Next weekend one of my dearest girlfriends is getting married. Seeing that I’ll be standing next to her rooting on this joyous occasion, I thought it would be in my best interest to get my feet cleaned up. To be fairly honest, it’s been a hot minute since those little toes were pampered and I’m pretty sure I could cut glass with the calluses and hangnails. Gross, I know, but this is real talk here.
I grabbed my coffee and headed over to the local nail salon, where I’d been several times before. As I sat down in the chair, the nail tech and I started chatting. She always remembers me and asks why my Mom doesn’t come in with me anymore (she moved back up north) and then she asked me how old my son was now.
“He’s sixteen…” and before I could ask her the same she responded, “What? Sixteen? Your face looks so young, but your gray hair makes you look old. I’m so confused.”
As my brain scrambled to process this backhanded compliment, she then tried to save face: “I know you’re not old, but… the hair. It just makes you look older.”
Thank lady, I get it. You can stop talking now.
The gray hair runs deep in my family. My Mema was gray early on and my Dads hair was about the same as mine when I graduated high school (twenty years ago, holy shit). While one uncle is salt & pepper, the other has stark white hair. It’s a family trait that creeps up in your early thirties and from there, it’s Hello Mrs. Claus! I can clearly remember wondering when my time would come or if it would be my little brother who would get the gray first.
Guess whose hair is still just as dark as it was when they were nine? Not mine.
About five years ago I noticed the gray starting to creep in. Little strands at my temples, then at the nape of my neck. My other brother, who is also my hair stylist, would often tell me to just leave it be, but I wasn’t ready. I would fight this fight to the bitter end. My dark hair meant that I was still young. That I wasn’t growing older. That I wouldn’t be weirder than I already am.
Then, around two years ago, I started to notice that when I dyed my hair, the gray would just force its way back into my hairline within a matter of weeks. Those weeks got shorter and shorter and before I knew it, after a fresh cut and color, the gray would be back within two weeks. I texted my brother, half crying, half hoping for a miracle. “Just leave it. It’s awesome.” And so, with a deep breath, I accepted my fate.
I can’t remember the last time I had color on my hair and as of today, I’m probably 50% silver. My husband loves it. He says the gray makes me stand out, matches my personality. God love him, he’s the absolute best!
Just yesterday, I was feeling awesome about my hair too. I had taken the time to style it in a 1940s fashion with soft curls on one side, a victory roll on the other. Check it out (complete with non serious face):
And then today, I get the backhanded compliment about it making me look older (fyi: today I have my hair up, which shows more of the gray vs yesterday when it was only half up).
As I sat in that chair looking at myself in the mirror, I wondered if I should make an emergency hair appointment. Should I just buy boxed color? A wig? Does this gray make me look older than my 38 and a half years? As women, I think there is this stigma that we have to continue to look younger than what we truly are. It’s a heart breaking fight for some of us. There are creams, masks, lasers, peels, surgery and, of course, hair color. And for some women, that’s okay. That’s their choice to fight the hands of time. If that’s what makes them feel good, then hey- feel good! Ain’t no shame in that game!
The longer I sat there though, the more I thought about how growing older is a privilege that many individuals don’t get to experience.
Each laugh line is a gift.
Each wrinkle tells a tale.
Each gray strand tells me that I’m awesome.
To shoo away the cloud that had formed over my head, I grabbed my phone and pulled up Pinterest, but not before I was sidetracked by some crazy recipe making homemade Oreos (who the hell has time for that?). I started to look at boards dedicated to gray hair: dyed gray, natural gray, long gray, how to hide the gray, help it along, how to style it, how to love it. On and on and on.
All these women embracing what is natural. All the others are paying hundreds of dollars to achieve what I’m getting for free. I decided right there in that chair that I would continue to love my gray hair.
That I’d let it continue to shimmer and shine.
Hell, maybe I’ll let it grow as long as Crystal Gayle’s hair.
Wait. Maybe not that long.
The only thing I’m not sure of is why so many women with gray hair wear so much topaz jewelry. Is that a requirement? Because if it is, I have some serious catching up to do.