I have always been a hair experimenter.
It has been long and short, and nearly every color occurring in nature. I was not blessed with thick luscious locks, signature curls or even deep or alluring color, so dabbling in dos has always been a way to liven things up. My hair is thin, straight and fell somewhere between dirty blonde and mousy brown, though the exact original color has not been seen for over 20 years at this point, so I can’t be certain.
What I can be certain of is that the exact color now is gray.
I was pregnant with my first child when I noticed my first REAL gray hair. I was young, only 24, and I remember thinking it was “neat,” a rite of passage if you will. I was sure it was a fluke but promptly yanked it out, just in case.
After the birth of my son, I started noticing more rogue hairs, just here and there, nothing anyone else would notice, but I became increasingly aware of their presence, and no longer found them “neat.” I had recently dyed my hair a reddish color and I figured that the red was making these hairs stand out.
Maybe they weren’t even gray, maybe blondish? Yes, stubborn blonde hairs, it must be a thing. The answer seemed easy. I would stick to blonde or highlighted hair just so the stubborn blonde hairs weren’t so noticeable, or mistaken for gray. That would do it.
Almost a whole year passed, and I did not notice ANY stubborn blonde hairs. I had spent hundreds of dollars, but those suckers were gone. Then I got pregnant with my daughter and I stopped highlighting my hair. Remarkably, my hair remained in a highlighted-like state despite going au natural. For the first time in my life, I was proud of my hair attributes and abilities. Clearly I had some sort of metamorphic power to maintain highlighted hair without chemical intervention. I was going to save millions. When I went for my trim I discussed my amazing technicolor dream-hair with the stylist, who chortled as she burst my bubble. “You are going gray. How old are you?”
At the ripe old age of 25, this was not what I wanted to hear, and I was going to go to whatever lengths necessary to avoid any future comments about my premature graying.
I spent the next 8 years or so dyeing, highlighting, growing, and chopping searching for the hairdo of youth. I went to salons, bought kits and even trained my husband in the art of the home dye job. I experimented frequently, but now out of necessity rather than boredom. In 2013, at the age of 34, I became pregnant with our third child. My hair was blonde and as my hair grew in without the use of color, it became apparent that my hair was nearly, completely gray.
After my daughter was born, I jumped right back on the dyeing train. I bought a darker color hoping to cover the gray and reclaim my youth. The results were catastrophic. The color only partially took, and I ended up looking like some kind of tie-dye, graying zebra-jaguar. It was hideous. My husband researched and tried to fix it, but it just got worse. I ended up at the salon where she was able to cut and blend enough to make it less noticeable, but my hair was not taking color the same way. My ego and wallet were at odds, but I knew the day of reckoning was at hand.
Over the next few months, I slowly transitioned to my state of gray. I went blonde, cut it short and eventually stopped dyeing it. I am slowly embracing my inner silver fox, but to say it has been easy would be a lie. I still have to look twice when I see myself in the mirror and I get lots of comments such as, “You cut your hair!” (Duh!) and “I love your hair. Is it frosted?” (No, it’s just gray). Most of it I can take in stride, I have been prepping for this for almost a decade, but recently I had an experience that literally brought me to tears.
I was checking out at the grocery store with my 18 month old and the bagger asked my daughter,
“Are you having a fun day with Grandma?” I said nothing. What could I say? I figured if I was quiet she would shut up, but I was wrong. She continued baby talking, “Does Grandma spoil you? Do you love Grandma? What a lucky girl you are to spend the day with Grandma.” We could not leave fast enough, and even as we were literally jogging out of the store, she continued, “Have a good day with Grandma!” It was a train-wreck.
Luckily, experiences like that are rare, and honestly, with some distance from it, I realize how superficial and ridiculous my aversion to gray hair has been. Its part of me, just like my blue eyes and tall stature. Plus, I never knew how easy short gray hair could be! I can be up and ready in minutes and no more hours and dollars at the salon, just a 10-minute cut every 6 weeks. Cake.