The Old Woman in the Shower

I have a lot of hair. There’s a filter in the shower but with the volume of hair that falls out as a natural progression, there’s an inevitable clog every few months. A couple of years ago I bought a snake from Home Depot, and every few months I use it in the shower. The first time I ever did it, back in the Massachusetts condo, I was horrified to find what looked like a giant black rat. It wasn’t a rat but a huge cluster of hair. Now I know to expect it and laugh whenever I clean out the drain.

Over the years I’ve lived in California, I’ve gradually dyed my hair lighter so it wouldn’t be jet black with gray roots. It was dark brown with roots, then medium brown, then light brown. The sun helped to lighten it too. And each time I’d pull out the clog I’d notice it getting gradually lighter.

Recently though when I cleaned the drain, there was a mass of gray hair. What the hell? I instantly thought of the woman in Stephen King’s, The Shining, the woman in the bathtub that scared the life out of me when I was a kid. I held it, confused. I was aware that I’d decided to stop dying it and let it go natural. The quarantine triggered this because I could let it grow out without seeing anyone at work. And honestly it’s been a relief. I used to be so insecure about my roots showing, and before any event I’d have to buy a box and dye it. Letting it grow out with its natural gray color is freeing. Because the underneath is black with gray, and there are stands of white, and light and dark brown, and crazy curls, it looks pretty cool. Whenever I go anywhere people compliment me. This always surprises me and makes me happy. Men, women, young and old, stop me in stores and say they love my hair. So that’s the good part.

But then there’s the reality of seeing it in a slimy handful from the drain. More gray than not. Old woman hair. When I saw my wedding pictures I thought, “Well, that’s who I am now. This is the real me, my real, fluffy, untamed hair.” There was one Facebook poster who said, “Dye your hair. You’re too young to look like that.” And it stung for a second but then I thought “WhatEVAH,” and instead thought of how happy I felt, finally, in my own skin. And anyway, I’m not too young to look like that because that’s what color my hair is, like it or not. And everyone else complimented me on the wedding photos because they DID look nice. The photo above is from a few minutes ago, what I actually look like when I’m just hanging around the house.

I got some new crayons yesterday and was drawing this evening since I can never resist trying out fresh crayons, reveling in the smell of them, the whoosh sound the paper makes against my fingers, the waxy smoothness as the colors transform a white page to a story. I drew this picture, a Carly in the box. Sometimes I feel like the picture on the front of the box, then, crank, crank, crank, BOOM out pops this old woman.

Ryan said it was silly and I don’t look like the Carly in the box at all and I have natural beauty. That’s why he’s my husband, because he’s nice like that. More and more though, I do feel pretty even without makeup, even when my hair is a little all over the place and gray. Before I moved out here, I would never, ever, leave the house without makeup. I remember my mom putting her makeup on before bed so my stepdad would wake up to her “beautiful” face. I never did that but more often than not would “put on my face” before Ryan got home from work. My exes rarely saw me long without makeup. It was part of who I was then, and my actual face was never enough, not for me.

Maybe it’s another side effect of the quarantine, but I wear makeup less and less. I used to see women without makeup in stores and think, “I could never do that.” But lately I wonder why. This is who I am, and this is my face, and my hair, and my body. I’m the same on the inside, that has never changed. I just feel better about the outside now. Maybe it’s my age, or Ryan’s acceptance of me, or the year-long stay-at-home order.

Maybe it’s the inner artist that has burst out of me, that’s caused me to feel alive and content in a t-shirt and shorts, a red bandana in my hair and grout caking my fingers. Why is it that I feel prettier and more fulfilled when I’m eyeing a giant mosaic on the outside wall, band-aids on my fingers from broken tile, my cheeks red from the California sunshine, than when I weighed a lot less, and had Clairol brown hair, lots of makeup, and fancy cocktail dresses?

I like this acceptance of myself. I’m losing weight to live longer and be healthy, not because I hate the feel of me. Not because I had more worth then, even if some people thought so. I’m not 100% anti-makeup of course. I have some insecurity, like a lot of people. I feel better with eyeliner and lip gloss. But I don’t feel ugly without it and that’s been a big step for me. This other picture is from earlier tonight. This is how I feel on the inside, most of the time. Even if my photo shows me different, this smiley girl surrounded with sunshine and flowers is who I am at fifty-two, just below the surface.

To loving who were are

-Carly G

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