34 and life was good.

A few months ago, I noticed that the strands at the top of my head have started to be more of a bumper crop. I realized I couldn’t wait 10 weeks between hair appointments anymore, and moved on. No big deal.

That the gray hairs have taken up residence on another part of my head should not be a big deal, either.

But they are.

They’re a very big deal.

After Boy Wonder made his astute observation, I walked over to the nearest mirror.

I thought, I’ve entered a new stage of aging.

I don’t really know if there are official stages to aging, but it feels like I’ve entered a new one. One I don’t like.

I’d like to be one of those sunny-dispositioned midlifers: the ones that say things like “embrace your age and your wrinkles and your cellulite! They’re a sign of a life well lived!” and “You’re only as old as you believe yourself to be!” That tell you not to sell gray hair short.

I’ve tried mightily to make that attitude adjustment, but I can’t help but feeling more Eeyore than Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; more Debbie Downer than Diane Keaton or Meryl Streep or Betty White.

I’m only as old as I believe myself to be? Is bullshit, thankyouverymuch.

On the inside, I believe I’m  seventeen. Better than I was at seventeen, in fact: I’m full of wisdom and knowledge of my own feminine wiles, waning as they may be.

On the inside, I believe I can still rock a side pony. Wear funky eyeshadows. Pull on a miniskirt. Be totally legit busting some moves to Ke$ha.

But the truth is, I feel a little ridiculous doing most of those things. And I probably look ridiculous, too. I’ll sport the side pony at home and blast Ke$ha when no one’s listening, in places where my face doesn’t defy my true age. I said last year that I’d become the walrus, and it’s kinda true.

These are painful pricks at my ego, tiny needles that jab me every day and prevent me from embracing these changes that I cannot stop, I cannot permanently hide, I cannot ignore.

Most of these jabs are tolerable. It’s not the living in the now that makes aging so hard. It’s the fast forward effect.

I think about the fact that when Little CEO is my age, I’ll be 81.

I think about whether I’ll be cool enough for her to want to take shopping when she’s seventeen. Or will I just seem prudish and way too uptight?

I think about how I want to be a fun grandparent, and then wonder if I’ll even be alive to see my children have kids of their own.

I know these are things I shouldn’t think about. I know it’s pointless.

All I can do is hope that someday, I come to a place of acceptance: this is how it was meant to be.

I call my hairstylist and tell her to change my appointments to once every four weeks.

Because the gray hair isn’t going to get me down yet.


Connie @ Real Food Family Meals February 11, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I’m glad you’re not getting down on yourself about the gray hair. I’ve had to color my hair since I was 25 – going gray at a young age just runs in my family. I have resorted to doing my own hair coloring at home so that I don’t go in debt to pay my hairdresser.
It is hard when you see evidence of your age; I am also over forty. Have you had to pull small print AWAY from you in order to read it? That makes me feel old:)

Debra February 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

I’ve colored my hair since I was a teenager, so I wouldn’t even know what color it would be at this point, but as soon as I see a gray hair popping up I check my appt book for a trip to the salon. I find my gray hairs are more wiry than the rest, they’re getting a little restless too I guess!

Trying Mommy February 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

I have found a few grey hairs in my time. The last one I was strangely attached to and proud of in a way. It was my first one that was full length, and then my daughter saw it and yanked it off my head. So first and last attachment to a grey hair I guess, from now on I will probably approach them with that same begrudging feeling. I find myself always thinking about how old I will be when my children have children and just hope I can be one of this hip (but not embarrassingly hip) and fun little old ladies and that my children will be my best friends even in my old age.

julie gardner February 12, 2013 at 12:06 pm

My issue isn’t with gray hair; it’s with the skin under my chin and on my neck.

When I look in the mirror, I see my mother’s throat reflected there.

So I stopped looking in mirrors.
It helps. Kind of.


SurferWife February 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

The secret? Is called Stacy at Aesthetically Pleasing Med Spa. :)

Which reminds me… I need to schedule my dermaplaning abrasion right now.

Melissa Burton February 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Did you know that my 43rd birthday is in two days and how appropriate this post is for me right now?

I’ve had a few grey hairs over the years and since I’m such a commitment-phobe about hair dye, I’ve never done a thing about it. However, since I turned 40 I think those grey hairs are exponentially multiplying!

I had a bit of a wake-up call at my last salon appointment when they asked if I was interested in color “to blend in the silver”. The silver?! Silver is for shoes not for hair!!

My husband thinks grey hair is sexy on women, I do not. I’m contemplating a proposal to my stylist very, very soon.

Jay February 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Obviously men are a bit different about appearance. The world is kinder to us. I used to laugh and my grey hair too. Now, I still don’t mind it but it does remind me that I am getting older and I too wonder what I will be like, or even if I’ll be alive when B is my age. When my Dad was my age now, I was graduating from High School. That thought astounds me for so many reasons. It is interesting though how waiting util later in life to have kids is changing parenting.

Sorry for rambling. Maybe I have a piece of writing to do myself. But for now, I got to get B from school.

Chris Carter February 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Yup. Just colored my greys last night… a new color too- I needed a change and I got one by the help of a friend and “nice and easy”… and that’s just it. That’s how I am trying to roll…”Nice and easy”. I am learning to take life’s little punches with a sigh instead of a scream. I HAVE NEVER changed my blonde color- always tried to “stay natural as possible please!”… and I am sitting here with an almost BROWN color and bangs of some weird nature. Mid forties is soothing to me. Accepting to me. Surrendering. And in a calm kinda way- just trying not to try as much any more… to fight the good fight. Not giving up. More giving in. That’s what I call beautiful. Living.

Mary @ A Teachable Mom February 12, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Right there with you, sister! Loved every word of this! I also think of myself as a young, hot woman and am shocked at times when I look in the mirror and see my encroaching wrinkles and gray hairs. Love the “pricks to my ego” paragraph – beautifully crafted and oh so relatable. Well done.

Susi February 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I’ve colored my hair in and off for a long time and I’ve had grey in my hair since I was 22… I am now almost 34 and I’ve lightened the color I use to dye my hair so the greys don’t show up as fast. It runs in the family, ugh, – my uncle was almost completely grey by the time he was 35.

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