Back in the spring, I read a post by my dear life coach friend, Jenn Schindel, called Going Gray in Plain Sight
. It pinged something in me, but not for the gray reasons. I had been reconciling with my changing larger body through my work unraveling diet culture, but across decades my hair had always been my rooted place that I didn’t need to touch. Accepting the fact that my hair too could shift was something I wanted to delay for as long as possible. Come June, Jenn posted Tell me Your Story
, and I was hurtled into a healing self-reflection on why changing hair was in fact a living story inside me.
So, ok, Jenn. Here is my hair story for you.
I am a natural redhead. I came out this way. My mother and brother are redheads as well as half of my cousins. When my children were born, I asked while they were crowning about their hair, knowing full well I married a Filipino man and the chances were slim to none that they would don the same flame that I do.
My hair is like my stamp, my family seal. It has been a part of the definition of me for my whole life. My clothing size has changed. My shoe size changed. My style changed. Hell, at some point I changed my hair, but only to add extra orange to that flame my sassy years after college.
Recently, someone sent me a picture from 10 years ago. My hair. It looked so vibrant. I realized, while yes, I am going gray in small patches, who cares? I am more worried about going DULL. What the fuck happened to my beam of light? It is turning… ordinary.
Growing up, I could hate my body. I could change clothing sizes and distract myself from the body shame and self-loathing with the bright distraction of my hair.
Why yes, it is natural. Thank you for saying that it is so beautiful. Yeah, I didn’t do anything to get this, it just comes in this way.
Even that fat comment I got in college (yeah the one I swore wouldn’t pierce me but it did, how could it not?) I could temporarily ignore it and brush it off my shoulder with each hair toss and compliment I got about my hair.
I didn’t do anything to deserve these compliments. But, my hair brings them to me with no payment needed, no strings attached. It’s an external reflection of my inner truth and the truth for each of us. I too, at any size, shape or state of being, get to receive love and acknowledgement of my unique beauty.
The bright fire that beams off of my scalp reflects the aries fire in my core. I can be bold and independent. I can be bright and loud. I can be impulsive and unpredictable. I can be direct and intense. I can also be warm and nurturing. I can provide spark and inspiration. I can clear shit out and transmute it like no other.
What happens when I go dull? What happens when my flame goes out? What complements are left? My body, according to societal standards, has gone to shit. My belly flops outward and down. My arms wiggle with every wave. My hips have spread too wide for most standard sizes. My eyes show the forgetful neglect of lack of eye cream and hydration. My skin is spotted with infinite deep erratic lines.
I’ve done the work to un-program diet culture. It is not perfect. Sometimes, I am simply neutral about my body. Other days, I have negative, shitty thoughts, but I remind myself it is not my fault and not the programming I choose to partake in any longer. I can eat based on hunger and taste cues rather than caloric and societal cues. I can finally hear my body again.
But sometimes I am still pissed at and distrusting of my changing body. Why today did it take more effort and coordination to get out of that hammock than I remember. Why the fuck do I have to stretch my calves so much? I never had to do all this before. Why do the first steps out of bed ache and take some warming up for me to find my stride? Why can’t I read in the dark like I used to? What are these glasses and why do they actually help? Why am I not as strong as I used to be? I never used to second guess lifting heavy shit. Am I really paying to size my wedding rings up, am I settled here in this size body? And what the fuck, I can’t run more than once a week or my hip acts up. Who have you turned me into, body?
The other day, I actually saw my downward angled belly crease in the mirror and found love for it. I saw the beauty in every fold, as gorgeous as the Birth of Venus’. Could I ever find beauty in dull brown red hair? Red hair tends to go brown with age. This is all just normal aging. But, please please, don’t take this part of me that brings me my unique flame.
For now, it is fall and my hair still runs bright for now, super charged by summer solar power. And come winter, I have to give space to this thought, that who I thought I was may no longer be and maybe never actually was. Somehow, my internal flame will still burn.
You’re right Jenn, it is not about the hair. It never was.
Space to Enjoy is my real-life reflection and self-healing publication that has migrated from Medium over to Substack in May 2023. If you know someone else who might resonate with Space to Enjoy, please subscribe and share