In Europe and Mexico, younger women and men of all ages regularly offer me their seats on buses and metros. I usually refuse, although at home in New York City, I’m always a little miffed when no one bothers to make a place for me. Yet cashiers never balk when I ask for a senior ticket at the movies or in museums. At first I was surprised: how do they know, I wondered. But of course it’s the gray hair, along with the wrinkles and sagging skin that now mark me.
I first decided to let my hair be gray fourteen years ago, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was on the road, blindly driving north with my laptop, my passport, two cats, and a friend beside me when I knew it was time to let nature run its course. For some ten years before that, I’d been religiously dying my hair dark brown or black, visiting a hair salon every four to six weeks for long hours of “treatments,” compulsively keeping my hair in a meticulously trimmed pixie cut. But the storm emphatically taught me how life can definitively change us: we are transformed, sometimes in an instant, both internally and externally, by our experiences–and I no longer wanted (or needed) to hide that change. I enjoyed letting my hair return to its natural colors, and took pleasure in the new measure of respect some people gave me. Continue reading “Embracing Elderhood by Joyce Zonana”