By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon
I found my first gray hair on the morning of my college graduation. I had other things to worry about, so I casually plucked it out and bobby-pinned my hat in place. Over the next few years, the little specks of glitter continued to pop up, but since my jeans fit, I could move without pain, and 40 was still decades away (literally), aging seemed like something that happened to other people. Not me.
Shortly before I got pregnant with my first child, my hairdresser commented that those little silver streaks kept coming back…and now they were bringing friends. Basically, my head had become an out-of-control high school party for silver hairs. I took a good look myself, and I realized that I was going to have to stop pulling them out – unless I wanted to go bald.
For a while I could disguise the imposters with well-placed highlights, but shortly before I got pregnant with my second child – while my first child was just learning to crawl – my hairdresser mentioned that it was going to take more aggressive measures to hide them. Then we went back to talking about colic. It seemed odd to be hiding the signs of old age when I had a newborn at home. I was only 31.
I asked my hairdresser to dye it.
It turns out that premature grey hair is rampant on my dad’s side of the family. While going through pictures for my dad’s funeral, I realized that he was completely white at my college graduation. He was just a little over 50 at the time. I dug deeper in the picture box and realized my paternal grandmother was the same. Perhaps because my grandparents always seemed “old,” I’d never realized how premature her silver was.
And even though I almost instantly hated coloring my hair – both the expense and the upkeep drove me crazy – I didn’t feel like I had a choice. In one loaded conversation, my mom informed me that she dyed her hair because HER mom said she was too young to have a daughter with grey hair. My mom still dyes her hair, and Grandma has been gone for twenty years. I got the point.
She also informed me that my paternal aunts started dying their hair after one of them was asked if her young children were her grandchildren. Nothing about that sounded fun.
My hair grows fast, and as the roots have gotten lighter and lighter, I’ve had to start coloring them every two weeks. Within a week, there’s an already obvious skunk stripe. It makes it look like my hair is thinning when it isn’t. And keeping up with it feels overwhelming.
Something snapped in me during quarantine – actually, many things snapped – and I started poring through Pinterest pictures of young women with grey and white hair. It ages them, for sure, but some of these women look just amazing. Of course, they’re wearing makeup and taking advantage of good lighting. I hate makeup and good lighting avoids me like the plague. But I was jealous of their freedom from the bottle. (Not THAT bottle.)
It was a slippery slope at that point. I started playing around with websites where they let you upload a photo and change your hair color. These programs aren’t great – especially for white hair – and frankly, it’s a toss-up whether I’ll look like a silver fox or Emmett Brown. I’ve started saying “Great Scott!” every time my kids do something outrageous, just in case.
I found a hairdresser who will lift the dye. It’s a crazy long process, but a solid six months of wrestling with the decision later, I’m going to do it. Something deep inside me wants to. I’m not sure if it’s curiosity about what color is actually under all the dye, or whether it’s a strong tug toward authentically owning who I am. But I’ve made up my mind.
Yep, I still have a kindergartener. And yes, I’m only 42. Nope, I’m not at a happy stage in life where I can embrace aging. No, I don’t love the grey hair trend on younger women. Yes, I might very well get mistaken for a grandparent. Or a mad scientist. I’m not sure which is worse.
But why am I trying to pretend I’m twenty? Why do I want the approval of strangers in the grocery store? Is my value someone tied to the color of the mess on top of my head?
I want my daughter to embrace who she is. The least I can do is model it for her.
And also, if I hate it, I can always dye it back. Right?
Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to TMoM’s free weekly newsletters here.