Journey into gray

I had beautiful blonde hair as a baby until about two years of age then it turned quickly into a brunette thick mess. I liked everyone else’s hair but mine. I wanted what I didn’t have.  I wanted that 70’s long, straight hair that you could style all kinds of ways. You could have a ponytail or two or make a fish-bone braid.  Even better, a ponytail with a fish-bone braid. Wrap it in a bun, French braid, side braid – the list goes on and on. My hair was wavy and thick. I couldn’t do anything with it.

I had to make a decision. Do I keep fighting the long mess or cut it short? My kindergarten friends had no idea what I was struggling with. All their hair was long and flowing. “Mom” I asserted, “I want to cut my hair.” She was all for it. She didn’t want to take care of my hair any more than I did. Off we went to the hairdresser and I came back with a new do.

The adults around me said how “cute” I looked. My friends thought I looked weird and teased about how I looked like a boy. This was my first taste at the battle of my hair over the years.

I have bleached my hair blonde, dyed it brown, red and even black, but have resisted letting my color be what it really is now – gray.  One reason I resisted is that I felt too young to be gray. At sixteen, grays started showing up. At eighteen, I had quite a bit more. At 25, I was deep into gray, but of course no one knew it except my hair dresser.  Year after year, I tried to make my hair color look “natural” and I was successful. No one questioned if I colored my hair.

Changing clothes or shoes to keep up with fashion is easy. If I make a mistake, it is simple to correct. Take off this jacket; switch these shoes and presto – a new hip outfit. A haircut or color is not permanent by any means, but it does take a while to change or shift into something different. Now is another transition in my hair and a rite of passage.  I have another decision to make at 44. Keep dyeing or go natural.

As soon as I wrote that last sentence it hit me. Do I keep “dyeing” or do I embrace my natural self? I try to look like what other people “my age” look like. I attempt to look like the latest fashion trends. I struggle with people’s opinions of my hair when I change the cut or color. Why do I keep dying to these things? Why have I let these “opinions” have control over me? I know the answer of course: low self esteem, wanting to fit in. “Come on, snap out of it”, I tell myself. “You’re how old? Definitely not 20’s or 30’s, so time to let go of what everyone else thinks.”

October 3rd – it has been 45 days since my last haircut and color. As my hair grows slowly longer it gets more wavy and unruly. The gray is showing very obvious around my cheek bones, but still somewhat hidden everywhere else.  Should I wear a hat from now until I don’t know when? Do I just brave it and pretend the line of demarcation is not there? Or do I succumb and go back to coloring it?

October 6th – Finally decided to get my haircut – short. I thought, might as well cut off as much brown as possible. It is still very difficult to look in the mirror to see the big gray line that grows every day.

October 28th – I am really self conscious about the line of demarcation in my hair. Today was another haircut and I went even shorter today than last time. I think that was a big mistake. Now I’m self conscious about my very short hair and the gray that is so prominent now. I thought the cut would remove a lot of the brown colorant. It did in the back but not in the front. I feel like wearing a hat every day until my hair grows out both cut and natural gray. When I don’t feel good about my hair, it seems to filter into everything else about myself – my body shape, my face, my skin, etc. I am so tempted to color my hair, but I’ll never know what I really look like unless I finish this process.

November 28th – It’s been three months since not coloring my hair. It is now 40% white/gray and 60% brown. It looks really bad and I wear a hat every day I go out.  I want to color the brown part white, but my hair dresser said no. “If you put any color on it, you will have to keep coloring it”, she said. Grrr, I just want all the brown to be gone now!  Christmas is less than a month away. We are going to California to visit family and friends and I would rather my hair have no more colorant in it. But, I can’t make it grow out any faster. Or I can opt for a REALLY short haircut – that I might regret the minute I leave the chair.

December 22th – Leaving today to visit family and friends in California. I wonder what the reaction will be, probably shock for sure. If there are negative comments, can I not respond? I hope so! I don’t need to defend my choice of letting my hair grow out.

 December 30th – It has been 4 months since I let my hair color grow out. I met with Cynthia, my close friend in CA, for breakfast to catch up on life face to face. She has seen my hair a lot of different lengths and colors. When she saw me she “Wow! I love the white and gray.” I told her I was not coloring it anymore and this is what the natural color looks like. I know that Cynthia would tell me the truth, even if she didn’t really like it. She responded with “People pay a lot of money to have their hair look like that.” Those comments really boosted my spirit. I have been very self conscious about my hair and to have her say what she really thinks – it felt great.

 January 18th – I  just turned 45 and I’ve almost grown all the brown colorant out. I still have a bit of brown (maybe 1/2”) left at the very ends of my hair. The next haircut will be the end for my bottle colored hair.

Looking back, I have to say my hair did grow pretty fast – which I’m grateful.  And, to have short hair helps the process as well. It is still quite a shock when I look into the mirror and see the white patch of hair in front and salt/pepper gray on the sides. I’m 45 years young and sometimes think “Should I go back to coloring my hair to ‘look younger’?” Then I tell myself, “Who cares what other people think! Do what you want with your hair. It belongs to you.” Yep, it’s all mine and I think I will let the color be what the color is. This is my journey into gray.