I have another confession to make. I’m gray as a mule. You might not know from the highlighted, touched up version of myself I put out there or because you’re not super tall like my husband, who notices my roots coming in before I do. So much for feminine illusions of dewy youth. I’m tired of the whole process myself.

Every three weeks, I have to do something or my hairline spreads thick with white. I’m like Pepe Le Pew, or more like his bewildered love interest. Why me? I’m sure it has nothing to do with genetics and the fact that my dad was gray since the day we met and my brother is gracefully headed that way. Why are men so much braver in this way? My husband grayed at the temples and sideburns and he truly does look distinguished. Doesn’t it just make you sick?

Do you know I’ve dyed my hair since college? I got my first gray at 14. My mom noticed it while french braiding my hair and plucked it out at my insistence. This must have been my fatal mistake. All the slumbering grays heard the battle cry and rose up. I have a distinct recollection of being described by a drunkard at a bar as having “stringy gray hair”. I was 24. In my memory, he also has stringy, gray hair because my memory is awesome and always has my back.

It’s all coming to a head now. Not only do I feel like I’m constantly dyeing or getting ready to dye, but the texture is all wrong. My poor hair is dry and lifeless, rightly exhausted from pretending to be a fun blonde. The gray hair underneath is wiry and coarse. It brays when I liberally condition and apply product, a word hairdressers are quite fond of in its vague invocation of miracle.

This is my first glimpse into getting older. I’m fighting myself from the root down and I don’t want to do that. I write all of this just before going upstairs to mix another batch of magic potion that will allow me to fool the world for 3 weeks. Then I’ll go online to google articles and tips from others who were brave enough to stop dyeing and transition over. I’ll probably start a Pinterest board with too many pictures of Emmylou Harris and Heloise.

Next month I turn 41. If I start to transition now, I can take advantage of the Steve Martin effect and age minimally over the next 20 years. At my 40 year reunion, people will say “you never seem to age!” They won’t know that even though I was terrified to look old, I was more terrified at the thought of fighting it for the rest of my life.

I think this is an album cover? It's also my new battle cry.
I think this is an album cover? It also makes a nice battle cry.

28 thoughts on “Mule

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  1. 🙂 I am 44, I started graying at 18, dying at 34 I guess and at the moment I decided I would stop drinking I immediately, like right at that moment, lost the interest in dying my hair. That was strange, these two thoughts connecting in one second. So I have 2 dates in sobriety, 1 is The Decission Hair Date, measured in centimeters grey hair, and 2-3 weeks later is The Stop Date, not counted. I am getting a lot of compliments, most of them by men that spontaniously mention that they like it. It actually makes me look younger, but that can also be a side effect of sobriety. 🙂

    I am happy that I quit and I am happy that you quit too! 🙂


  2. I also started with gray hair in my 30’s, at 45 I stopped dyeing it, but like the seasons I change, I’ll have it gray for a year or two and then dye it again. Right now it’s brown with highlights in the front. I wear it short. I have to admit that if you compare pictures I much prefer the colored hair. Grey just seems to scream for makeup or lipstick, just washes me out. That said, in six months or so I’ll get tired of the expense and trouble of dying and I’ll go back to gray. Try it both ways and see what you prefer but some words of wisdom, take photos and then you decide. I’ve been going back and forth for almost 20 years, change is a good thing, right?


    1. I will definitely have to see how it comes in. Next month I have an appointment for highlights so it will be a process. I love the idea of going back and forth. That freedom and flexibility is very appealing. Thanks for weighing in, Sharon!


  3. I will now call you the Pioneer Woman (not to be confused with Ree Drummond on the Food Network), and I will be anxiously awaiting the results of this experiment. My story mirrors yours, gray as a teen and color correcting since, although I have not once considered au naturale as a viable alternative. I just complained about my skunk streak this very morning.

    The whole texture thing is entirely frustrating as well, as is hairstylists trying to fancy up shampoos and conditioners by calling them “product.”

    A follow-up post with before and after pics would be very, very awesome. And did you run that 10k yet? More info there too, please!

    I love solidarity any way I can get it, so thanks for sharing this 🙂


    1. I will document the next step, which should happen in about a month. Baby steps for this stubborn mule. The 10K is this weekend!! I’m super excited and getting nervous. It will be something like 20k runners. It may well be the only big race I do, but looking forward to it.


  4. I started going gray at 25 and have dyeing ever since. I don’t plan to stop because I feel old with gray hair. Yes, some people can pull it off but it’s not for me. When I picture myself 20 years from now, I have a head full of light brown hair with blonde highlights. Not. Gray. My solution has been to have a sassy short cut and use shampoo without sulfates so that I can go 4-5 weeks without a touch up. Natural has its place but the hairs that grow out of my chin are natural and I pluck them too. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve also been greying for a long time. I had a period where I just did wash in colour, so it was partly grey. My new hairdresser at the time HATED it and eventually got me dying it. I was dark brown for a while, but I’ve gone back to highlighting it to get another week or so between root jobs. I like it. I feel younger with some caramel colour hair.

    I need to go monthly. I’ve found a hairdresser I really like and it’s makes for a fun afternoon. It is $$$, but I do feel good after and that’s important.

    The nice thing about trying it grey is you can always go back to colour!


    1. Highlighting has really helped stretch out color, and is actually how I might try to transition in some some silver. My stylist, who is relatively new to me, will probably call me ‘tinsel head’ after I leave.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I hear you sister!
    I have jet black hair and the gray shows up and shouts to the rooftops every 2-4 weeks.
    I used to hate the process, but like Karen, I’m not ready to go gray. I have a funky and fun hairdresser who talked me into red low lights last year. If I didn’t have to be professional for my job, I’d consider dark purple during football season 🙂
    That mule emblem is awesome! It should be a t-shirt!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love that you’re doing the red low lights. They have temporary rinses or even those chalk things for streaks, if the need to go bolder takes over. It can be a really fun ritual. Our hair is important, no doubt.


  7. I just have to comment, since I’m sitting here reading this in my robe, with demi-permanent hair color on my head! Yep, every two weeks I chase the little sparkly white roots down! I’m a youngish looking 47 and I would be completely white in the front if I didn’t dye, and I’m not ready to sport platinum just yet. I love your blog.


    1. We were like hair-dye sisters today, albeit hours apart, united in the odd ritual of dabbing dye on our scalps and then staring at phones/laptops/etc to kill time. If I give it all up to go gray, I might actually miss it.


  8. I think Emmylou Harris is one of the most beautiful women in the world.
    I started graying early too. I always did the temporary/non-perm color washes, so as to not damage my hair, then stretched the amount of time I would take between color jobs. But then I found that I was not even going in for regular hair trims or basic self-care, so decided to add back in salon visits for highlights etc. Like Karen and Michelle, it just feels like a nice fun treat, and a reminder to me to enjoy things just for me.
    And if letting the natural come is something that’s important for you, then I say go for it! But don’t forget to do other things for yourself, just because.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In the last 2 years, the gray has come in a lot more. There is nothing leisurely about the touch-up process, though you’ll be pleased to know I’ve decided if I do this – and I really haven’t decided yet – that I would still go for regular cuts and definitely some of those blue rinses my grandma seemed to love 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve never had a gray hair. True story. I have thick, shiny, wavy/curly hair — the kind that everyone claims they wish they had. But I’m not here to brag. I have permanent dark circles under my eyes. I’ve them since I was like 15. I have the kind of face that always looks tired, even when I’m not. And I cannot dye them away. I’ve tried the creams. They do nothing. The wife has them even worse than me. It runs in both of our families. The son? Born with them, lol. I love his little eye bags though. They’re the best on babies.


  10. I am more salt than grey these days. My wife says that my greys have come in hardcore the last few years. I wonder why…lol. But yeah, like most dudes, it suits me. I like it. I have always had a noticeable glop of whites, which one barber / hairdresser called a “wisdom patch”. so there – stick with that, Kristen!!

    I love greys on women. Always have. Not sure why, but I find them just as distinctive looking on women as they are on men. So I am all for keeping it as it…but that’s just me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh I hear you on this one. When I turned 40 I said no more dying the hair. It was time to see what I looked like without those chemicals. I used to be a brown hair gal but to let the grays come in, I went medium blonde with lots and lots of highlights. I have short hair so it took maybe 7 months for it to grow and then cut off all color. I LOVED it. At first. My sisters and mother were horrified that I did it as well as some close coloring friends. My friends who don’t battle the grays thought it was neat. Well, the first year it was amazing and I was so happy to be FREE (sound familiar?).

    But then, I went on a date and he got carded, I did not. I wondered if the waitress thought I was his mom, not his date. Then I got the senior citizen discount at the grocery store (I didn’t even know there was one). Then while on jury duty, while knitting in the jury room, someone asked me if I was knitting a blanket for my grandbaby (the woman asking was in her 70’s so I’ll chalk it up to senility). Then two young guys shouted “COUGAR” at me while on my way to work when I looked at them (not MILF, mind you!). The reason I went back to coloring was when at the funeral home after my dad died, my dear friend from grade school came to pay her respects. She didn’t recognize me! gah! So the day after the funeral, I surrendered and let my sisters and my mother take me to the salon to go back to light brown at the age of 43. Now it’s three years later and I’m thinking of doing it all over again! I said when I turn 50, but I’m getting itchy for it now.

    To do early graying well I do believe you have to be a healthy size and be mindful of hairstyle and makeup as well as keep an eye on your clothes. It can be done, but to do with an edge is not effortless. The upshot though if you don’t have the edge (i did not), you just might get your groceries on a 5% discount! Whatever you decide will be grand! I totally agree with Sharon — change is good!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m lucky that I have very little gray, but that runs in my family. I have two sisters and neither do they. Still, I’ve been dyeing or hightlighting my hair since I was a teenager. I was blonde as a child, but then my hair turned a mousey brown — dishwater blonde is what a lot of people called it. There have been times when I stopped having it hightlighted, mostly due to the cost. For awhile I tried a demi-permanent color that uses little or no peroxide, and washes out gradually. It made my hair feel great, but if doesn’t lighten it, which is what I wanted. It IS great for covering gray hair if that’s your purpose. The brand is Goldwell, if you’re interested. I’ve gone back to having my hair highlighted, which I much prefer. And I only have to have it done every 3 months, which is a lot easier than every 3 weeks.

    It’s funny how we all have something about our appearance that we are unhappy with or try to change. My husband started loosing his hair in his twenties. He’s okay with that. It’s easier to take care of, he says.

    I wish I could be okay with my drab, washed-out looking brown hair. For me, it’s just as bad as being gray.


  13. Hi K- well I like the message to embrace aging and not fight it – so freeing….

    and I agree with the genetics and graying – my mom grayed as a young teen but my dad had thick brown hair in his 60’s – crazy – and my brothers have very little gray still.

    and regarding getting away from dying it – I think it depends on the person – because I have seen an all-white no dye lady who looked like she was 20 years older. And maybe it all comes down to how the person feels because if highlights or a certain color makes someone feel more confident and more beautiful – well that may be a help to them and the effort and maintenance might be well worth it – like for my sisters = who are bleach blondes = well they use natural products – like aveda – and I guess that works for them…. and for dark hair, I have heard great things about the all natural way HENNA adds rich color:

    anyhow, I know graying is mostly genetic – but I also think gray hair has a stress relationship – for example, my son was five when he boldly (stupidly) put on his roller blades and tried this huge half pipe run at the park. He fell – not too bad – but hard enough to where I watched him closely for days after that – but that same night – he had two very big gray hairs show up on his chocolate brown hair – they were all wire-like too – and it made me remember the story of Marie Antoinette’s hair and how it supposedly turned completely white the day before her execution.
    have a great week ❤ ❤ 🙂


  14. Like Mary (above) I have very little gray even at the ripe old age of 53 BUT my natural hair color has always been drab and after the boys were born it went downright mousey so I’ve been coloring for the last 15 years or so.

    My suggestion? (Not that you asked…but that has never stopped me.). When (if) you decide to color again, go dark for a while. Warm or cool will depend on your skin tone but it can be so fun! Deep red with some funky highlights! Dark warm brown with red lowlights. Chestnut or mahogany. The possibilities are endless and it’s so much healthier for your hair. I am always shocked at how good my hair feels after its colored.

    The upkeep on the roots is more but if you have a good colorist, she can help you learn to do the maintenance at home so you only have to see her every 4-6 weeks.

    Then again…you may want to disregard my suggestions…I’m the old lady who recently went PINK!

    Good luck…most of all have fun!



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