Gray hair don’t care

Gray hair is not actually gray but silver or white or pewter or salt. It only appears gray from a distance against a backdrop of pepper. Gray hair (that is not really gray) can be coarse and wiry but is also shiny and healthier than any dyed hair I’ve known. Some mornings I catch my reflection in the mirror and realize gray hair don’t care.

It has been 15 months since my last dye but only 11 months since highlights, which helped the transition or prolonged the inevitable. Either way those months are a blip in time. I finally got so sick of the demarcation line betwen new and old color that I had a big haircut. I got compliments and didn’t hate it. In typical fashion I thought well if short is good, shorter must be gooder and I got more cut off next time. I spent the next 6 weeks hating my short gray hair. In typical fashion I thought well if feeling bad about yourself is what you’re into you might as well gain 7 pounds too. It was around this time my husband put a family photo from  3 Christmases ago directly in my line of sight when I watch movies on the couch. We had a wall painted so I don’t think he did it to trigger my breakdown, but I not only had to stare longingly at people on the TV with normal hair but now a previous version of myself. Between you and me, I think my old color looked brassy, though maybe it was more Tawny.

tawny
Not really me. In case you were wondering.

And one night we were watching a movie and I saw someone who reminded me of, well, me in the mornings. If you don’t recognize the image below, sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion and if you still don’t know what the hell I’m on about, just know my husband and I are in an unspoken competition to use our most favorite-forgotten phrase because after two decades of living together, we forget things but still know how to party. But I’m pretty sure I’m the only one of us who feels like this.

grandma death
Not really me. But much closer.

I hadn’t counted on it taking this long to decide if I like gray hair on me. I don’t recall loving my brown or Tawny hair so maybe it’s just a case of me still being me. Gray definitely makes me feel older, especially in those moments when I’m already feeling insecure. I keep thinking to myself just wait til summer, I assume because my hair will be longer by then and because there will be ice cream and I’m easy to distract that way. Mostly this waiting thing reminds me a lot of sobriety and how long that took to feel natural and comfortable, and finally like Home.

I did not love being sober in my first year. I did it anyway and loved bits and pieces, but still drooled over everybody else’s ability to drink normally or abnormally but without all the pain and obsession. Sometimes I felt like a freak and a failure. But I kept doing it because I am not a quitter except when it comes to drinking.

And over the months and years, my not drinking became not only something I did quite well on the outside but inside as well. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and one day looked up and wondered when was the last time I missed drinking anyway. The next week I missed drinking because that’s how it works, but the pang left just as quickly as it came and stayed away even longer. Here I am today so full of love and zest for life that I have the mental energy to grow out my natural hair color and obsess over it.

I said something to my husband about the picture of me and my old Tawny hair and he joked “it’s like Dorian Gray in reverse” and I laughed but then said “hey wait, aren’t all portraits like that?” We’re supposed to get older and get gray hair and crows feet and laugh lines and other adorably named things that mean we’re dying. What I did was super-accelerate the ageing process and all the insecurities that come with it, especially for a woman.

What I did to soften the blow of getting old (not really) super fast is I started working out again and cancelled my last haircut. In order to celebrate my real hair color (which, how insane is it to feel the need to hide the natural color of our hair? think about that for a second), we picked new vinyl siding for our house and went with the color swatch named silver-gray. Just kidding – pebblestone-gray cost extra – but in the end it’s just siding and it’s just hair. Gray hair don’t care and hopefully I’ll get there myself some day.

 

 

 

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44 thoughts on “Gray hair don’t care

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  1. I’m right there with you sweetie. I was gray at 40 so for the last 24 years I’ve been gray, blonde, brown, brown with highlights, etc. now my gray hair fits my age, except I don’t feel my age. Huge dilemma. What the hell, six months from now I may be blonde again. You look great, it’s our OWN perception of how we look that’s messed up, really.
    Sharon

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    1. You’re totally right. And we have options. I’m definitely sticking with it for now. My best friend from college is also starting her transition to white. It’s cool to see.

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  2. Great story and thanks for sharing. The only sad thing to me about this is the silly ass cultural stigma about gray hair as being anything other than a color. At the risk of coming off as sexist or whatever, your gray hair looks damn good on the rest of you.

    Best wishes, Robert

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  3. Yeah … I got my hair growth patterns from the side of the family that lost its hair earlier instead of later. So, my only hope was that I would actually have hair long enough for it to turn gray, silver, white, pewter … whatever the color it is. I have a receding hairline and started to develop that patch in the back that became more skin than hair. A few years ago, I went bald for a bit, but that was too much work, so now I just keep my hair very short. Every few weeks, I get the electric clippers out and vrooom vrooom over my head. The thing is that I don’t mind the physical manifestations of age. The gray hair. The wrinkles. In some respect, I embrace those things.

    What I really have a problem with is the other consequences — the changes in my diet, the changes in my energy levels, the changes in my ability to consume whatever I want. I’m really struggling with those kinds of changes brought about by advancing age. And the corresponding need to exercise. That’s always been a motivation of mine that has come and gone with varying degrees of success. But, yes, the older we get the more important it becomes.

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  4. That Tawny girl from that video…funny…glad I can’t remember the singer or the video, sort of: that era of “hard rock ballads.” I’m glad you’re doing this, hopeful my wife will come around to it and work through the difficult period, which (it sounds like from you) could take quite a while — nice comparison to getting sober, and thanks for sharing a glint of your challenges with that. I think I also recognize the other photo but can’t place it: it’s funny you chose that, good work.

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    1. If you miss the video (and it sounds like you don’t) you can click on the image to be magically transported to 1988ish. I have some weird painful sweet spot for that song that I don’t really understand and it smarts a little but I keep poking at it anyway. The other photo is grandma death from Donnie Darko, which we watched with our teenager the other night. It has two Glyenhaalls (?) and one Patrick Swayze and this dance group called Sparkle Motion that I’m pretty sure my sister danced in the 80s but it could have all been a dream.

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  5. I think it looks GREAT! I like that length, too. There are so many things that I wish would “go back to normal” these days, but…I’m realizing that life never promised that it would stay the same, or that phases wouldn’t pass. Like, that phase of being fertile (!). Or, that phase of having hair. Or, that phase of having color in said hair. I think your hair is very futuristic, very Hunger Games! Thanks for sharing this…it means a lot, and I need to read about other women dealing with, well, how we age–and how we age well! xx

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    1. I always figured District 1 would take me out in the first 5 minutes and it would be a mercy. But thanks for the kind words. I know what you mean about change and phases. I am trying to remember they’re all pretty normal and okay, but I guess acceptance takes longer.

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  6. I love the mention of Dorian Gray – but in life, the fact is that we age, not the pictures of us. What is it with our society that thinks it is a crime to age? Good for you! My hair is thinning and I’m not visiting any doctors or clinics, just maybe a razor.

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    1. There is something appealing about people who accept inevitables like thinning or graying hair. Nothing wrong with hair plugs and just for men if that’s what one’s into, but confidence is where it’s at.

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  7. I didn’t grow my silver out until I was in my early fifties. I just got sick sick sick of dyeing it every four weeks because that’s how often I needed to do it by then. It is definitely an adjustment. I’ve had my moments, especially since mine is not all the same color. I’ve got that racing stripe down the middle of my forehead (which I’ve written about) and I’m so happy that the female reform rabbi that motivated me to do this said, “That can be dramatic.”
    Your post is beautiful,all silver, sobriety, and acceptance. I love it. The perfect way to start my day.
    xo Joanne

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    1. Maybe Audrey will knock it over with her light saber and they’ll try and glue it back together but it will spring leaks the first time I go to fill it with water, and then it will be a precious family heirloom instead of painful reminder of lost youth.

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  8. I used to work with a woman, older than I, who died her hair relentlessly, it looked like the wires of a switchboard that had shorted out, I’m not kidding you. She finally went natural and she had the most beautiful healthy silver hair I’d ever seen. All those years she walked around with horrible hair so she could look younger. It’s kind of like putting alcohol in our body so we’ll feel happy, eventually it starts shorting out all the circuits and we walk around with a bunch burnt out wiring looking a feeling like shit.

    You, my dear, are a silver warrior.

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  9. Oh my goodness! I just clicked on the photo of “little miss demi-perm, I-can-do-the-splits-on-the-bonnet-of-a-car” and it was like I was right back in 1987! That video is the stuff of nightmares…and true hairstyle disasters! I stopped dying mine a few years ago and every single week someone comments (in a complimentary way) on my grey locks. I love the relief of having natural coloured hair – and your hair looks fabulous too. And why wouldn’t it? It’s yours! x

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  10. I think you are beautiful, and I love your hair!
    I am older than you are, and dye my hair dark. It’s not all gray yet.
    I am going to go gray when I am 70!
    Then I want to go all gray at once.
    But only your color gray!
    xo
    Wendy

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  11. Isn’t it a shame we all seem to hate, if not our hair, then some other aspect of our physical appearance? I sometimes wonder when in human evolution that insecurity kicked in.

    I love the way your hair looks. It’s very pretty.

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  12. You are and will always be one of my favorite people and writers.
    Your writing sucks me in and slams me right when I need it. Then, when it’s getting REAL, you make me laugh and then I always learn something new.
    I’ve had a love/hate/hate relationship with my hair my whole life — and Tawny Kitane, too. My husband and I had just started dating when that video was popular, and I knew I’d never have that hair or body. And now, 27 years later, I have the man and wouldn’t want to be Tawny (she’s batsh*t crazy!)…and still fight my hair, my body image and everything that goes with that. Ugh.
    I loved your reference to Dorian Gray. You’re a master spinner of words and you’re absolutely beautiful inside and out. Xo

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    1. I stumbled across a more recent photo of Tawny and she’s had a lot of work done. And then there’s naturally beautiful you, and when you say you struggle at all it surprises me how you don’t see what the rest of us see. You’re hot, beautiful inside and out, the golden ticket. It’s okay not to know it all the time though.

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  13. Whitesnake!

    You’re so good as hiding little life lessons in your personal stories. I’m jealous of your story-telling skill.

    “But I kept doing it because I am not a quitter except when it comes to drinking.” 🙂

    The whole awkward-ness of those in between stages–in between hair color; in between sobriety. What’s the saying? Don’t quit before the miracle occurs?

    You’re wise, graceful, and eloquent. I’m so happy we are friends.

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  14. I just recently decided to cover the gray as it had been 8 months since my last appointment. Instead of” just coloring”, I decided to chop off 8 inches and shave the underside of the bob I’m now sporting. Liberating!!! The color is more natural, and I think it represents how I am in recovery- willing to take the necessary steps to feel lighter, happier and more liberated.One of these days I am going to venture in front of the mirror naked and tell myself how great I look. Not there yet..progress not perfection.

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  15. Hey there – enjoyed catching up on your blog this week – has it been 15 months – ! ? Wow – I recall when u first made this decision – and enjoyed reading about your experience – I shaved me head in 2014 – almost to the skin – very close – and well – I always wanted to do it – but it was too short – it brought attention my way and I was followed in the hospital by a lady who thought I was going to oncology! Anyhow – the short hair days that came after that phase were fun – and I had the best haircut when it grew in – but right now I am back to a pony tail – and that took forever to arrive – oh hair is such an individual matter – and I am glad you are doing what you want!
    Laughing at that photo at the end! Ha!

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  16. What a thoughtful post. While not ready to take the grey plunge myself, the whole issue of how to age gracefully (in ways that are true to who one is and aspires to become) is an obsession of late. Thanks for a fresh perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I watched my mom.turn gray.over a five year period and each time I pointed it out to her she said.it.was the fault of my brothers and I. I used be a little hurt by that but then one day, not long before she passed away, she explained that the gray we caused represented each moment she was ever proud of and she was glad to have a physical manifestation of that pride. Once she explained, her gray shown brighter to me because i now knew it was her badge of honor. She was never more beautiful.

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