Rebel Rebel: Going Gray

Reverse ombré is a thing, right? IT IS NOW. I am very serious about this new trend. Clearly.

So. This whole gray hair thing causes a lot of turmoil among women.

And I get it. I do.

But also. IT’S JUST GRAY HAIR. Most of us will go gray at some point. Just like we will get wrinkles. And saggy skin. And other things that are the perfectly natural result of aging. And I get that, as women, we are generally expected to maintain a semblance of youth and perfection. I get that we feel that pressure. I get that the pressure is often crushing. I, too, have been crushed by it. But also? IT’S JUST GRAY HAIR.

And frankly? I am unwilling (and unable) to go through the time and expense of trying to erase this sign of age from my body. Because getting rid of gray hair is a full time job when you have as much as I do.

I started getting gray hair at 18, but since I’d been dyeing my hair red since I was 16, it wasn’t much of an issue. I didn’t really see it. By 20, I had a full-blown streak growing in the front of hair. By 22, it was Bonnie Raitt level streakery. But I was still dyeing my hair red and I liked it, so no one could really see it.

I continued dyeing my hair a variety of colors for years – partly because I liked it and it was fun, but later, also so that I could cover the gray. I felt too young to be gray. I didn’t want to look old.

After I had my first baby at 29, I ran out of time and money to keep up with the hair dyeing, and by then I had developed a second gray streak on the other side of my head. By the time I had my second baby at 31, the gray was inescapable. It started coming in all over. I contemplated trying to hide it, but we really didn’t have the money and I didn’t want to bother with it. It takes so much work… and I was tired. So I stopped. I stopped dyeing my hair altogether. I let the gray streak grow in. I let the other gray streak grow in. I let the gray hair that was starting to show up all over my head just grow on in. And you know what? I didn’t mind it. In fact, I started to part it on the side with the heaviest gray streak. And right around then, that faux gray/lavender hair trend started, and I began to get compliments on my gray. Young, adorable hipsters peered at me over their PBRs and IPAs at readings and asked me where I’d gotten my hair done. And I laughed and laughed and laughed and said, “Oh… I’m just old.” And while they often looked at me with horror, they also sometimes nodded respectfully and said, “I like it.” And you know what? I like it, too. Because here’s the thing: Aging isn’t something to be afraid of. Aging isn’t something we should feel like we have to hide. Aging isn’t shameful.

Aging is inevitable.

But also, with age comes wisdom. With age comes confidence. With age comes the realization that my hair color (or lack thereof) does not define my worth as a person. Nor do my wrinkles. Or my cellulite. Or my underarm waggle. Or my changing skin.

It can be startling sometimes. Age has a way of surprising the shit out of you, if I’m being perfectly honest. It is bizarre to see zits and gray hair on my body at the same time. But I legitimately like the wrinkles around my eyes and my mouth. They show evidence of all the smiling I’ve done over my 37 years. I like my gray streaks. They tie me to both of my grandmothers, who also got their gray young and in streaks. I like being older and feeling better about myself and my body now than I did when I was a thin little teenaged ballet dancer.

I like getting older. There is so much to enjoy about it. And fretting and worrying and spending hours upon hours of time and hundreds upon hundreds of dollars trying to erase the age from my hair and face and body just doesn’t feel worthwhile to me. I like that refusing to dye my hair is, in and of itself, an act of rebellion. That even though I'm generally thought of as too young to be half gray, I'm letting it be. Rebellion born of laziness. I like it. You may feel differently than I do. It may be worth the time and money to you to erase the signs of aging from your hair and your face and your body. It may make you feel happier and better about yourself. And that’s okay. We all have different levels of comfort with aging and beauty and what is worthwhile to me may not be to you. I wear makeup; other people don't. If you prefer to dye your hair, I am not judging you. Dyeing your hair is fun and self-care looks different for all us. But if you choose to stop dyeing your hair in order to let your gray grow in… I will also applaud the hell out of you. Because age is okay, Smarties. In fact… it’s kind of great. Gray, or not.

Hey babe, you're hair's alright.

About Shannon