9 months gray

It’s been awhile since I posted about going gray, though I think about it every day. It reminds me a little of going sober in that way, though one will give you your life back and the other is just hair, afterall. Still, returning to a color I’d never actually seen before has turned into a real eye opener and a much slower ride than expected.

I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take to grow out my old color, which was some variation of dyed brown with blond highlights. The girl who used to cut my hair said she had a client who grew her gray out in six months (and then promptly went back to color). What I failed to hear was her client also had very short hair.

Hair grows at a rate of about a half an inch per month, or six inches in a year. Shoulder length hair is longer than six inches on most people. Nine months in, I can see a clear demarcation line midway down my head, so I’d guess I’m about halfway through growing out the old color if I keep my current length.

I actually just had it cut a couple of weeks ago. I changed stylists to someone that doesn’t talk down gray and who listened and steered me towards a shorter cut that I really love instead of more highlights.

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I’ve had a few people say “love the blond!” which makes me feel like a liar. I could counter with a lengthy actually I’m growing out my gray and dark brown and technically the blond is old highlights bleached out by the pool and sun but thanks anyway! But it’s just facebook.

Some days the gray makes me feel old and invisible. Did you ever read Flowers for Algernon? It’s a short story about a mentally challenged janitor and lab mouse who both get supersmart from an experiment, but later slide back to their former states and worse. What’s even worse is they know it’s happening to them.

Six years ago, I lost upwards of 40 pounds. Talk about finding newfound power and confidence. I went from feeling invisible to invincible. Graying reminds me of the invisibility I used to feel when I was overweight. When I’m out with my lovely teenaged daughter, I especially notice how we’re all captivated by youth and beauty. I know I’ll never look young again.

The unexpected side is how gray makes me feel more youthful. Since I don’t care about protecting expensive highlights from the elements anymore, I’ve been swimming more this summer than in years. I don’t cover my hair with hats in the sun and I don’t have to buy special color-safe shampoo anymore. Not having to color every 3-4 weeks is freeing, even though I admittedly gaze longingly at pictures taken less than a year ago when I had color.

I love the way the front of my hair is turning out to be streaks of silver. The young woman who washed my hair before my last haircut said her mother keeps hoping the few gray hairs she has will turn into a lightning bolt streak. She says she’d kill for what I have. It’s odd what feels like a compliment when you’re going gray. It’s wonderful how kind people can be.

My husband has been my biggest cheerleader from the start. Anytime I make him swear to give his honest opinion, he carefully tells me he can hardly tell where the old and new color meet. He has a fair amount of gray that he never considered coloring, and of course being a man, he wears it wonderfully. And really, anyone can.

I’m probably about halfway through the process and hopefully through the worst of it. I’d say months 4-8 were the hardest because I couldn’t tell what it would look like but felt the fallout of looking older. If anyone reading this is in that in-between place, hang in there. It definitely gets better.

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33 thoughts on “9 months gray

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  1. I just logged in after a good long time away. This is at the top of my reader, I remember that first post. Time does fly and you look simply amazing, gorgeous. Bravo, invisibility is not the word I would use to say the least.

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  2. Love it. I dream about not coloring my hair but am not ready yet. Hey maybe it is like quitting drinking, I dreamed about the day that I would easily reply when offered an alcoholic drink, no thanks I don’t drink, seltzer or water are fine. Now that is reality not a dream.

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    1. There are definitely parallels with sobriety. Isn’t it amazing to look back at just how much changed?And I found that doing that one (pretty big) change opened up so many others.

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  3. First off, you are truly beautiful in gray. I say this not from an age perspective, but from a what works perspective, comparing the photos on your profile page with your one in this post. I like it.

    There is this knee-jerk age thing which we all react to, I think. About 10 years ago when I started having pain in my joints, I decided that I am not going there, lost about 50 pounds, and started biking as a remedy.

    This past summer I was on a multi-hour hike on the coast of Peru that is best envisioned as a rocky lunar landscape. The trek involved wading rivers, walking along narrow swithbacks in a pretty intense heat. At 63 I was the oldest of the 4 by at least 20 years. A couple of times, I was asked “Are you okay?” “Can you make it?” which of course pushed my ego to the lead of the group, but I wondered “When did I become that person who needed to be asked if they could physically handle it?”

    No matter how well-intentioned, I came away refusing to fit my life into other people’s perceptions of what I should be or how I should function. I always come back to the Hamlet line on the sobriety coins “To Thine Own Self Be True.”

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  4. Lovely 🙂 The grey looks very good on you. And…. It’s about a year ago that I decided to quit drinking and the second thought was: ‘And I’ll not dye my hair anymore either!’ No clue how they are connected but here I am, half grey, half dark brown and getting a lot of compliments on the grey. 🙂
    xx, Feeling

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  5. I’m sorry, but I can’t get past those bright beautiful lively eyes! I remember looking into my own eyes in old photos when I was drinking, and how dead my eyes looked. Your eyes look about ten years old.

    And your hair is darling.

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  6. I’m so jealous! I want to grow mine out but we have a big wedding to attend in two weeks so I decided to wait until after because my colored hair is very dark. I don’t think my transition will be as seamless and beautiful as yours. I am going to have my stylist put in some gray streaks and highlights to help with the transition.

    I think you look amazing! The color of your natural hair is gorgeous. It looks amazing on you. If you haven’t yet go on Pinterest and search “going gray”. There are so many beautiful pictures of women who have transitioned. I think all of them look better gray! I’m 56 by the way. I’m (trying) to begin to slide gracefully into my real age. I can’t wait! (BTW…my husband is all for it too!)

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    1. You can definitely do it, and yes, love the Pinterest boards and also Facebook has some great groups. Going gorgeously gray (I think is the name) is very active with lots of members and support.

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  7. you look gorgeous!
    And i love that you switched to a more grey loving hairdresser….just the cut has made all the difference, right? (the cut is amazing!)
    i’m in such a quandary about this because i don’t have a lot of grey; silver steaks in brown hair…boring. My dad had the most beautiful head of silver beauty, my mom (who I seem to share hair genes with) stayed brown/streak well into her 70’s.
    I stopped getting expensive dye jobs years ago…i just slap on some L’Oreal dark auburn and go, but I’d love to stop.
    anyway..YOU look wonderful, thanks for the update!

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      1. honestly..I just don’t want to spend the money on the constant upkeep. When I was doing that I’d get low lights and streaks and i LOVED it. Now I think I’m bored with the bottle red but not sure what else to do. Maybe pink? 😉

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  8. I joined in to make a comment and saw that KaryMay had beat me to it, exact words. I see the same glow from within as I approach the one-year mark and am sometimes shocked when I look in the mirror (who IS that?).

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  9. Ah you do look radiant, I agree! I connect so strongly with everything you wrote. When I was 44 and pregnant with my 2nd child 🙂 I decided to go gray. I chopped all my hair off in Paris and I agree, it was very liberating, and humbling. I also felt really vulnerable. Free, but vulnerable. And yet, powerful, more like myself. All at once. When he was a baby I went through some depression and it felt strange to have a newborn and short grey hair (I normally wear it shoulder-length). My husband has been begging me to go back to grey, but I suppose I am clinging to my color. You’re inspiring me to just let go again. Just let go…

    Thank you so much for sharing.

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  10. Amen to that – your hair looks beautiful and in some weird way, I’m looking forward to my wife’s doing the same. There’s some kind of in-between, fall look to it (the season, fall) — my favorite. Hope it lasts a good long time for you. Bill

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  11. You look gorgeous! You rock the gray just like everything else you do — writing, motherhood, awesomehood — amazing. I also really love the parallels you made and as a slave to color girl, I can totally see how freeing not coloring would be. Your face is bright and beautiful and I am so happy to know you.

    *rethinking this whole purple thing….

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