My hairdresser was horrified last fall when I announced I’d decided to go gray. My husband was ambivalent, my sons indifferent. Everything I read online indicated the process wouldn’t be pretty, but freeing myself from the tyranny of those every-three-weeks color sessions felt like it would be more than worth it. And so it began.
Months four and five were the worst—I cringed every time I saw myself in a mirror. Mostly I tried not to look. At six months, it was obvious I hadn’t just missed a color appointment or three. And that’s when the most interesting changes started.
As the natural gray took over, I sometimes saw my mother in the mirror—not a bad thing, just a little shocking initially. I didn’t feel older; I felt exposed, as if I’d been hiding something that was now on public display. Superficial and stupid, of course, but in retrospect it was an important part of the journey.
I thought a great deal about Anne Kreamer’s comments in her book Going Gray: “Yes, women really have come a long way toward equality of opportunity and social empowerment. Yet at the same time there has been a narrowing of the range of acceptable looks for women.” I know women in the business world who feel compelled to hide their gray hair for fear of being marginalized in the workplace. And their fears are valid. We’ve definitely come a long way, but we’re not there yet. Given recent judicial decisions, I’m not sure we can even see there from here.
As the brown color was snipped off inch by inch, my perspective shifted yet again. My gray hair proclaimed my age to one and all, which suited me just fine because I felt freer than I had in years. I came to agree wholeheartedly with Kreamer, who says that she was “jettisoning a uniform” she no long felt like wearing.
Last month I wrote about coming to grips with the fact that two-thirds of my life is over. No amount of hair color or Botox will alter that. In Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, Anna Quindlen states that her mantra about aging is “gains and losses.” “I know more but remember less,” she writes. “My muscles are tight but my skin is loose. I am physically fit but forever infertile. My hair is still thick but much of it is gray.” Amen, sister.
One more haircut to go and the process will be over. I’ll post a profile pic of the new me shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, glancing in the mirror each day reminds me not to waste a single moment of My Life: Act III. And that may be the best part about going gray.
My novel, Yard Sale, is (still) available on Amazon.