Gray Hair and Aging

We live in a nation that has a terrible phobia of aging.  Our youth-centered values saturate the media on everything from cars to clothing and entertainment.  Since the 1920′s, “the age of gin and flappers,” we have increasingly shunned the idea of growing old, even if gracefully, and the result is that youth and their aged counterparts have become more separated than ever before.

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: TV personality Jon Stewart, winner of the Outstanding Variety Talk Series for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", poses in the press room at the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

In centuries before the 20th, young people mingled more with their elders, because often grandparents ended up living with their children, so that the household was a blend of generations.  Also, travel was quite a different challenge in that riding a horse or taking a carriage was not usually a spur of the moment decision. Entertainment was at home, whenever there was leisure time. Music, games, and conversation were much more multi-generational, out of necessity. Nowadays, teenagers seem desperate to escape their homes to be anywhere but with their older family members. Though there has always been the phenomenon of youth seeking its own identity through distancing itself from elders during teen years, that separation was not as pronounced until the 20th Century.  It has now become almost a chasm.

helen-mirren

Perhaps behind our terror of growing “old” is a fear of death itself, which in our time seems, to many, more of a finality than in previous centuries, when an afterlife was more of a reality in general belief than in modern times.  Today our associations with all things “chic” are connected in some way with the beauty, energy, and health of being young.  Too few images of contented elders are shown in the media. We tend to see being aged as the end of a journey instead of a journey in itself, one that can provide time, not just for rest, but for further exploration on one’s own terms and at one’s own pace.

ted-danson

I resent ads that speak of getting rid of gray hair as though it’s some kind of cancer that will prevent participation in the modern world and any kind of happiness or respect by others.  People with gray hair are not lepers.  This morning I read about studies being done in England and Germany toward a “cure” for gray hair. Cure? Growing old is not a disease, but the article suggested that it was, and that not having gray hair would bring back a flaming youth and happiness that would otherwise not be possible.  What rubbish!  Sexiness is wonderful in its place, but so are things like experience, character, and wisdom, all of which gray hair can represent.  And who says that someone with silver hair can’t be sexy anyway?

another-aging-beauty

Almost all the people I know personally, who have gray or white hair are comfortable, stable friends, who have taken care of themselves and are enjoying their golden years.  I include myself among those who are enjoying their “declining” years, still in excellent health, and with goals and projects that keep their creativity and joy of being alive realities.  My hair is silver and on its way to being snow white eventually.  That fact will never keep me up nights worrying that something has been lost. In fact, I know that much has been gained.   JB

me-on-boat

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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