6: Selfie

6: Selfie

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom


Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.

~Rosalind Russell

I plucked it. In spite of the old wives’ tales or the superstition that three would sprout in its place, I took the tweezers and pulled.

I had to. The strand of curly grey hair that poked skyward was too obvious nestled among my straight, chestnut-brown tresses.

Curly grey hair? Was that what was going to become of my locks? It was two inches long when I stretched it out. I wondered how long it had been there, silently marking time.

Underneath the discovery of my first grey hair was a sense of calm, of acceptance, the next step. For this, credit goes to my mother.

While other moms were running to the drugstore, or consulting with their hairstylists over how to “naturally” cover the grey, I watched my mom’s hair evolve from black, to pepper with a side of salt, salt with a dash of pepper, and finally to what it is now: an all-over silvery grey.

Of course in my early years I was irked. Everyone else’s mom had “normal” hair, so why didn’t she? “Too fake,” was her response.

True, but the other moms didn’t look like clowns. The browns, auburns, blonds and reds complemented their skin tones and gave them a bounce in their step… at least that’s what the commercials promised.

“Okay, but can’t you get contacts?”

“Then I’d have to do something with my eyebrows.”

“You should pierce your ears.”

“Too painful,” she replied.

It was a beauty argument I couldn’t win. She was set on being as natural as possible. Even on the occasions when she went out with my dad, the pallet of eyeshadow sat undisturbed beside the lipstick and perfume on her dresser. I didn’t even know why she bought them.

Never watching my mom fuss over her appearance has been the biggest blessing of my life. While other moms were taking their daughters for make-up lessons, perms and obsessing over morsels of food, my mom was cheering me on from the sideline during soccer, having coffee breaks the minute we got to the mall, silently teaching me balance before it was trendy.

In spite of her own feelings about beauty, my mom allowed me to explore the subject on my own: taking me to get my ears pierced when I was ten; never saying a word when I left the house wearing way too much mint green eyeliner; and laughing with my friend Meredith about whether I actually had eyebrows anymore. Thankfully the latter has sorted itself out.

But the truth remains, whatever I experimented with beauty-wise was just that: an experiment. I never did anything to make myself feel better, or cover up an inch of skin; completely the opposite: I tried things on as one would snakes—for shock value.

And my shock value wasn’t like other people’s shock value. Sure, while I was in my early twenties I got a tattoo, pierced my navel and dyed my hair fire-engine red. I never tried on an actual snake, never felt the need to spend millions on make-up, never wished I were someone different.

Because of my mom, and like my mom, I believe in natural beauty, the kind of beauty that comes from fresh air on cheeks, and eyes that are sparkly from mischief and adventure.

Now that she’s a granny and I have three daughters of my own, her nonchalant approach to aging makes me feel safe. There’s never a question or a worry that she’ll say the wrong thing or push my girlies down a bumpy path of self-criticism. I love her for that.

Today I stared in the mirror examining the roots of my thirty-seven-year-old hair, wondering how much longer the brown will reflect back at me. If I’m completely honest, there is a part of me that wonders if I’ll be able to carry a head of grey (possibly curly) hair. But when the wondering gets too much, all I have to do is look at my beautiful mother and know I’ll be just fine.

~Alison Gunn

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