The Choice of Going Gray

“Going gray” sounds like somehow you’re taking an affirmative step to leave your original hair color behind and become a person with gray hair.  But actually that’s not how it works.

It’s what happens to all of us eventually, if we don’t take action to prevent it. The affirmative act is instead to dye your hair and hide the gray.

Regardless of how you think about it, the reality is that I am going gray.

There’s no one way to deal with the changes of age to our bodies. No right way, no wrong way. It’s all about figuring out your way and taking it.

But these choices aren’t made in a vacuum. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you have a choice at all.

Most women around my age in my suburban California town dye their hair to cover the gray. There’s a few of us who don’t but most do. For a while I lived downtown in a large Texas city and again my graying hair put me in the minority.

A number of years ago I started noticing the oddity of mismatched middle aged couples, with the man bald or graying and his female partner with perfectly dyed, zero gray hair. My husband and I noticed this trend on a vacation trip to Hawaii and started pointing these couples out to each other.

I encourage you to try it too. It’s rather addictive. You will see them everywhere, once you look.

And again, if that’s what you see it’s not always easy to remember that you have a choice at all. But we do. The more of us exercise that choice, the easier it will be.  Choice can’t be anything but a good thing,

I started to get some strands of silvery gray about age 40, which was amazingly enough 15 years ago now. For quite a while I went to my hairdresser and she highlighted my light brown hair to help those grays blend in.

Then we needed to add low-lighting (also apparently a thing) to prevent it from all getting too blonde as the grays multiplied.  And I tried having her apply permanent color a couple times, to even everything out.

Eventually I got tired of the time and effort required to prevent my hair from doing what it naturally would otherwise do. So I chose to try the alternative.

I grew out the highlights and the lowlights and the color. The process took longer than I expected and didn’t always look great. I may have backslid a few times in the middle.

But now it’s just me, no artificial coloring added.

It turns out the silver (which maybe sounds better than gray somehow?) looks a lot like those highlights I used to spend a lot of time and money to achieve. And I don’t have to sit in a chair with strange foil hair packets decorating my head for an hour or so, or go back every month or six weeks to deal with graying roots.

Now I’m the exception in my suburban town, which I’m mostly okay with. Though I still have the occasional twinge when I catch an unexpected glimpse of myself, silver hair among the brown, in a mirrored window.

I make a point of complimenting other women of my age and stage who have graying hair.  And I get the occasional compliment myself, even recently from another client of my hairdresser who was sitting under a dryer getting her hair colored while I got my bangs trimmed.

There’s no one right way to deal with the changes that age brings to our bodies.

But it’s good to remember that we do have choices. Maybe my graying hair will help the next 40 something who just noticed a first few silver hairs.

And that’s a good thing.


Related post: On Going Gray in My Thirties by Tsh

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