This has been on my mind the past week, then I saw a NY Times article written by a woman in her 60s who decided to stop dyeing her hair. Made me think about my own decisions…
I noticed my first gray hair when I had only recently turned 20 years old. My mother had turned gray prematurely and so it wasn’t too big a shock. More of just a surprise. I told my friend and she said, “Pull it out!!” What? Why would I want to pull out my gray hair? It’s interesting! Surprising! I admired the lone hair in the mirror. I had long hair and this single gray hair was pretty long itself meaning it must have been there for a while and this was just the first time I had noticed. My hair was pretty curly at that time and my favorite hairstyle was making a bun and sticking a carved “hairstick” into it to hold it in place. Not surprising that I hadn’t seen the gray hair. A couple months later I saw my brother who was two years older than me. Somehow the gray hair came up in conversation and he admitted that he had found a couple gray hairs himself, but he was always diligent to pull them out as soon as he found them, “so they wouldn’t invite company”. Apparently this premature graying thing was a pretty strong gene since we had both inherited it.
I really didn’t think about my gray hairs too often until I was in my 30s. By then I had a noticeable amount of gray hair. I had a lot of older women friends and I would listen to them exchange reports on hair dye and touching up the roots and their favorite hair stylists. I always felt a bit like an outsider. I didn’t go to a hairstylist. I had long hair. I liked it long. When it got a certain length where it started looking scraggly, I would just have my handy husband cut off a couple inches. I started looking at people’s haircuts. Most of my friends had short hair and since I’ve never been interested in short hair, I was only mildly interested. But every once in a while I’d see a woman with longer hair that was bouncy and curled just so and you could tell that it had been layered professionally, and it looked very attractive. And I would ponder whether I should go to a hairstylist and get a haircut, and maybe, just maybe, try out a new hair color. Two things always stopped me though. One, I really didn’t have money to go to a hairdresser and my Keep It Simple motto had to question why I needed to pay money for my hair when I had always been perfectly happy with how it looked. Second, and this was the big one, what on earth would I do when, a couple weeks later, my hair started growing out and the gray started showing up at the roots? There was no way I could afford to go to a hairdresser regularly. A friend tried to encourage me and told me how she did her own color at home from a box. I asked her to give me a blow-by-blow description of the process. By the time she was done, I knew for sure there was no way I would have the patience or skill to do that. Especially on a regular basis. I am a low-maintenance person. I don’t even wear makeup. Personal preference. I think all my friends look beautiful in their makeup, I just don’t have the patience for it, and my husband prefers me without it anyway, so, win-win.
Now I’m 40 and I’m starting to struggle with the concept of being “old”. One of my teenage daughters thinks it’s funny to say, “You’re so OLD Mom!” any time I mention something that didn’t happen during her short life span. I find myself staring in the mirror a bit more often. Staring at my gray hair. Maybe I would feel prettier if I dyed my hair. Maybe I would feel younger. And then one day my husband came up behind me and twined some of my hair around his finger. “Your hair is so beautiful! Look at all those different colors. It’s so unique, and it shimmers in the light. I love your hair!” Well then. I apparently had a fan club of one member. But a very important member. He’s the only one I’m trying to impress, and it seems that dyeing my hair was not going to impress him. I put my hair dye musings onto the back burner again.
There is one other reason that I have hesitated about dyeing my hair. I have 5 daughters. The actions I take are going to have a very strong influence on how they see the world. I really want them to have a strong message that it’s ok to be yourself. You don’t have to change your appearance to be acceptable. I want my daughters to know that as a woman you have options. You can choose to wear makeup and dye your hair, but it doesn’t have to be your only option. You can choose to go out in public bare faced and gray haired if you want, and you can do it with confidence.
Who knows, maybe down the road I’ll have a surplus of money laying around and I’ll be feeling really adventurous and maybe I’ll go to a fancy hairdresser and get my hair all dolled up and colored pretty. That would be fine. Probably would be fun. And maybe I won’t. That will be fine too.