We’ve all seen those women. They look gorgeous in gray or silver hair. Helen Mirren, Emmylou Harris, and Jamie Lee Curtis come to mind. But it’s still a big leap for many. More and more, I’m flirting with the idea of seeing what “lies beneath” my processed hair color (I truly have no idea). I’ve decided there are six reasons to let Mother Nature do her thing and one teensy (okay, huge) reason not to…
I’m sick of the physical experience of hair tinting –I’m sick of being a slave to the ritual. I’m sick of the “goop,” which feels cold on my scalp and then gradually heats up. I’m sick of feeling the chemicals ooze into my body. I’m sick of it all. Recently I was at the hair salon and saw a woman who looked in her late 80’s getting color. For some reason, that depressed me. At what point are we allowed to be ourselves?
I hate the way gray hair starts poking through anyway – After several weeks, silver stragglers come back like unwelcome houseguests. I sense my hair doesn’t want this color anymore. It seems to be shrugging it off as if to say, let it go, sister. Be who you are. You don’t need this junk anymore. Take a new path.
Aging is hard enough. Why not do it on our terms? And yes, it’s not fair that men can go gray and it ‘adds character.’ We women aren’t so lucky. Hair’s a big part of our identity. But like many women who color, I feel there’s a more natural version of myself lying underneath. I haven’t met her yet. In fact, I’ve been putting off meeting her for a long time. The question becomes: will I like her? Or will I go screaming in hysterics back to the hairdresser?
There’s something brave about those who go natural – Lately I find myself studying women who choose not to color their hair. In many cases, I’m filled with admiration. There’s a confidence that comes with self-acceptance, with saying this is who I am, take it or leave it. In some cases, parts of their personalities come through that weren’t there before. Some gray-haired females now dress in leather jackets or wear funky earrings or brightly colored glasses, as if to say they’ve now been given full permission to be themselves.
Part of me is excited to start a new journey – Beginnings are fun and exhilarating. But in some ways, I feel like I’m playing chicken with myself. I’m not sure who will win this hair-coloring thing– the old me who’s scared of change? Or will someone else emerge, someone more confident and ready to embrace those inevitable transitions in life?
It can be done in baby steps. This whole process reminds me of going into the ocean when I was a kid, cautiously, slowly, one step at a time, like I do everything in life. But apparently, there are ways to de-color in phases, with the help of a good hairdresser. Thank God, I have one. Phew. That makes things easier.
But okay, here’s the scary part…
What if I end up looking like Grandma Moses? What if I wake up one morning with no hair color and feel I’ve aged several decades? Again, I think of the women I know who have natural hair and look great (my 80-something year old mom comes to mind). I realize what makes them attractive is deeper than processor and highlights — glowing, healthy skin, wise, knowing eyes, and a youthful spirit.
Yes, the new is scary for many reasons…
The other day a man gave a warm smile as he held the door for me. I couldn’t help wonder: Will that go away if I no longer color my hair — if I no longer make that crucial effort to appear “younger?”
Or will it matter at all?
Yesterday I called for my next hairdressing appointment. I spoke to the receptionist who asked her usual question.
“Cut and color?”
I reached up and felt my hair. I knew I was due for a touch-up, but decided for the first time to wait. I would take that initial step in meeting the person I’ve run away from for years. Will I like her? Or will I decide I’m not ready? There was one way to find out.
“Just a cut,” I said. It felt strangely liberating.
How do you feel about letting the gray through? Comments are always welcome and if you like this, please share.
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