Red Hair Ink Drawing by Stuart Miles at (exact link not working)

Red Hair

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

My mother is embarrassing herself and I don’t know what to do. She is always quoting your column so maybe you’ll have an answer for her and I won’t have to say anything.

For about the first 55 years of my mother’s life, she was a flaming redhead. Then, she didn’t exactly go gray but her hair turned sort of dull brown with gray here and there. Now, at 73, it’s a mix of gray and brown.

She showed up to dinner last weekend with a head of red hair! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My kids told her they liked it and said, “why not dye your hair Grandma, if that’s what makes you happy.”  But really, what else would teenagers say?

When I asked her why she would do such a thing she said it made her smile to look in the mirror and see her old hair, that I would understand when I got old. I doubt that.

Honestly, I think she looks foolish, like someone trying to deny reality. She takes such good care of herself, stays trim and dresses well but her face and body just don’t match the color of hair on her head. I can just imagine what people are saying behind her back.

I don’t want her to get hurt but she seems fine with this. Can you get through to her?

Concerned daughter

Dear Reader,

I’m afraid I don’t follow your logic. If your mother reads this, it won’t take too much heavy thinking to figure out who wrote the email, right? My guess is that, one way or another, you’re going to have to talk about this with your mother. The direct approach just may have been the better choice but here we are.

Here’s my question for you: what’s the big deal? So your mother wants to have red hair back on top of her head? It’s her hair.

Now, if you’d written me to say your 73 year old mother had sold her house and given everything over to a scam artist – well, then I’d be worried. Or if your mother suddenly decided to drive without her glasses – more worry. What if she was running through the neighborhood in her nightgown? Big problems!

No, she dyed her hair red. That’s it? Unless there is some other marked shift in your mother’s behavior that you aren’t telling me about, then I just don’t see this as a problem.

I’m actually responding to your email because of its broader impact. To me, the issue here is your reaction to your mother’s decision. It sounds like she is embarrassing you and I wonder exactly why this is.

I want to be very respectful of you, recognizing that there may be much more to this than just red hair. For all I know, your mother may have spent your entire life doing terrible things that embarrassed you. She may have acted inappropriately or said and done odd things, etc. I absolutely have no idea. If this is the case, please know that I am sorry for your circumstances and your reactions feel perfectly understandable.

Is it possible for you to identify exactly what may be driving your feelings? I hope you can. I also hope you and your mother are able to sit down and talk about whatever unfinished business may be getting between the two of you.

One final thought. I don’t begin to know what people might be saying behind you mother’s back. Nor do you. I’d ask you to entertain the possibility that people may react to her lively spirit, her confidence, her interest in having some fun in her later years. Each of these reactions is just as likely to be happening as the horror stories you are imagining. Please try not to think for other people. It’s exhausting and a real exercise in futility.

Image credit: Stuart Miles at (exact link not working)

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