Thirteen was how old I was when I started coloring my hair. Every night before I went to bed, I would pick up the spray bottle and mist my hair. In the bottle was water and hydrogen peroxide. I heard the peroxide made your hair red and that’s what I wanted. Then, over the years, I changed the color: blond, blue, purple, pink, blond again, frosted, streaked, you name it. Most of the time I did it myself though sometimes I went to the hairdresser for professional color.
I stopped coloring my hair…oh, I don’t know, about four years ago or so. Mostly because it was too expensive to get it done. But also because I was starting to get really sensitive to chemicals and my green consciousness was starting to blossom. It wasn’t a particularly difficult decision to make. I went in, had them dye it back to brown from blond and went on my merry way.
At 36 I still don’t have a gray hair on my head, not that I’ve found anyways.* I remember my mother having grays around this age but I don’t know about my dad (he died when I was a kid). Looking at my grandmothers, both went gray although Nana (my only living grandparent) has colored her white hair for as long as I can remember. My other grandmother may have colored her hair but she stopped. My memories of her all include her gray head.
My dad’s side of the family are all light: light hair (mostly redheads), light eyes, light skin. My mother’s side are all dark: dark hair and dark eyes, but with the same pasty white Anglo skin. On Dad’s side people don’t go gray, they go white. Not the way on my mother’s side. Rather, they turn gray with dark undertones smattered throughout. I always assumed I go the same was as my mother’s people because I’m dark haired like them. It’s just that I can’t imagine my brown hair going white no matter how much I’d like it to.
I don’t consider gray to be a sign of shame, of embarrassment. Rather, I consider it a badge of honor, just as I do with wrinkles. I see growing old as, well, the way it should be. We’re born, we grow into toddlers, then tweens, teens, young adults, adults, middle age, elderly. It’s the way we, as humans, age. It’s our norm. So why are we trying to hold onto youth with a death grip?
Crunchy Chicken linked to this article which has this little gem in it: “I have seen friends who have stopped dyeing their hair, and although one or two look really good, others mainly look less like themselves, more drab and less vibrant.”
So growing old is to look less like oneself, more drab and less vibrant. “Ourselves” are always youthful I guess. One can not be “ourself” if one ages. That’s just silly. Who filled this professional woman’s head with such nonsense? And if this is the norm for our professionals (doctors, lawyers, social workers, etc), then I don’t want to be associated with a group who routinely masks their identity with chemicals on their faces and in their hair. How can I trust a woman with important professional tasks who doesn’t show me what she looks like and is ashamed of her age?
*I was talking to Nana about this a few months ago and she said “you’ll dye your hair right?” to which I responded negatively. She seemed pretty upset about me going gray despite the fact I haven’t found any as of yet. Then I realized she may not have gray hair but I will. And by me allowing myself to go gray without trying to hide it reflects on her age I guess.