Lent is fast approaching; and, as I have written about before, I really like Lent. It’s hard to describe exactly why I love a penitential season that involves not-necessarily-fun things like fasting, but I do. I enjoy the challenge, the feeling of preparation – of solemnity and sadness followed by rejoicing and gladness…and I appreciate how often Lent lends itself to being a season of personal and spiritual growth.
And that’s what I’ll be trying to do this Lent by giving up…
You know, those little strips of stretchy cloth that can be used to hold back hair from the face. I’m giving them up…but mostly, I’ll be facing one of my insecurities: my gray hairs.
I found my first gray hair when I was seventeen. One day whilst washing my hands in front of the bathroom mirror, I saw a glimmer of something white on my head. Thinking that something had caught in my hair, I reached for it and picked it up in my fingers. My mouth dropped open in shock. Surely…surely…this was not attached to MY head! But it was. And those gray hairs have been popping up ever since.
Now, I don’t mind my gray hair so much in theory. Everyone gets gray hair eventually – it’s a natural part of life. Some people just get it earlier than other people…and I just happen to be a member of that lucky group of “some people.” I’ve always held with the theory that I should be happy with the way that I was made and that I shouldn’t try to cover it up artificially. Which is why I don’t wear makeup…and why I have never dyed my hair. I always want to be happy with me, just the way that I am; because, after all, that’s the way God made me and I guess He’s a better judge than me or anyone else in the world for that matter.
But I’ve been struggling with it when it comes to my gray hair. Hence the attachment to headbands. A lot of my gray hairs grow right next to my forehead (perhaps I’ll eventually have a Rogue from X-men thing going on), so I cover them up with a headband, not so much because I think they need to be covered up, but because I get tired of people commenting on how many gray hairs I have at such a young age.
I have noticed that gray hairs are one of the few imperfections that people seem to have no scruples commenting on. Most people will not point out to a teenager that they seem to have a horrible lot of zits…or to a middle-aged person that they have gotten significantly more wrinkled since they saw them last…but I have noticed that most people seem to have no problem with commenting on a twenty-something’s gray hair. So, whenever I don’t wear a headband, I almost always get comments, which are usually accompanied by someone staring at my head like it’s on display in a museum. And I hate it. And lately, I’ve been discovering that my fear of the comments has been leading me to get attached to my headbands. I never go anywhere without them anymore. Once in a while, I’ll contemplate getting rid of them so that I can do something different with my hair, but it always ends up with me staring at my gray hairs in the mirror, feeling ugly.
And I know that’s wrong – because I’m not ugly – and my gray hairs aren’t ugly. They don’t even age me beyond my years…I am constantly being mistaken for a teenager (a couple of years ago, they even gave me the children’s discount at the fair (despite protests that I was, in fact, older than twelve)). So, there’s really no reason for me to be so anxious to cover them up or to be insecure about them.
That’s why, this Lent, I’m giving up headbands. And in the process, I’ll hopefully be giving up my insecurities…and truly learning to love myself just the way that God made me.