Look around you. Go on, have a good look. Perhaps you will observe a new phenomenon that has reared its head – literally. Some of us, of both genders, are embracing our silver hair. That men have done this is nothing new, terms like “silver fox,” “sophisticated,” and “refined,” have been liberally applied to silver haired men as long as I can remember, after all, having hair to silver is a male accomplishment vs losing hair.
This differs for many of the women claiming their silvers. Instead, this decision seems to trigger a recoiling reflex, both in the woman embarking on this journey, and in society at large. Some of the negative terms used for women who choose to allow their silvers to shine evoke deeply held fears. Women in our youth obsessed culture have been conditioned to believe that should they allow their silver to grow, they will look “invisible,” “haggard,” “tired,” unfashionable,” or worst of all, “old.” These same women have usually worked tirelessly, investing in coloring products and services for years on end to avoid feeling that way. Personal timelines, personal health concerns, personal development, maturity, and self-acceptance may all contribute to the personal decision a woman makes to embrace her silvers. Initially though, this is a decision fraught with terror.
Why? Why is this anyone’s business but ours? One dynamic might explain why this decision is both so terrifying, individually and collectively, and so transformative. We all remain embedded in a youth obsessed society both bolstered and fueled by media of every ilk, and yet, if fortunate, we continue onwards on a life path that moves us away from youth – every day. The cognitive dissonance required to remain blind to that dynamic contributes anxiety fueled investments in avoidant experiments. We invest our time, earnings, and efforts to hide our silvers, our wrinkles, or other “defects.” Aging as defect.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we should abandon our desire to look our best. I’m not even saying plastic surgery and/or hair-dye are evil things. Instead, I’m asking us to look at what fuels our anxiety around aging, sometimes to our detriment. Noting the difference between male and female fertility may hold a clue.
After all, men are able to procreate well after they go silver, whereas women, perhaps not so much; even though many of us went silver while still mightily fertile. I would argue that this anxiety is grounded in profound misogyny. Why is a woman’s worth tied to her fertility alone? What is so scary about a woman who isn’t fertile? What about women who choose to be childless? And, most importantly, why is a woman of age so terrifying? What powers might we gain? What transformations might we engender, if women decided to embrace the emerging crone?
Crone! Did you wince? Crone! Why did you wince? Crone… This is a powerful word. The crone is the wise woman of old. She is considered the mature aspect of Mother Nature who is replete with the wisdom and compassion only gained through having lived. She is the one who discovers meaning and purpose and strength as her mature expression of the feminine. The crone holds, enfolds, and maintains connection.
Might it be transformational to embody some of these qualities? Perhaps by making the decision to allow our silver tresses their freedom to grow we are also allowing ourselves the freedom to grow in self-compassion; to hold ourselves more tenderly, and to allow ourselves to walk ever more authentically on our individual life paths.
Maria Yearout, MA