Choosing to Rock the Gray

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Rock the gray Feb
Prepare yourself.  I am about to shock you.  You might want to sit down.
I decided to stop coloring my hair.  Translation:  I decided to let myself go gray.
Don’t worry, though.  It’ll take me a minute.  Actually, the whole process will take about a year to grow out all the henna’d hair and reveal my real hair.  It took about 10 years to make the decision, though, so one year isn’t so bad.  That’s right, folks.  I’ve been thinking about letting my gray hair show for about 10 years (I’ve been going gray much longer than that).  For 10 years, I have been coloring my hair to make other people happy, when deep down, I wanted to leave it alone.  To top it all off, my skin tone is changing as I age.  The warm auburn red that used to look good is suddenly too dark, too warm and washes me out too much.  My roots show up every two weeks whether I have time to color or not.  When my gray roots started peeking through this time, I just couldn’t bring myself to color it anymore.
I know this decision will shake some people.  I’m always amazed at how attached other people are to my hair.  Every time I’ve hinted at letting my gray hair show, I have encountered shock and horror — usually accompanied by a wailing cry of, “You can’t do that!!!!”
So this time, I didn’t tell anyone but my immediate family.  Then I started the process of transitioning to gray hair.  In another post, I will tell more about what I did to lift some of the henna from my hair so I would be sporting ombré weirdness as my hair grows out rather than skunk-striped-roots weirdness.  But for now, I will answer my critics and leave you with some great links for staying stylish while you go gray.

To the Gray Hair Critics:

1.  Don’t tell me I’m too young to have gray hair.  When I was graying at 20, you might have had a point.  At 45, I am decidedly NOT too young.  My gray hair is right on time.
2.  Slapping fake color on my hair isn’t deluding anyone into thinking I’m 20.  Just like the guy with the comb-over isn’t fooling anyone, people know I’m not in college anymore.  They don’t even wonder.
3.  Why, exactly, is it so wrong for me to look old?  I am old (as in, older than 20, the only socially acceptable age for a woman to be). I’m just looking my age, honey.  I’m okay with that.  And let’s face it.  The hair color you are so attached to me wearing isn’t making me look young, anyway.
4.  Don’t be threatened by this.  My gray hair won’t make you look any older.  I promise.
5.  “But if you let yourself go gray, your hair will be wirey and unmanageable.”  Of all the arguments against going gray, this one makes the least sense to me.  I’m already gray under all that henna.  Any texture changes are already happening.  My hair texture isn’t going to magically change just because you can see my real hair color.  If anything, stopping the hair color madness is likely to mean the hair is healthier, especially if you use chemical color.
6.  My decision to go gray doesn’t mean I think you should go gray.  This is a personal choice, not a moral decree.
7.  If I don’t like it, I can always go back to coloring.  If you don’t like it, well… Maybe you’ll get used to it.
8.  I am sorry that you will have to look at me while I endure a year-long ugly duckling phase.  Why don’t I make it up to you by buying myself a cute hat?
Here are some great gray hair links.  You’ll feel much better about all of this once you see these:
A Story of a Girl Going Gray   A chronicle in pictures of one woman’s grow out phase.  When you see the before and after on this woman, you will never be able to say gray hair makes you look older.  She looks decidedly younger and fresher with gray hair than with brown.  Wow.
7 Tips for Growing Out Gray Hair  Same woman, now with tips to do what she did.
5 Tips for Growing Out Gray Hair This lady manages to look like she’s rocking some cool bleaching with black tips.  She makes the grow out phase look hip.
Grey Is Okay  This lovely lady from Ireland looks amazing.  Scroll down the page to see her before with brown hair.  She looks so.much.better with gray hair.  Amazing.
Revolution Gray   Pretty much everything you need to know about going gray with style.  Lots of befores and afters.  Lots of tips.
Tonight, I will be going to church with gray roots and much lighter hair (because I lifted as much of the henna as I possibly could — more on that later.). I figure the entire church will probably pass out.  I’ll prop them up in their seats.  Eventually everyone will get used to this, right?
I think I’m all done shocking you now.  I’ll try to post something a little more normal next time.
Have a great day!
Angela
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10 Comments

  1. I stopped dying my hair about a year and a half ago. It is soooo much healthier, thicker, and I'm a-ok with the gray. I've had gray hair for decades and, just like you, kept it hidden. I got the same resistance from others, including my hair dresser, but I'm quite happy with my decision.

  2. That's awesome, Ally! How long did it take until you were happy with the grow-out? Did you have an "awkward stage"? I'm making plans for how I will deal with my hair as the color grows out.

  3. Just over a year ago, I made the same decision and for pretty much the same reasons. Not kidding – I have received more compliments on my hair over the past year than in the previous ten or so years put together. And I've been told again and again the equivalent of "Good for you!!" Many of my friends have said they wished they were brave enough to do it. I haven't received any negative comments at all (although my hubby jokes that it looks like I've robbed the cradle, or that no one will question me if I try for a senior discount) – at least none that I can recall. As a bonus, my hair looks and feels softer and healthier than it has in many years – not wiry or unmanageable. I'm almost there – pretty soon my hair will have grown out enough that the last of the colored ends can be cut off and believe me, I plan to ROCK the grey!!

    You go, girl!!!

  4. Melissa, you might want to brace yourself for the dreaded skunk stripe of roots. I'm hoping to have enough root growth by May to be able to look slightly normal, but for right now, I just have to gut out the growth process.

  5. Kym, Thank you so much for sharing your story. That is so encouraging. Did you do anything to make it easier during the first few months of the grow-out? At this point, the only thing I can think of that would really work is a hat…

  6. In my experience, the bad reactions to people deciding to go grey is because too many women go grey because they give up on themselves or become depressed. So finding out a close friend decided to go grey, they assume the above.

    If going grey is an aesthetic choice and the woman honestly believes she will look awesome that way, then that is an amazing choice! It's so much more healthy at the very least.

    Unfortunately for me – I know that grey hair, or any type of light hair looks terrible on me. So I'm stuck dyeing it for the next foreseeable future. I had points in my life when I went without make up, and let my hair grow out – and these were times of strong depression. I didn't realize it at that time though and was angry when people told me I shouldn't give up on myself. Now I treat it as a little bell – as soon as I feel I want to grow out my hair because dyeing it is too much of a hassle – I know I'm getting depressed.

    So when I find out someone decided to go grey, I look at their reasons. If it's because they gave up on themselves, I become sad. I don't interfere with my comments, I'm know they won't help. But I do feel sad.
    But if it's a fun beauty choice, then I am very happy for them! Platinum hair can be very beautiful!

    Also, I agree that grey hair doesn't always make one look older. I think it's all about the tone of the skin and wardrobe choices. Everyone advised me against going black because they said I'd look too old. And I went waaay too long with a lighter color that did not suit me. Once I went black, I look so fresh and like a teenager! I think most start wearing more make up and continue to wear dark clothes after going black – and that is what makes them look old, not the hair. I started wearing lighter make up and bright colored clothes and I look fresh as a daisy. Couldn't be more happy!

    I know quite a few women who were quite older, say 70 or 80, and coloring their hair a darker color instead of grey made them look much younger. So maybe the "grey makes one look old" is a wrong inference from "dark colors make 70+ year olds look younger".

  7. Thank you for your thoughts, Anonymous. My experience with this issue has been very different from yours. Nearly all the women I have had contact with who have decided to allow their natural gray to shine (and they have been very numerous, both online and in real life) have done so with a great deal of thought and self-discovery. They have decided, for various reasons, that this was something they wanted to do. Sometimes it is because they wanted to look cool, but often it has been simply a way to embrace their true self. (For the record, I don't think you have to stop dying your hair in order to embrace your true self, but it is something many of us choose to do.)

    I think we should always be aware when our friends or loved ones might be experiencing depression. Depression is a very dangerous thing, and I am so sorry to hear that you have had to deal with it. I hope things are better for you now. However, I don't think it is necessarily fair to assume that someone with gray roots showing is probably "letting themselves go" or suffering a very serious mental disease. We should not make assumptions about someone's a mental condition based solely on their physical appearance, and certainly not on the appearance of un-dyed roots.

    I agree with you that as we age, experimenting with the colors we wear and the colors of our make-up can be a wonderful thing and can certainly enhance our appearance. I am sure some people look better with dyed hair and others with their natural graying color. To dye or not to dye is a very personal decision and one that each woman should be allowed to make without feeling pressure from others.

  8. Oh, I definatly do not assume based on appearence, in fact, the only thing I assume about any appearence-related choice is that it is none of my business.

    I am glad you said that for so many people it is a happy choice, I am glad to hear that because depression is the "usual" reason for going grey in my (small!) sample of friends (quite a few have actually said "I decided to let myself go after I had kids). Perhaps depressed people stick together.

    And yes, of course a woman should do whatever she wants with her apearance, depressed or not. I am quite the feminist in my values.

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