My photo here on the sidebar shows what I looked like when we first started Rolling Staircase last summer. I was right in the middle of growing out my previously dyed hair to its natural gray. I’m only 37, but I’ve been gray since my mid-twenties. I’ve been coloring it since I was about 23. Every 5 weeks, back to the salon to cover up roots that seemed to be more stark-raving white each month.
The last time I colored my hair was November 2011. I had switched to coloring it at home to save a few bucks. It was the second time I’d colored it a slightly lighter shade of brown. I was starting to think that the dark brown I’d been coloring was looking a little fake.
Once the thoughts of going gray started in my head, I couldn’t shake it. I’d color my hair at home and toss the box, the half-full bottle of mixed color, and the instructions into the trash. What a lot of waste and chemicals going off to the landfill! It didn’t sit well with me.
While coloring at home was cheaper than a salon, I still had to spend an hour getting it colored. And I am a mess at anything hair-related. I got that hair color all over the place. It was not an hour of fun for me. More time and money spent on what? Looking good? Looking young? How much “worse” or “older” would I look with gray hair? And if it didn’t happen at 37 when I still had some youthfulness… when?
Psychologically, I am embracing aging. I feel like I am a better, improved person each year. I don’t spend time pining away for lost youth. And I’ve never been one beholden to what society thinks I should wear or look like. I work regularly with teenagers at our church. How do I tell them that God doesn’t make ugly things and they are beautiful just as they are… only to spend an hour a month in front of my own mirror trying to fix the hair that God has given me which is so obviously the wrong color?!
The process of growing out my natural hair has been enlightening and entertaining. People really thought I was dyeing my hair some sort of gray/brown ombre over the summer. Who would DO THAT?! I’m not sure if it’s just my workplace, but I got comments on a daily basis from men and women ranged from awkward to downright weird. My closest girlfriends threatened to hold me down and color my hair. The other gray haired ladies were the most supportive (close to my age and older). They went out of their way to tell me, “RIGHT ON. You look great.”
Now, God didn’t tell me “stop dyeing your hair.” But I feel like He was saying, “Do what you want, but you know… I don’t make ugly things.” And I started to notice more gray-haired ladies who were beautiful. On a thrifting spree on day, I came across a book called Going Gray. I did one of those glance around and see if someone planted the book sort of looks… no one around. I thumbed through it, decided it was the ego boost I needed, and headed to the counter… where the checkout lady in about her 60s was sporting the cutest bobbed gray hair. I didn’t end up finishing the book until a few days ago, but the cover and first few pages charged me up enough last February to finish the process.
I wouldn’t say I look in the mirror every day and love my hair. But I’ve never in my life had a long-running streak of good hair days. It has a lot of variation in color and it looks natural to me. I’m blessed with youthful skin, so I’m going to run with this look for a while. I think I can be happy as this person…
(Doesn’t my 5 year old do a good job with the camera? Thanks for the photo, son!)
I will also say that Going Gray was a great book. It had a lot of research (both statistics and the author’s personal experiments). It makes you think about how our society emphasizes “looks” and the impact it has on women of every age. Anne Kreamer writes about her mother in the book:
Like other mothers of the time who invested a great deal of energy in their hair maintenance, when my mother went “swimming” the two times I remember her in a pool, she would breaststroke, straining her neck to keep her coifed hair out of the water.
In the margin, I wrote, “Please, no!” That is not the mom I want to be. I want JT and my nieces to see that I value relationships, nature, knowledge, and creativity much more than a hairdo.
Oh, and I’ll be giving my copy of Going Gray back to the thrift store… it probably needs to go out in the world and influence someone else, I think.