One of the things I preach around here is to embrace the real. The messy parts, the not so perfect parts and sometimes even the uncomfortable parts. So, I am about to confess something of my own that is real, and uncomfortable, with all of you. I am coming out as gray.
I have been hiding my true colors for years because I was just too self-conscious to expose my gray hair. I started losing my natural dark shade shortly after my twins were born. I was considered a “geriatric” mom in my mid-thirties and the gray settled in quickly after having twins. I started coloring my hair immediately because I was not yet ready to let go of feeling like I was in my 20s. So, I kept covering it up. I spent hours at the salon and made a mad dash to the drug store between colorings just to keep my grays under wraps. It was a stealthy covert operation that cost me thousands of dollars over the last ten years. Before I went to any big event, a reunion, a wedding, or a vacation, I scheduled myself to sit in a salon chair for nearly 3 hours to temporarily delete this obvious sign of aging.
Last year, when the COVID pandemic hit and shut down every salon in the world, I panicked. My appointment was only days away and my roots were already on display. I felt anxious the shut down was going to create some noticeably awkward hair growth, or what I refer to as “the skunk stripe.” As I scrolled for daily updates on when I could safely return to the salon, I noticed that nearly everyone on my friends list was confessing to missing their colorist too. Bloggers around the globe were suddenly showing up in videos and IG reels with silver streaks. As the weeks rolled into months, I found I wasn’t the only one awkwardly trying to cover my part.
Just as I was contemplating between coloring again or embracing this touch of gray, my colorist (or hair therapist as I call her) dropped off a professional grade color kit for me to use at home. I immediately rushed to color my hair and as I saw myself frantically brushing hair dye against my head, I thought this just doesn’t feel right anymore. I began wondering if I could pull off silver fox status. But…will I look…old? I decided the worst-case scenario is I hate it and I go back to dying it. And the best case scenario I love it and keep going. A year later, I am still dye free and learning to love it. But let me tell you, it’s still not easy. I am about two good hair cuts away from being fully gray.
I haven’t made a public post about it before now because I am still getting used to seeing myself with salt and pepper strands peeking through. It’s now very obvious and easily recognizable in my photos. Now is the time to admit it to myself and to those whom I haven’t seen face to face in the last year. It’s time to share it with my followers because my headshots are clearly not the same. Will anyone recognize me?
The longer my gray roots grow, the taller I grow in my own confidence. It turns out I’m not alone there either! I made a cryptic post on my personal social media page about contemplating life as a silver fox and a childhood friend sent a text message that she was inspired to do the same. Now we encourage each other by sending snapshots of our changing hair. Another friend from high school recently posted that she was going to give up coloring her hair to be more authentic too. Suddenly, I am in very good company and feeling bolder about this choice.
I am finding inspiration from women all over Instagram embracing their gray hair. There are a lot of us feeling powerful walking through life with silvery tendrils, and as one woman pointed out, “It takes a lot of confidence to walk around daily with two-toned hair.” Isn’t it funny, that people can have rainbow hair, two different shades of purple, or bleached or fading colors and no one second guesses that persons value and relevance. But women with gray hair are told they look “too old” or look like they “let themselves go.”
And oddly enough, I am finding inspiration from men with gray hair. When men age they are referred to as “distinguished” which implies dignity and respect. But when women age they are referred to as “washed up.” I noticed male lead actors that dominated the TV screen in my childhood are still on TV and fully gray. They’ve grown up, just like I have. Yet, no one is accusing them of having let themselves go. In fact, they are given the commanding roles with younger looking wives or partners. Honestly, if men can walk around with new found confidence with fully gray hair, then I can feel just as empowered to do the same.
So, here I am.
On my way to a braver, grayer self.
Have you embraced your new, natural color since the pandemic? Does gray hair make you feel bolder? Wiser? More empowered? I’d love to read about it in the comments below.