I’m thinking about letting my gray grow.
I know this doesn’t sound like an earth-moving decision, but the question has deeper roots in how I see myself. I don’t “feel” like a gray-haired person, so I haven’t liked seeing the silver strands framing my face when I let it lapse between color rinses.
I honestly don’t even know for sure how much gray I’ve got (besides “a lot” around the face), because I tend to run to WalMart for another three-dollar box of Revlon color every time I start seeing silver.
When I started coloring my hair, it wasn’t because of gray; it was because I’d always wanted to be a redhead. Unlike my literary heroine Anne of Green Gables (who always lamented her hair color) I admired its “standout” quality, and wished as a kid that my subtle copper highlights would somehow morph into a full-on head of red.
So I bought a box of red ten years ago, and I loved it and I stuck with it. While my late husband and I owned our restaurant, his spicy barbeque sauce was called “Redhead’s Temper” after me (though he was politic in declining to comment on the “temper” half of that label). I spent that whole marriage as a redhead… And then the day after his funeral, I went back to the brown that God and my mother gave me.
That shift was entirely unpremeditated, and I didn’t bother at the time to try to explain it to myself. Perhaps it was a modern expression of a Victorian sensibility—a sort of putting on mourning, or the mark of a chapter-of-life being closed.
Because I’d never colored my hair to its natural hue, I didn’t know what color to buy. I took my daughter (whose tresses match mine) to the store and walked her down the hair-color aisle, holding a hank of her waist-length locks up against the various boxes to find a match. And I figured that was my last box of hair color, since going back to my natural color meant not having to cover or color roots, right?…
…But then a month or so down the road, I was seriously taken aback to discover the GRAY that had developed during my years of red. I hadn’t even known it was there, and my reaction to it was not positive. So I’ve been covering and coloring for two and a half years, even if it seems silly to dye my brown hair brown.
Well, but it’s not the brown hairs I’ve been dyeing brown—it’s the gray ones. I’m trying to decide today how I feel about having gray hair, letting it grow and show. Since I’m not trying to pretend I’m younger than my actual age, why the dye? I think it’s because the gray seems older than I feel—not a match to my self-image. Still, it does match the lines around my eyes, the freckling of “age-spots” on my hands, and the other parts of me that are showing the years, so maybe it’s time to update the self-image instead of “adjusting the reality.”
Will my habitual pigtails and buns look silly with gray? For that matter, do they look silly now, given that I AM the age I am? I don’t know—my husband thinks they’re “cute,” and they do match my personality just fine. And maybe there’s the key to all this. My personality doesn’t change with my hair color.
As much as I enjoyed the red, I didn’t fundamentally change by being a redhead. I didn’t fundamentally change when I went back to brown. And I won’t fundamentally change if I stop covering the gray.
Along the lines of self-image and personality, a coworker at Home Depot commented yesterday on my blouse, saying “It’s so you.” Which made me wonder for a moment what that really meant, that I might be “represented” by a piece of clothing. (My first thought was that she hasn’t known me for long, to know what’s “me”—though come to think of it, I know she’s read some of my blog, so maybe she does…)
Another coworker chimed in that I’m “very Boho”… Unsure precisely what she meant, of course I went and looked it up. “A person who has informal and unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer.” Ha, can’t really argue with that!
More to the point, I’d agree that the blouse itself (a flow-y velvety number with belled sleeves, in my “signature” teal and blue) is pretty much a match to my personality, kind of offbeat and unusual—I found it at Goodwill for all of a dollar, and it suits my sensibilities. Maybe the same goes for the pigtails, and maybe the same can go for going gray.
Maybe the fact that I’m making a deliberate choice to go gray will take some of the sting out of the silver. (What can I say? I like to imagine I’m in control of things…) And have I mentioned before that I tend to over-analyze things? Here’s today’s proof: I just spent ten minutes trying to draw gray hair on a photo of myself so I could see how I felt about it…
Not sure that helped any. I’m just going to have to stop (over)thinking and sit back and let my hair happen. I saw two ladies this week at Home Depot who struck me as absolutely lovely, neither of whom had a face that looked much older than mine, and both of whom had completely silver hair. They didn’t look “old” to me; they looked surprisingly young in contrast to their hair. I think the sight of them is what got me thinking I should “experiment” with nature and lay off the hair color. And hey, with the three dollars I’ll save every month, I could buy three more “Boho” blouses at Goodwill!
To you folks out there with gray in the mix… Do you cover it or not? What made you decide? If you used to, but don’t anymore, when and why did you stop? I’m curious to hear!