I have dyed my hair religiously since I was 16. I have been pretty much every shade from the darkest black to a red the color of a cherry twizzler to the color of a shiny new penny, and colors in between. It was just one of those things I did without every really thinking about it.
I woke up one morning this past fall and made the decision that I would stop dying my hair and allow the gray to grow in. I had been going gray since I was around 18, but had never really been brave enough to forgo hair color to see what would happen. There were moments where I had given consideration to no longer dying my hair, as the roots began to grow out a week or two after each dye event, and I started thinking about how much of a pain in the ass it was to maintain some random color. But, then I would spot those grays and panic, and grab the closest box of hair color to ease my anxiety.
But, this time I was serious. With 4 grandchildren, and creeping up on my mid-40’s, I decided that I was really over the hair color thing and I wanted to see what it would look like without the color. Growing out the gray became my latest self-challenge, and from this, I have learned a couple of interesting lessons.
Gray hair does things at its own pace:
It is incredibly ironic that when you dye your hair, the color starts to grow out within a matter of a week or so. Get a great color, and a week later you are already seeing those roots grow back in. My assumption was that this would be the case, that not dying my hair, the gray would grow back in at that pace and I wouldn’t have to wait around for it. Not so. Gray hair is in no rush. It moves at its own pace, which is pretty slow and tedious.
I have learn from this that I have to be patient with some things. I cannot make hair grow any more than I can make the Sun rise and set. Too often, we get in a rush to see things manifest. We have become a society of instant gratification, and have lost our ability to be patient and allow things to grow in their own time. The universe will move at its own pace, and I have to learn to not only respect that, but go with the flow that is presented to me.
And, gray hair definitely does its own thing:
I have known women with gorgeous gray hair. Beautiful pale soft grays that look like finely spun silk. Glorious steel grays that are fun and playful. Gorgeous salt and pepper grays that look like angels came and granted them the perfect blend of dark and light with threads of shimmering silver locks. So, when I decided to go gray, all of these images were in my head, giving me the courage to embrace my gray and see what unfolds. Not what I got.
I have the crazy gray. They grow unruly and wiry gray. The go whatever direction it wants gray. There is no lovely uniformity, perfect blending of dark hair with the gray. Nope. My hair is like the love child of Einstein and Don King at this point, and a true test of sanity some days. I come home from work at the end of the day, or wake up in the morning and look in the mirror to see it going in every direction like I licked a light socket. I keep telling myself as I pull it back and try to be patient that it is still growing out.
What I learned from this insanity is that gray does what it wants. I think that is almost an anthem for every woman I know who has embraced her gray, this sort of feeling of freedom, like you have reached a point in your life where you do not have to conform to what others think you should be. Gray is not about conformity. It is about having the courage to do as you will, when you will, to not have to apologize for being yourself, for being your age. Gray is that point when you decide that you do not need to try to look younger because it is far more fun to just be your own age and do your own thing. I still dress like I am in my twenties because I am comfortable. I still blare grunge and alternative music as I go down the road because that is what speaks to me. I am an artist and writer with a wicked day job building vans, and living a rather free bohemian lifestyle that really just requires me to be, well, me.
That is what I have learned by letting the gray grow out, to be me. To ride the flow of the universe and live as myself. Embracing my gray meant embracing myself, who I am as a person and accepting myself as is, flaws and all. I am not saying that I don’t get the urge to grab a box of color every once in a while, but those urges are becoming fewer. I am having fun with myself, embracing my gray, and releasing the things I have allowed to color my life that are not really serving a purpose in my life. Watching my life grow out has become as interesting as watching the gray grow out. You just never know what is going to sprout up from where next…
Laurie Sherman/Urban Crone