A Conversation About Embracing Your Natural Gray Hair
I never intended to grow out my bangs or stop dying my hair, but along came COVID. Thanks to a lengthy stay-home order I found myself lamenting the loss of my hair stylist and going cold-turkey with no gray hair dye and growing my bangs out at the same time. Yikes! Historically I know from past experience my hair is best left in the hands of a professional.
The topic of hair, roots, and bangs came up frequently in chats with friends who were also in the same boat. After a few months of living with “nature’s highlights” I tentatively announced to a few friends I was going to try and stick it out and embrace my gray hair.
“I’m too afraid I’ll look old” said a friend.
I too had nervously thought about the same question, but I wondered what’s the magic age when it’s suddenly ok to stop dying my hair? I’m almost 50. I’ve had 14 weeks of no social life and plenty of time to get used to this idea. And I knew oodles of women were in the same boat as I was. It seemed like the timing was perfect to take the plunge.
“You’re too young to go gray. You’re going to look old.” said another friend.
I replied that age has nothing to do with when hair starts to lose its color. I’ve had conversations with women whose hair started to turn silver while they were in their late teens and early twenties. I thought about those women who have been dying their hair for 30 years now. For the last 10 years I’ve colored my hair faithfully. At first, I colored my hair every 7 or 8 weeks. Then it was every 6 or 7 weeks. Eventually I was in the salon every 5 weeks. I could see the trendline. I knew soon I would need to be touching up my hair every 4 weeks. What then? I didn’t like the prospect of dying my gray hair for another 10 years so often. All the hours and money for each appointment? I cringed at the thought. The truth was…I was over it. I was ready to ditch the dye. And besides, I’m a grown ass woman. I choose how to spend my time and my money. I’m not going to be pressured into investing in gray hair coverage.
“The field you’re in is competitive, you can’t afford to look old” said another friend.
I thought about her opinion. She was right. I am in a competitive field but the truth is my clients hire me because I get results. They don’t hire me because of my hair. Yes, we are in a youth dominated society. No bones about it, appearances matter which is why I pay attention to how I present myself. I use sunscreen and have a good skin care regiment. I try to get enough sleep and drink enough water. Mascara is my friend. When I’m pitching to a potential client there’s a spark in my eye, a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I have no shortage of “can do attitude” plus, I have the successful track record to back it up.
“Aren’t you afraid that people will think you’re letting yourself go.”
What I wanted to say was “Bitch please.” But instead I gently said “yes, I’m letting myself go. I’m letting myself go to the bank with an annual savings of $1600 a year by not dying my hair at a salon. And by the way, I’m reclaiming my time. Gone are the 3-hour hair appointments every 5 weeks. I feel confident in the way I present myself that I’m not concerned with people thinking I’ve let myself go.”
“I saw your latest Instagram pic. I see some gray. Aren’t you going to color it now the salons are open?”
When I replied that I wasn’t going to try and hide my grays anymore she replied “Aren’t you’re afraid you’re going to look older?” Older than what? Older than who? I intend to rock what I got. Nature gave me highlights and I’m finally ok with this. I’ve had a few months to make peace with it. You know what? I kind of like the silver highlights. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. I’m at peace with my curvy hips and thick thighs. I like carbs too much to give them up completely. I’m ok with my hourglass figure that has 90 minutes in it.
“You’re going to look washed out.”
Pfft. With all these strands of glitter growing out of my head? How could I look drab? Seriously, I have makeup. I’ve got a closet filled with clothes that compliment my skin tone. I think I’ll be ok.
“You’ll look ridiculous growing out your gray.”
Ridiculous? Ouch. That’s harsh. I had two questions. What is the impact she hoped that phrase would have on me? And how would she feel if I told her that something she wanted to do would make her look terrible?
“What does your husband think?”
What year is this? Is it 1950? What does my husband’s opinion have to do with it? He’s excited about it. He’s got gray in his hair and his beard. Earlier this year (before COVID) a car hit me while I was crossing a street. Mind you I was walking in a crosswalk with the light and it wasn’t my fault but I digress…anyhow, an EMT was examining me. A policeman was asking my husband questions because he was a witness. The policemen asked my husband. “Sir is this your daughter?” WHAT? No, that’s my wife!” My hubbs was positively indignant at the time. So yeah, my hubby is pretty excited I’m not dying my hair anymore.
In defense of my friends, the conversations I’ve shared here are with people I’ve known for years and I’m completely comfortable with. These are women I can freely chat with about a vast array of things. They are friends I can count on. And even though I rely on my friendships I’ve stopped asking my friends what they think about my hair. Because ultimately, it’s my opinion that matters. And don’t ask for opinions if you can’t take criticism.
I confess there are days when I look in the mirror and I see a demarcation line and cringe a little because I feel frumpy. That’s when I know it’s time to style my gray hair, throw on some lipstick and mascara. Chasing the frump away is usually that simple. If my mood is still wobbly, I turn to a surprising place to get encouragement. Facebook. Turns out Facebook has private groups women can join for gray hair support. Nearly 65,000 in number who are all embracing their silver, white, and gray highlights. These women are fantastic! I’ve learned so much from them!
Some of these women are fierce, amazing silver haired goddesses with zero f’s to give! I love their swagger; I find it intoxicating. I’ve connected with wise women who have the patience of a saint and are quick to cheer ladies on when they’re having a bad hair day. I’ve connected with diverse women of all ages, from around the world. Young women with gray hair in their 20’s and other women in their 70’s. I get ideas on styles, and gray hair products.
These women share photos, videos and stories of their journey. Both nervous newbies on the fence about the decision and wise women who have been at this for years. It’s a big hairy deal to some people to make the decision to break away from what society tells us to do. I’m thankful for the women I’ve connected with in those groups.
As for me, I’m not going to slather my scalp in toxic chemicals anymore. There comes a time when you look in the mirror and you say “welp this is what I have to work with.” I’m am at that place and I’m ok with it. I have zero judgement ladies. Dye your hair or don’t, it’s all good. You do you boo.
Some silver sisters have found themselves in awkward conversations and didn’t know what to say at the time. It was with my own experiences and theirs in mind that I drafted some sample comments, and power phrases into a conversational cheat sheet. Feel free to mix and match from this chart. And it’s with that I wish you dear reader supportive friends and family, quality conversations, good hair days and years of feeling comfortable in your own skin.