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Gray hair

Gray Hair. Post-Punk Progressive.

Confession: I started dying my hair when I was 18. I won’t say it was specifically because I had noticed some gray hairs, but I can’t say it wasn’t either. I still fondly dream about the ‘cherry coke’ colored years in college.

Flash forward, to 18 years later!!! I had gone to get a haircut with my stylist in the East Village, and had neglected my roots. I was probably going to pick up some ‘Nice ‘n Easy’ on the way home. But, when my stylist investigated what was going on under the varying color layers as she moved through with my cut… she proposed an idea. Why not go gray? Let it grow out. ‘Let’s transition’ she called it with a spark of joy in her eyes.

I suddenly had visions of months as a skunk. Um, no thanks.

She went and grabbed some pics of….. Diane Keaton and Mrs. Robinson. Hello, I’m 36… not 66. But, her enthusiasm was magnetic, and I decided why not. I could always cover it up if it looked wonky. And, really, I had no idea what it looked like under there, I was curious.

She assured me that we’d create a plan, a system… NO SKUNKS!

So, over the next few years we worked our plan. It was around year 2 when she finally declared, “Your hair is officially metallic!” triumphantly.

We’d seen some streaks of varying color, there was even a season where I was blonde. As one friend described, I looked like a Mandrell Sister (in the most loving way, of course).

I enjoyed the transitions. I enjoyed the different looks I could try on. I enjoyed moving through it.

But, something else in me was awakening. I have always been a bit of a quiet, or not so quiet instigator, someone who pushed the envelope, wasn’t afraid to provoke a bit of controversy… and it seemed I was now doing it with my hair.

I would get looks on the subway of horror from the completely done up ladies, with eyes screaming: how could you let yourself go like this! Or looks of solidarity or even a touch of pride from my subway sisters who were also skirting the edges of decency. I had no idea what a political statement letting my hair grow out gray would be! I had no idea that it would feel so punk and progressive, transversive, or loud. Or that it would force people to take sides.

I also didn’t know how emotionally difficult it would be for me to step forward in this way. Suddenly, in New York City, where everything is allowed… my streaks of gray in my hair were more outrageous than the man wearing a suit made completely of tin cans.

It made me feel self-conscious sometimes, but it felt like an interesting project that I wanted to see through.

I noticed once I’d passed the hurdle of my own initial shock, settling in to who I am, it allowed for some interesting conversations. People want to talk about it.

Generally, now, I forget about it. It’s been an exposed part of me for nearly 4 years. Yet, even now, living in Europe, where beauty standards are a bit different than the US, people want to talk about my hair. Plus, I get tons of compliments (mainly from men).

People use it as a conversation starter. They assume things about me before meeting me about my level of courage and confidence.

And, they’re often confused, since I look young, and even often comment that they think I’m at least 10 years younger than I am… which I can only believe means, that people believe only someone in their 20s would do something so wild with their hair as a statement. Not a (nearly) 40 year old lady, who just happens to love having white hairs. It’s strange that people care so much.

They say Blondes have more fun, and if that’s true… I’d like to offer Grays have more liberty. People expect you to have more of a ‘fuck-it’ attitude, and allow you that.

Cheers to the Gray Ladies, claim your freedom.

3 thoughts on “Gray Hair. Post-Punk Progressive.

  1. I’m with you 100% Tory. I began highlighting my hair years ago – just a few streaks. Over the years, and many colorings later, the highlights had morphed into bottle-blonde. I was paying big bucks for hair I wasn’t happy with. And, as a holistically-oriented person, I couldn’t justify setting aside time to swathe myself in chemical-soup. I researched “going gray” and found that in almost all of the before and after pictures, the “after” shot looked so much better. So I began growing my hair out. And was informed by more than one person that it would look awful and I’d come to my senses eventually. Today my hair is a nice gray-brown-blonde color. I love it and feel freed. Wise. Alive. As if I’ve finally come to my senses.

  2. Thanks for your note Camille, it really sparks strong feelings for a lot of people! Great to feel your solidarity. And I think we all do that researching of ‘going gray’ just to check in on things sometimes. I’m happy to hear that you are listening to your inner instincts on this. Cheers to your liberty, lady! xoxo

  3. I stopped dyeing my hair about two years ago, tired of spending so much money at the salon, and it no longer felt natural to me. I’m all about natural products, living in a non-toxic environment, and I felt out of alignment with myself every time I booked a colouring session. At the time, I also had severe mobility issues so continuing to colour – either at home or at the salon – would have been a challenge. I also had a friend who had shaved her head for chemo at the same time, and who had decided to give up colouring her hair when it grew back. So…. several very strong messages! I took the plunge…. visited my colourist one last time and started the transition to whatever it would look like. And I love it – I have huge patches/streaks of white, peppered with grey throughout, and it looks so natural now. Love it!!!

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