Hello, fabulous readers!
I was preparing a talk for a group of women, and in it I ask each to think about her style signature. What is her constant? Some way she is visibly recognizable and different from others. Which made me think about mine… I have a couple of things that could be considered my signature, but the one that most people comment on is my grey hair, so it’s time to share how I came to own and love my grey.
I come from Irish roots, and we have two strains of grey-ers in our family tree. Those who never grey and keep their dark hair until they die, and the others who grey very early. I remember finding my first grey hair at 16 and thinking, “Cool! If they keep coming it will make it easier to get into the bars!” (Okay, so my priorities were different back then. Weren’t yours?) Clearly, I come from the early greying genes. In my teens and twenties, I did sometimes color my hair, but for a fun change of color, not to disguise the grey. I wasn’t bothered by my grey hair. It wasn’t until my 40’s when we were living in England that the grey began to bug me. Our two youngest sons were born when I was 30 and 32, and our social set of enlisted military families was much younger than we were. (Late bloomers, us.) We were a good 10 or more years older than the rest of the couples with children our age, and all my grey had me feeling like the old lady in the room. I think that, combined with long grey winters, and little sunshine gave me the push to start hiding my grey.
So, foils it was, and lots of shades of color, and I loved it. I felt a little hip, even if the color (I know now) wasn’t the most flattering to my complexion. I kept it up when we returned home to the U.S., but was gobsmacked at the price, and would string out as long as I could between coloring sessions. The hit on our expenses was beginning to bother me, as was the time spent in the chair. I had started a new job teaching full-time, and was in graduate school. An hour and a half every six weeks was more time than I could spare; sleep and time with my family were already at a premium.
When I sat down to calculate the annual cost of coloring my hair, I cringed. We could go for a long weekend away on that money! So I opted for home hair color instead. The highlights I had and the grey created a tonal effect even with the box, so it wasn’t so bad… but then came a nudge from the Lord. I know, that sounds a little woo-woo to some, but I had been praying that easiest and hardest of prayers “Thy will be done.” when a poke in the ribs replied “So why are you coloring your hair? That’s not the hair I gave you.”
Okay. Crazy as it sounds, that was it. Too vain for the skunk stripe method of growing out grey, (and not interested in the nickname from students), I chose to use temporary color and keep that up until the permanent color could be cut off. The grey was camouflaged well enough for the transition by a quick temp color at home about once every four or five weeks. After about six months, the perfect storm of no-more-coloring came. My childhood best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was younger than me. I decided that when she started chemo, I would cut off my hair, and that was that. It was really short, the rest of the temp color washed out, and I was free!
When I say “free,” I really mean it. It felt fantastic, like I wasn’t hiding any more. No pretending to be someone I was not. Funnily, I didn’t even realize that I was… coloring had just become such a part of me I thought it was me, too. The irony is that I get far more compliments on my hair now that is it grey than I ever did when it was (very expensively) colored. Along with that freedom came a self-confidence that I certainly never expected. (I thought I was confident enough already!)
Confirmation of the rightness of my choice came one day when I was sitting on the floor with a class of Kindergarten students. We were practicing our colors when one young lady asked me why my hair was grey. Her teacher’s hair was blonde (and she was a good 10 years older than I). I explained that all of us, if we are fortunate to live long enough, eventually go grey. “Some people go grey younger and some go grey when they are very old, but mine came early.” She told me she hoped she never went grey because grey isn’t a pretty (girl) color. “Oh honey, I don’t think of my hair as grey, I prefer pewter with silver highlights.” We went on with our lesson, and I thought the topic was exhausted. After five minutes of uncharacteristic silence, the young man next to me tugged on my sleeve and piped up “But it shines like silver!” I was smitten.
How do you feel about grey hair? Is it different for women and men? Do you like your natural hair color? Why or why not? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!