…with a storyteller of Native American heritage.
Storytellers are, in my experience, some of the most wonderful and great to talk to people that exist on this planet. They tend to have a wealth of stories and/or anecdotes for just about any situation. And many of them tend to be ‘crunchy’ or earthy or some other adjective that might imply one has a penchant for birkenstocks and broomstick skirts. 🙂
During this conversation the storyteller was relating to me the amusement and sadness she felt over age-ism in mainstream culture. She said, “In my tribe age is revered. I remember once, years ago, when I wanted to be a member of the tribal elders council. I was considered ‘too young’ to be wise enough. So I dyed a streak of grey into my otherwise jet black hair.” There was a clear twinkle of mischief in her eyes as she related this story.
She was befuddled by our mainstream cultural aversion to aging and to any signs of aging. She couldn’t understand people spending money on expensive and potentially dangerous chemicals to take the wrinkles off their faces or the grey out of their hair.
At the time of this conversation I was in my early 30s. I listened with amusement and rapt attention but didn’t quite have a context yet. I had many grey hairs (having started collecting them at 21) but I had a firm sense that I was full of my youthful days yet.
Now older, I see the sadness that she spoke of in her story. I find it sad that our entire culture is bent on a norm of beauty that is artificial. It is based on showing no signs of aging, nor any blemish.
I see, also, that this cultural obsession with youthfulness is being fueled by a marketing machine; a soul-less marketing machine. This machine is dependent upon us feeling bad about our natural selves…for if we didn’t, we’d not buy their products or their ‘line’ and we’d laugh them right out of business.
I cherish my grey hair. I hope to one day cherish an entire head of wild, bright-white curls.
I look on the lines on my face and the slackening of the skin under my chin as badges of honor.
Botox? Hair dye? Nope. Not for this lady.
I hold my head up high. I know that I am aging. I know that I do not represent the ideal of physical beauty. But I am lucky, I suppose, in that I never did.
And I hope to pass on to my daughter an appreciation for the beauty of youth as well as the beautiful among us who have lines, wrinkles and a few more years on this earth.