Exactly one month from today, I’ll be fifty-six, having outlived the age my mother died by one year. I started writing, or shall I say I started living, in anticipation of that fateful age of fifty-five in the spring of 2013. On and off these “pages,” above and beyond my words, I’ve made so many fundamental changes in my life that I can truly say, and feel, I’ve been reborn. Interestingly enough, one of the decisions I’ve made about my outer appearance garners me lots of comments, which I’d like to explore.
I’ve decided to go au natural, to let my gray hair grow out. And boy is it noticeable. Now, there it is, starting at you in every photo. I guess the shock of it is different depending on your original color, but mine being jet black, the contrast is stark. It seems to look better when I have it combed back, like Grandma Lilly used to do, and I was DNA’d her thick, wavy tresses. If I in some way clip or tie it back, the colors seem to blend more gradually, but when I keep it down, as long as it is, the natural part parts, and it then looks flat and uneven. So, for the price I am paying, it must be kept freshly washed, dried and in some way, bound, most of the time.
Speaking of price, a partial motivator for doing this is the cost of money and time to keep 50+ year old, long, black, hair tinted. If I really wanted to wash those gray areas out of my life, I’d be spending $85 or more for a two to three hour session to trim, color, and blow. With my days and nights so heavily punctuated by work, dance and travel, I do not have the time for it. Furthermore, my various pursuits have not only caught up, but are overtaking my reward for the work I do, so money has now become more of an object. There are indeed cost-saving benefits to letting gray follicles flow freely.
As my silver river flows through ebony fields, the comments I receive intrigue me. My younger friends have no comments at all. Why? Because they have a pretty good idea of how old I am, and it doesn’t surprise them in the least that I have gray hair. They expect it. Sometimes they’ll even tell me how much they love my hair. I have news for you: my hair has always been one of my assets. Gray aside, I decided to “go long” with my hair in what I will soon be able to call my “early fifties,” and began to rake in the compliments from the menfolk then.
Having said that, guys are another county not heard from when it comes to my gray. I’ve seen younger men who’ve gone gray; they tend to count themselves as lucky to go gray rather than go bald. Bald-pated gents are lucky now that shaven heads are in vogue; men have options to either coif up a nice salt and pepper do, or go billiard ball. Some men do choose to color their hair, but I, for one, always think it looks artificial on them. Then again, I’m the gal of 55 refusing to color.
The comments I am most anxious to explore are those I get from my female compatriots: women over 40. They hesitantly question, “Are you growing your gray out?” To which I respond, “Absolutely!” The conversation then leads to, “Why?” And I usually answer, “Because I can.” Here’s what I mean by “can,” though. I am confident in terms of my outlook and looks. I am in good physical shape, including being the perfect weight for my height and age. I believe that gray hair doesn’t take away from that. A friend called me “brave,” which I really didn’t understand; I don’t feel brave…what have I got to hide? Will people like me less because my hair is gray? I’m really puzzled by how surprised people are that, for some reason, I am not “making the most of my looks” by coloring my hair.
Perhaps people are trying to tell me that the gray looks bad, and that I should go back to coloring it. However, I look in the mirror, and feel better than ever: I like the gray! It is entirely appropriate for my age and level of wisdom. It also matches with a lot of the clothes I wear; on most days I am wearing black, or gray, or a combination thereof, sometimes with a sprig of red, purple or turquoise. What’s wrong with a little gray to go with that? To call the gray silver for a minute, because it really is shiny silver, the color matches with most of my accessories, too.
I will say this, however: the other day a friend and I saw three entirely gray-haired, super-attractive women sitting together at a meeting. They looked well-dressed and well-heeled. I figure they were in their 70’s, as did my friend, until one of them raised her hand and stated that she was just turning 60. We were shocked; they DID look older than their age, perhaps attributable to the gray hair. I actually think it was less the color and more than they all three had the hair in close-cropped or pageboy styles, which, to me, belies age more than color.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and do see a little Lilly Munster, but that’s not saying I don’t enjoy that look. Now that I’ve gone this far, I plan to wait until the gray reaches all the way from roots to ends. Then I can decide if I want to color it all the time, or once in a silver moon, or perhaps try to highlight it with some red, maybe to match my car. I’m good with my hair being a conversation piece; when they don’t talk about it anymore, I’ll start to worry.