One month gray

On Saturday, I tell my hair dresser I want to go gray. She barely bats an eye and rattles off the best way to go about it. She tells me she saw another client through the process, only to have her go back to color when the last bit was growing out. I hope that’s not me, though it very much sounds like something I would do.

My grandmother used to visit her hair dresser every Friday morning. I think her hair dresser’s name was Jo and I think I played Mr. Mouth with her daughter once, though I could be mixing up memories. I’ll never forget the can of Coke and pack of peanut butter crackers I got when I tagged along to a hair appointment. There was nothing tedious about it to me. I sat on a dryer chair, shoving in dry, day-glo crackers, and watched the magical transformation unfold.

My grandmother always went in tense, barking at my grandad to quit driving so slow and did he see that red light he just ran. When she came out of a hair appointment, she was the Queen. She still barked orders at my grandad, but did so regally. Her perfectly coiffed ball of ash blond hair looked like cotton candy and made me hungry again.

In all honesty, I’m not sure what she had done at those appointments. I think it was a wash and set, which would mean she didn’t wash her hair all week? No wonder she was always on edge. (She’s been gone nearly two decades, so I can’t ask her.)

I’m a little nervous about seeing my still-living grandmother at Christmas. Last summer, we were standing in the morning sun when she said to me “You do have a lot of gray hair.” I thought we’d been talking about sandals but she’d been having an entirely separate conversation in her head. She then told me about the time she’d been sitting poolside with my brother, who is several years older than me, and accused him of wearing a white wig. She may have given his hair a gentle tug just to be sure.

My hair dresser inspects my roots and tells me I’m about 80% gray. If she’d said anything less than 75%, I admit I would have felt disappointed. She says the hair framing my face is nearly 100% white and I remember the time I got a 100% on a french test in 7th grade and I beam. She shares a theory that the hair on that part of our heads takes a direct beating from the sun over the years and that’s why it goes first. I watch her fill my head with aluminum foil wraps and think it’s all pretty crazy.

I go home with about two inches of exposed white root and a head full of expensive highlights. I don’t really understand how this is all going to work, so I make an appointment for 8 weeks away, just to be safe. I’m relieved I won’t have to do my roots anymore every 3 weeks at home. White would already be showing at the temples and part line after 2 weeks. My hair doesn’t want to be fucked with anymore. It’s been quite clear about that.

On Christmas, my grandmother will no doubt comment on my hair. It’s better when I can brace myself. I’m learning to be more gracious and brush off what she never intends as insult in the first place. She went to the school of Say What Everybody Else is Thinking. I’ll probably slip into defensive mode and explain I’m just trying it out, much like the conversation she forced out of me on the phone last week when she asked about church.

When I told her that I was taking the girls to church a couple of months ago, she started crying. She still surprises me. Part of me now wishes I hadn’t said anything because now I feel like we have to keep going. She asks me if I can send her literature about my religion, which is a mix of beliefs and a stretch from what she’s used to. I think how fun it might be to make up my own brochure in Word, arranging weird clip art (aka the original emojis) and funny phrases. Instead I tell her how a recent service went, which is similar to every other denomination I’ve been to. Hymns, saying things in unison, shaking hands with flu-infested neighbors, listening to the minister, staring at the floor and ceiling, chucking money in a basket, snacks.

My grandmother tells me she wants my brother to go to church, that he needs it. She wants my husband to go to church. She probably wants you to go to church if you don’t already. The thing I can’t quite tell her is that church isn’t everything I’d hoped it would be. It turns out that it’s just me showing up and feeling awkward and out of place. The hymns are lovely, but in truth I’d rather not stand and I’m still lip synching all of the high notes and at least half the low ones too. When service is over, I beeline out of there to find my kids because awkward small talk feels like gargling with battery acid. There are definite points during the service where I feel peaceful and connected and outside myself, which is a very good place to be, but as it turns out, I’m no better at embracing community at church than I am anywhere else.

How did I start talking about gray hair and wind up at church? It might be worth mentioning that while counting hats is pretty impossible at church these days, I did count quite a few white heads in the congregation. A surprising amount of women too. So maybe I’ve found my people afterall, at least for where I am right now, which is all any of us can hope for.

us gray gals gotta stick together (if only mine would come in that lovely)
us gray gals gotta stick together (if only mine would come in that lovely)
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37 thoughts on “One month gray

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  1. Hilarious! It’s my sister-in-law who’s been to that school and is also the exception to the ‘no one cares if you’re drinking except other boozers’ adage. Guess there’s one in every family.

    I too am battling gray, but still with blonde highlights. We both seem to have had wondering minds last Sunday as I was inspecting the older women’s hair around me and finding many to be suspiciously even-colored though not necessarily gray. You’re right about the highlights being expensive…..

    Guess I better pay attention to my own hair going to church 😜

    Thanks for posting!

    B1B

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    1. I’m still not sure how the blond highlights play into the transition but will enjoy them while I have them. Maybe they will stay. And i generally thought all nice things about church hair. Must have been the setting.

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  2. I went from a hair colouring habit of almost equal vintage to my drinking one to my natural colour over a period of twelve months prior to going sober. and there’s a fair bit of grey in it, now. I’m learning to love it. please note mine is grey, not gray 😉

    tired of being something I’m not, perhaps? whilst simultaneously being prepared to die nobly on the battlements fighting for women to have hair whatever the hell colour we want !

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    1. I had to think how to spell it. Grey looks more natural, ala Earl Grey. I think you nailed it with “tired of being something I’m not”. When keeping up appearances while drinking became increasingly harder, I surrendered and was unexpectedly liberated. I realize hair isn’t on the same level, but we can apply this to other areas and hope for the best 🙂

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  3. I too am in the Battle of Grey. I had mine done a week ago. My hair dresser talked me into strawberry blonde coverage on the roots, and blonde highlights. Guess what, I hate it. I have yet to embrace the inevitable.
    As for church, we tried a random one my husband picked because they had a horrible flashing sign in front. I knew we were doomed when the first person I saw when we walked through the door was the man my husband golfs with who had just been exposed, via email, to our whole community as having had an on going affair.
    Then the minister, priest, (whatever this religion called him) used POWER POINT to accompany his sermon. Can you say uninspiring?
    Keep me posted on the grow out, it may be in my near future. 🙂

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  4. Love this…I hope you will write a follow-up. I have colored my hair since I first started using “Sun-In” in the 70’s and turned my hair orange. Blonde out of a bottle was the fix…still is…except for a six year period of having auburn hair (out of a bottle).By my calculations I’ve been doing my hair for about 43 years! YIKES! I am not 80% gray though…which I was… I will have to ask my hairdresser what my percentage is…I do have a lot of white around my face that just won’t take the color out of the bottle anymore…I love it!

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  5. Oh, your blog and writing are so much fun to read! I laughed out loud several times 😀 And you are beautiful! Gray or otherwise. I hope you will keep writing for us 🙂

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  6. OMG you look beautiful with the gray coming in~ some people can pull it off! I had the same battle w/ the hairdresser a few weeks back. She decided highlights only helps the gray blend in when the roots grow…. so no more root color. Who knew getting old was this tricky? Your blog had me cracking up~ I felt the same ways at church too~ I have been trying a new one too and my dad, the big catholic of course had a comment…. I need connection and I just wasn’t feeling it. Hopefully in time I will be more connected~ reaching out of our comfort zone is hard but sometimes necessary! Hugs!

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  7. i think it’s gorgeous!
    I have run the gamut of coloring myself…i used to love goingin and getting streaks and that but then it got expensive and i started just buying L’Oreal dark Auburn at the drugstore and doing it myself…still doing that. I decided i was a redhead years ago and really haven’t changed…i can see the grey, but it’s streaky, not really white. I remember my mom’s hair…long dark and streaked with sliver. So pretty…..not sure that would be mine, certainly not the long (mine has been short for years).
    what is this, true hair confessions? who asked? LOL…
    i will be watching with interest…but i love the start!

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  8. I love this photo! Especially the cat. And I am deeply jealous of you being able to transition to grey-just this morning I was looking at the back of a woman’s head in school assembly, her hair was entirely grey and twisted up in a gorgeous clip. Mine is still just around the temples … But at the earliest I will embrace the grey xxx

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  9. I love the story too. And I have always loved grey on women. I just do. They say men look “debonair” and women “old” – bullshit! The hair colouring people propagate that nonsense! You look great already and will look killer with the greys!! I have about 45% grey (if not more) and I enjoy it.

    Anyway, regardless which way you go, that smile will always lighten up the room.

    And as for your grandmother – I love any stories you have involving her 🙂

    Paul

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  10. Well, it’s a good thing I read this post before I meet up with you next week… I may not have recognized the alluring, frosty-topped woman I will see 🙂

    Gorgeous, and love the style to boot!

    My Mom and Grandmother’s hairdresser was Mr. Mort, a stately silver-haired fox who, oddly enough, was NOT gay, and your story totally took me back to that 1970’s memory.

    Thanks for that, and providing some inspiration to go au naturel 🙂

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  11. Yes to grey! I can’t recommend it enough. I have long grey – I like to call it silver – hair and just love it. Oh the liberation in freeing yourself from root trauma/stress/expense. And because it’s the colour it’s meant to be it’s going to look divine. You’ll turn heads and be the envy of those addicted to the bottle (of dye, not booze!, promise!

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  12. First of all…you are gorgeous! I love that I have such pretty bloggy friends (inside and out!)
    Secondly, you always find a way to whisk me back in time. The description of your grandma and her beauty shop hair. We only had one little beauty shop in our little home town and it was full on Saturdays. All of the women getting their hair set for church! I also took care of a little old lady who had me put her hair in curlers every day…silly memories, right?
    Finally, I chuckled all the way through…you hundred percenter you!

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    1. haha, that’s so cool! This reminded me I really need to get back to running. I’ve fallen off in the last month after getting an upper respiratory thing and weather/life. So this means a lot to see the images from running 🙂

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      1. cool – and I hope you did not mind me harvesting pics like that – but I made about a dozen real quickly like last night -and well, I really loved those shots – but I was also picking rather quicklime – you know – cos if I really spent time on them I would have only gotten like two done.

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