Monday, December 30, 2013

Life Lesson

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I was off for a whole lovely week, spending time with my sister, who drove the two-day trek from Kansas. Between cooking, visiting with friends, and lots of down time, this is one of my favorite Christmases yet. That is, until we went to watch my sister's Alma Mater play in a Bowl Game. Kansas State played (and soundly defeated) Michigan last Saturday and the damn game didn't start until 10.15pm. This means an end time of nearly 2am. Ugh. 

We went to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch, as they were the host of the bowl game. The line was out the door and it wasn't for the football game but for some series of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) matches. It's a bloody sport; it's raw, and the fact that this is the new National past time is disturbing on more levels than I can relate. As my sister left to use the restroom a guy from a nearby table came over and sat down. His table had a "bet" going on that Wendi and I are sisters. Yes, he won that bet. They also had a bet of who was older. "She is, by four years," I replied. He lost that bet, and he also lost any chance of asking me out. Still he pursued and said that it was because of my grey hair that he thought I was older. I just silently looked him in the eye and allowed him to gnaw a bit further on his foot. After he'd realised that he hadn't  made enough effort to backpedal he goes in for the kill, "So, I don't see a ring. How is it that you aren't married?" "It must be because I look so much older than my big sister," I replied sweetly. One would think that would end all conversation. One would be wrong. 

A year ago a comment like that would have derailed me. A hundred comments about how much better I look with silver, how lovely and young my face looks, how my eyes become complex hues of turquoise, green, and periwinkle- all that would be out the window and I would focus on this one little slight from a man I'm not attracted to. I understand why so many women run for the bottle (the dye bottle, that is). Their family member makes a snarky comment, their friends are unsupportive, or some loser watching MMA makes an off-hand remark. All of the sudden, it's just so easy to lose all that confidence and resolve that you built up over the past several months. 

This created an approach for me that I use in all areas of my life. There are three ways that you can approach any and everything that Life gives you: you can deny it, acquiesce to it, or celebrate it. 

We'll use hair dye as an example of how to play this out. You can deny the gorgeous silver that God gave you and cover it up, playing with being a redhead, becoming another blonde in a crowd of fake blondes, or go back to the brunette of your youth. Sometimes it's fun to play with color and creating a new identity (or holding on to an old one) but at the end of the day, it's covering up. I always felt weird when someone complimented my red dye. "Well, I'm a natural ginger, but this is enhanced," I would say sheepishly. What was I taking credit for- zhoojing the dye evenly? Picking the right shade of red? Rocking out a fiery mane? In the end I admitted to myself that I was hiding from what grey hair meant to me, and I simply could not accept that God had prematurely greyed me. 

Acquiescence- ah, this word covers all manner of sins in our lives. I hate this word- it is the word of carelessness and neglect, of not caring and giving up. Yet so many people do this when going grey and that's why there's a stigma that going grey means 'letting yourself go' to so many women. We all know that man or woman who rues their silver hair but says, "Well, at least it takes me no time to get ready now." What?? Why? Why does the color of your hair signify anything about how you care about yourself? I simply hate it when I compliment a lady on her grey and she says, "Now I don't have to spend any time at all on myself! I simply wash and go!" like it's some triumph to not care. What's worse is when someone responds to a compliment on their grey with "Well, I guess I'm not going to color it. I mean, it's just hair and it probably makes me look older but what are you gonna do?" Ugh, acquiescence is a dirty little word. 

That's why the third option is always the best- CELEBRATE it!! When someone compliments you, smile and say 'thank you.' When someone says they don't know if they could be as brave as you are , encourage them and let them know they have options but also support whatever their decision is. When someone insults your grey (directly or inadvertently) stand up for your silver!! I recently had a facebook post of me and my friend, Penny. I captioned it with 'THIS is silver' referring to Penny's and my own ability to rock the silver. Lots of compliments and then one bitchy comment from my stepmother (still dying her hair whatever lacklustre box color goes on sale), "It's called GRAY." So I responded with "Some people choose to hide their gifts from God, others choose to celebrate them. Obviously, I choose to celebrate. If you have a problem with my grey, take it up with God." 

I see this 3-option choice for every scenario in life- you can deny, acquiesce, or celebrate. At one time I would have loved to be 5'8", lithe and athletic, with a perfect slim nose, tanned skin, and straight sable hair. But those aren't the gifts God gave me. I'm petite at 5'2", curvy, with high cheek bones, chameleon eyes, and silver striped hair. I wear flats, I highlight my curves, I love and protect my alabaster skin, and I don a beautiful silver mane. Anyone, especially God, would be proud that I embrace what I have and celebrate. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mini Meet

I have oft-mentioned before the importance of a silver sister tribe. True friendships really do blossom. I think sometimes it takes women aback that there is a society of women celebrating you for being you and just offering support. There is no callousness, no motive, no competition. Sounds a bit Utopian, no? 

Well, it IS Utopian and it's freakin' fantastic. I think that's why Cafe Gray is so addictive because you're around that support all the time. Then in turn you spread that joy around to others. It is not uncommon for me to compliment complete strangers. Silver muses most definitely but when I see a good dye job I compliment that as well. Really it could be shoes, jewelry, clothes, whatever. I probably don't go for more than a day or two without complimenting a random stranger. 

And today I am super excited because I have a mini meet with my first silver sister friend Penny. She was the first silver sister I met in Raleigh and we have had Sheltie play dates, I've spent time with her and her husband, and we give a critical eye to clothes and makeup on each other. She is also a Midwesterner so my bluntness is appreciated rather than snarled at (a rarity in the South). 

FINALLY, someone will take a million pictures (until just one comes out right) that showcases my silver hair. That's awesome because my fanatical obsession with my hair is celebrated rather than having someone quietly slip me their therapist's card, careful not to make any sudden movements around me. Here are a few pics of the day:

What's great is that we can just text each other and meet up for lunch. I LOVE the mini meets we have with all the sisters in the area but coordinating more schedules means more time apart. So it's good to do a small get together to get your fix of silvertude. 

Here are some little known benefits and needs in a silver bestie: 

1) Someone who is honest with you- It is imperative that you have someone who takes a critical eye to your new lipstick choice. All of your colors will change now that you've gone from a warm version of box dyed hair to a cool, multi-hued silver. When you feel low and are heavy in the skunk stripe stage, a silver sister isn't looking at the contrast in your hairline and making you feel self-conscious, she is telling you to pull your hair back to see the change in brightness the silver has against your skin tone. I have literally forced silver sisters once comfortable in their nude lip color into trying some version of red. ALL women have a red (yes you too!!) and it’s just a matter of finding it. 

2) Someone to take pics- Most people are slightly sadistic with the camera. It’s true! They take pictures of you that form odd shadows and make you look like you have a double-chin, wide nose, and bad posture. And even though a silver sister won’t necessarily make you look like a Ford model, they will put you in the best light to showcase your hair. And when you’re awesome enough to grow out your grey, you want nothing more to really showcase how stunning it can look. As you saw in my last post, lighting can make you go from silver to blonde so you really want some good pics of that silver. 

3) Someone to color swatch with- On Café Gray we have a thread called Warm Cool confusion and we painstakingly try to find what algebraic form of season we are. Then we post pics of different colors to see what looks best on us. Again, the lighting. No photo is going to do justice to how your skin or other colors reflect off your silver. And though it is a great alternative, there is no substitute for having a silver sister, a patient silver sister, witness you draped in a million different colors and say what works best for you. Okay, maybe a professional color analyst but we’ll save that for a future post. 

Lastly, it’s just nice to have someone who understands your insecure moments but doesn’t second-guess your decision to go grey. Instead she celebrates it! Anytime the two of us go out people are wondering what was slipped into our drinks to make us have so much fun. But truthfully, it’s nothing but trust, freedom to be ourselves, and true friendship. It makes all the difference have a friend in your corner. That’s a shout out to you, Penny.

Friday, December 13, 2013


I was a tomboy growing up. I was also always out playing with the horses, stray cats, or just making a general mess of myself. I also had an on-going battle with my mom as to how long I could go without brushing my hair- could I get away with it for two whole days? This may seem odd but I had very thick curly hair which got very tangled. It wasn't until my mother received my set of photos for the second grade (many many months later) that she finally cracked down on me. You see, I had managed to convince her that my babysitter would brush my hair for photo day. I also managed to convince my babysitter that my best friend was going to brush my hair. The photos reflected my disheveled appearance: missing front tooth and wild hair. I looked straight out of the Grapes of Wrath. My mother was mortified. 

Needless to say I have always been a bit camera-shy. You know those girls that look like a million bucks anytime someone snaps a photo of them? Yeah, that's not me either. Even with perfectly (or as perfectly as I can manage) coiffed hair I never manage to turn the right angle for the camera. I think 1 out of every 60 photos is pretty decent and those photos will represent me for years at a time.

I had come to a place of acceptance about this until I started going grey. This was the time in my life I became completely photo-obsessed. And thank you, iPhone for making the selfie pic all the easier to take! At first I measured every millimeter of growth. Then as I became convinced the my hair was recessing back into my scalp, I began to take selfies of my grey in different lights, sharing all these photos with my very patient sister who is so far past faking enthusiasm over the subject. This is where I encountered my ongoing war with different lighting. 

Lighting never mattered too much to me as a ginger. Even when my hair photographed traffic cone orange (as I'm realising more and more of my pictures reflect) I really didn't mind. In my version of reality everyone who saw me automatically adjusted their saturation to see the perfect color of red on me. Eye rolls an imminent welcome. So when I was called blonde the other day I was taken completely aback. After all, did I really look blonde? Or was this some 'polite' overlooking my grey? I don't know nor care but I DO care that I was seen as a blonde. That left a bad taste in my mouth and severe annoyance that my silver just "isn't there yet." 

This is when I really understood the importance of lighting. One woman on Café Gray stands out to me as really understanding this and coming to peace with it. She's a makeup artist and has embraced the many shades and hues of her color, celebrating each play of light on her unique shades of grey. I am not so evolved, I still want to look like Tinkerbell's sister Periwinkle. 

So in the past 15 months I have been learning not only the art of the selfie but also in what light to take the picture. Here's what I've found: indoor fluorescent lighting will yellow; overcast lighting outdoors will show brightness; too much direct sun will usually was out your hair and you'll look like a beacon of light is coming from your head; and low lighting will bring out the dark colors making you look like you don't have any grey at all. Here are a couple of snapshots taken within two minutes of each other. The first pic looks yellow and was taken in my office. The second was taken outside two minutes later in the shade on a sunny day.

What a difference all around! Although still not great photos of me, they are in fact great photos of my hair, which is more important in my view. But another thing to remember is that your hair is also picking up color from the dyed ends (mine are pulled back) so that can also impact your photo. Alas, the selfie is still a challenge for the silver sister because color and light are so important.

Ugh, now another thing I need to learn- how to photograph my hair and what is the best lighting. This will be saved for another day. But I hope those of you who are exploring the silver can see what a difference silver makes in giving a fresher appearance. I think my skin and complexion look so much brighter and more youthful now that I've gone silver. Maybe I'm reverting to childhood now, just with brushed hair.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let Me Get Mine

In my former life I was a people pleaser. I loved to make people happy and would expend all my energy on trying to anticipate their needs. I would then feel taken advantage of, put upon, and generally used. 

At my best I wanted people to be happy. At my worst I suffered from hubris and tried to control outcomes and reactions through my good deeds. Most of the time I fell somewhere in the middle and just assumed that the world was full of "givers" and "takers" and I was most definitely a giver. 

Once one gives up such a malady as hubris and creates boundaries (yes, there's that word again- take a drink), there's very little left except to let everyone just live their lives. This goes with family, friendships, and dating. The old me was very attached to the outcome of every date, where it would lead, and future longevity. The present me doesn't think about that stuff. I really just see each date as getting to know someone a bit and seeing if I would like to know more. 

What's strange is that the more I'm just in the moment the more I notice that men are not- they become more needy, they want to know where this is going, they accidentally admit that they told their godparents all about you (ahem, isn't this the 1st or 2nd date??). All-in-all, I find that there are more people pleasers out there than I thought. 

Now that it's been a bit since I've been in a serious relationship, I've had more time to think about myself and my own needs. Sure I date but we're talking serious, all-encompassing love-to-be-loved relationships. I was reflecting upon this the other day when talking to a close friend and I'll summarize (and provide a more pg-rated version) of our discussion. The main point is that I now date like a guy. 

Reason number 3 of why I'm still single: I'm just as concerned of my own needs as I am of my partner's (maybe moreso... okay... moreso). 

Let's take the example of someone whom I've dated for awhile and we're, shall we say, intimate. The old me wanted to snuggle and bask in the moment, never wanting it to end. The new me... not so much. Let's use one of my exes to describe this:

A nice evening spent but then it was time for sleep- I had a meeting in the morning. This would be a perfect time to hug and kiss goodnight but something's wrong- he's not moving! As I yawn and stretch, "Well, another great time... mmm [stretch]... let's maybe get in touch this weekend or next..." 
"Oh wow, it's almost 2am! There's bound to be heavy traffic soon... you might want to get a leg up on that..." 
"Ah you want to stay the night? Wow, what a great idea, I mean normally and all but you see I have a meeting tomorrow and I need a good night's sleep... you see I toss and turn a lot... and whimper in my sleep- I snore! Right, right, I snore and don't want to keep you awake too. Oh, you snore too? Yeah, well I'm a light sleeper and..." 

Finally I cede, knowing that I have lost the battle AND the war, for that matter. And I'm sorry, but unless I am head-over-heels in love with you, I want my own bed. Then, horror of all horrors, he decides he wants to snuggle! Okay, he means this to be all night, WTF? What happened to the men who would overheat at the thought of sleeping at a temperature over 40 degrees? But no, this ex wants to spoon all night. Now I'm starting to sweat and looking wistfully at all that space behind me where he could be sleeping on his side of the bed. I hear him sleeping and lift his arm off and away from me. Whew! That worked now lets' see if I can get some space between us. Oops! Rolled him onto his back and over to his other side but thankfully he's still asleep. Now, really put my back into it and I can scooch him over to the edge of the bed. Maybe he'll fall off or get so cold that he shivers throughout the night (I'm a cover hog). Either way, maybe he won't sleep well and next time go to his own bed for the night. 

Okay someone could say that I'm a bit cold-hearted but still others could say that I'm a kickass girl. I mean, I don't require coddling (or cuddling) and am not trying to force intimacy. Just because we've reached certain stages in our relationship, I'm not expecting it to necessarily mean you're going to be the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. In fact, I'm not jumping to conclusions. Oh... you are? Wow, it's late... yes 6pm... (Really only 6pm? It feels like hours) and I have an early morning meeting...