I’ve been 44 for a month exactly. Even numbers make me happy and 44 feels just right. Strangely I feel younger at 44 than I did the year I turned 40. That year, year 40, was kind of a doozy. That was the year I decided to quit coloring my hair.
My reasons for not dying anymore were not noble. I have been going gray since I was 30 and my silver strands had gotten particularly stubborn. The color wasn’t really holding anymore, and I had to leave it sitting for a long time. I think the dye had started to irritate my scalp because psoriasis became a problem for me. After adding up how much I spent each year on hair dye alone, examining the raw patches on my scalp, and scouring the web for women who went gray early I decided to let my locks go.
At first it was exciting. I felt like I was stepping away from a standard the world had set for women. I let it grow out until there were a few inches of gray hair showing and then cut it in a pixie cut.
Most people were kind and said nothing, but a few very young or very rude people said things that momentarily hurt my feelings or made me question whether or not I should stop coloring it.
Overall, though, people were neutral. A lot of my women friends said that they were inspired to do the same. A couple of people told me that while they admired me they weren’t ready. I totally get that. It took a lot of thinking and wondering before I decided to go for it. I don’t consider myself a particularly vain person but it was a big change for me.
When I stopped coloring my hair I realized that I was tied to the notion that youth is more attractive.
I didn’t get terribly existential over it all. I would be lying, though, if I said it didn’t force me to think about the aging process.
It didn’t help me that my husband had lost an extreme amount of weight just before I jumped off the color train. I felt like a chubby gray-haired lady, for sure. One thing I noticed was that when we went out to eat servers began asking if we wanted separate checks. That seriously pissed me off. Lee is three and half years older than me (and that half is important!). I think that we both look young for our age but when my hair was gray I felt like people’s assumptions changed.
That got me thinking about what I, and our culture, assume about people with gray hair – or no hair, or wrinkles, or walkers for that matter. There is no denying that Hollywood doesn’t have much of a place for women with gray hair. We often talk about who ‘ages well’. It seems to me that men are deemed attractive as they get older while their female counterparts become irrelevant.
I guess that’s what I worried about; becoming irrelevant or invisible. I wondered what assumptions people would make about me, about my age because of my hair color. I definitely didn’t want anyone thinking I was older than I was.
I took about a million selfies over the years took to grow out my gray.
The day I cut out the remaining color was exciting and disappointing. I’m not great at commitments so I was proud of myself for sticking with the grow out process. I was excited to see what I looked like with my silver no longer hidden. I will admit that I was also a little overwhelmed because to me I did look older.
We took a family trip to the beach not long after the cut, something I highly recommend. The ocean always makes me feel younger. For the last three years I’ve been growing it out long. I decided if my hair was going to be silver then I wanted to look like a mermaid.
These days I don’t think much about my hair color.
I find this to be a relief. I don’t worry that I need to color it soon, or that people will see my gray strip.
Still, sometimes when I see a picture of myself I’m a little shocked.
I’m thinking that happens to all of us, regardless of hair color. I cannot be the only person who feels the same as I did when I was 25. It still feels like a joke to tell people that I’m 44.
Overall, though, I’m happy I’m not coloring my hair anymore. I know my scalp is healthier and my bank account is fuller.
I enjoy hearing women tell me that they love my hair, or that they’re inspired to quit dyeing their own. I also love spotting a fellow silver sister (or brother) out and about. It’s definitely been a journey.
I’ve also definitely gotten better at selfies.
If you’re contemplating walking away from color know that you can! If you’re still coloring your mop then enjoy it! Go for bold colors or highlights or whatever you want. Just be you.
Be brave, misfits, and be you, whatever color your hair is.