Ready or Not, I’m Going Gray
I found my first gray hair shortly after my 16th birthday. I was getting ready to out on a date — one of only a handful in my high school years — and there it was: bright silver and glistening in the light, starkly obvious against my dark brown hair. It was just one more thing to freak out about that night, so I plucked it and pretended that it didn’t exist. By the end of the summer, it had been joined by half a dozen friends, which I plucked one by one.
It quickly became obvious that the grays were coming faster than I could pluck. It was also obvious that if I continued plucking all the grays, I’d go bald. There was no mistaking that I was going gray.
Color became my friend. For a while in my 20s I sported my more-or-less natural dark base, accented by fire engine red streaks. Then I became a mom and decided that bright colors were undignified. I stuck with touching up my roots in my dark color, which resulted in a sharp, distinct skunk stripe where the gray was growing in.
A new hairdresser and a new, lighter color later (a color that seems to be sported by every 40-something mom in Northern California), and my roots aren’t nearly as noticeable. But they’re there. I see them. I know they’re there. And they’re getting grayer by the minute. The crown of my head is downright white.
At my last coloring appointment, I sat in the chair, done up in my foil headdress, and had a moment of surprising clarity: what the hell am I doing?
I haven’t been one to hide my age. Unlike a lot of women in California, I’m not having “work” done, or injecting my face with neurotoxins. Hell, I barely even wear makeup. I don’t look like I’m 20 anymore, but I also don’t have the illusion that I’m supposed to look like I’m 20. So why am I sporting a hair color that can only be described as 40-something camouflage blonde? I’m not hiding anything else; why am I hiding my hair?
I always assumed that when I hit “a certain age” I would be going gray like everyone else. Yet here’s the trick: no one else is going gray. Around here, women in their 80s are still coloring their hair. And there isn’t a lot of precedent with gray in my family. My grandmother colored hers until she was no longer physically able. My mother colored hers until the day she died.
Is this what I want to be doing every five to six weeks for the rest of my life?
Truth is, I don’t know. For as much as I’m intrigued by being natural, I’m kind of terrified by the thought of being the only gray-haired woman in California.
So for now, I’m doing a lot of thinking and Pinterest-searching. Did you know that 20-something women in hipper zip codes than mine are going gray by choice? For them, gray is the new platinum blonde. I’m intrigued, but of course gray on a 22-year-old woman with flawless skin is not the same as gray on a 41-year-old woman with crow’s feet.
I found a hairstyle try-on site, and tried various hairdos and colors. They don’t really have a truly gray option — this is as close as it gets — but it helps me visualize the future a little bit better. And gray hair doesn’t mean that I have to start getting curly grandmother perms, right? (Right?)
For now, I’ll wait. And think. And pin inspirational photos. And hope that when I finally do make the switch, I’ll look more like someone’s inspiration than like someone’s grandmother.