Since I certainly do not become younger :-), I often find myself dealing with situations linked to my changing aspect. Here is a reflection on resistance to ageing.
I practice Linguistic Empathy and I expect you to do the same. Please bear with me if my English is not perfect.
“Madam, which colour shall we put to your hair”, asks the Milan municipality employee who is making my new ID.
“I don’t know”, I answer, “ash blond?”.
He looks at my hair with a mixture of pity, curiosity and zeal.
“Well, but it’s not ash blond…maybe grizzled air? But grizzled hair is mostly used for men…let me see the options we have”.
He looks at his computer screen while in my mind I go back to what happened the day before. I had boarded a metro train, all seats occupied, and had placed myself reading in front of a young man who immediately stood up and said: “Madam, would you like to sit down?“: Maybe my hair was showing all of its greyness yesterday. I don’t see any other reason why the bold young should think I needed to rest my bones.
When I don’t look at myself in the mirror, I am convinced to appear like I was thirty years ago, but it is obvious that something in me shows that I am well over fifty.
The municipality employee decides: “Madam, I have to write grey, there’s no other option”. Ok, write grey. In the end it’s true, my hair is a bit grey.
It must actually be very grey if friends and relatives regularly look at me with sad eyes and say “why not doing at least sun strokes? You are still young to keep this grey on you…”.
The point is that there are two points: one is that I always run after time because I love doing so many things that one day is never long enough to cover them all. Imagine having to find the time to rush to the hairdresser to cover the hair growth.
The second point, however, is yet more important. It has to do with the fact that I am 56 years old, and in 56 years the body changes. You get wrinkles, grey hair, veins on your legs, you become flaccid…don’t let me go further.
Now I would like to understand: why should we hide this process, which is so natural in the cycle of life? Why this strong resistance to ageing?
Please, understand me. I am not saying this is nice. When I look at myself in the mirror and I no longer see the fresh and smooth face I had when I was young, I am not happy at all. But apart from the fact that I am deeply convinced that age makes us all beautiful in other ways, I really cannot find a single reason to hide what I have become.
This resistance to ageing that I see in many of my friends, and even in older women, does not take my sleep away, but makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Somehow I understand it. And I understand that we all have to find our personal way to appear in the world. And that must be a way that makes us comfortable.
What bothers me, though, is how some of our Western cultures, and certainly the Italian one, give for granted that we have to retouch ourselves. If we don’t do it, we are pitied, criticized, and told in a more or less open way, how we willingly do not care about our aspect.
A while ago I was on holiday at the seaside and I decided to go for a pedicure. The women in that beauty salon all had heavy make up or had undergone breast or face surgery. They did not look younger at all. You could see how desperate they were trying to stop time. I wondered, what is the difference between these women and the hyper criticized ones that wear a veil to hide their hair? Aren’t both victims of a cultural pressure to which they conform?
Certainly, I am free to move around showing my grey hair and what can happen to me at most is that people give me a seat on the bus (which can be even nice sometime), or pity me, but the substance does not change: when I see women spending hundreds of euros to look what they are not, I wonder what is the sense of all this.
And while I brush my grey hair (and I want to stress that it has some pearly shades that everyone envied me in Jakarta, when I went to my beloved Roberto), I tell myself I am happy the way I am: spending my money in books and travels rather than in cremes, nurturing my inner beauty, and letting my body show the signs of the wonderfully intense life I have had so far!