Written 9/30/11… This post may totally torpedo anybody wanting to read my blog again. Gray hair does that. It makes certain people turn away. Yet, just yesterday, a stranger told me, “I like your hair color.” A MAN, and I don’t think he was gay. So if you don’t already know, I have gray hair. Grey. Silver. Salt and Pepper. Gunmetal. Pewter. This is relatively new on me – naked hair.
And this is my story about giving up hair color.
I’d been coloring since “Sun-In” in high school. My first gray hair, I remember discovering at age 26. My dad has been a “silver fox” pretty much my entire life, so it was inevitable.
Some people aren’t cool about gray. Gray hair makes you invisible to certain populations of people. Teens don’t move out of my way passing on sidewalks, for one thing. So, I bump them, just to mess with them.
Strangers aside, some friends aren’t comfortable seeing me gray, either (yo, Phyllis).
But too bad. Last year, I threw in the towel. The flashpoint was the Portland IACP conference, chatting with cookbook author Mollie Katzen and writer Barbara Snow. That night, in the hotel bathroom mirror via horrid fluorescence: roots! Un-f-ing-believable, I hadn’t timed my color for one of my top “be seen” events.
Seriously, that was happening a LOT. Frugal me, always stretching an extra week or two (or three) before hitting the salon. Worse, with solid white-gray areas, color wasn’t sticking very long. Also being cheap, I don’t color before vacations. Environs like India, Vietnam, Egypt, Africa just strip out color due to smoke, saltwater, wind, fire, fog, seriously hard water (or muddy water for that matter). So, while saving pennies until back home, vacation pix of me were often…. DELETE DELETE.
Over the years, my hair colors progressed through red tones, some blonde years, and most recently settled into a complicated highlight / lowlight financial trap that, after a few weeks, still would reveal an unattractive skunk streak.
Mollie and Barbara convinced me I could do this (or were they saying I SHOULD do it?).
Larry’s reaction? Nervous but (probably because he looks at me more than I see myself) saw no other option anyway. More time in a salon throwing more money at my hair wasn’t “me.”
Growing out color is not for the vain. The color I’d been using was “semi permanent” – it theoretically fades faster to make roots less noticeable. But that is a lie. It just loses color.
The only way to get to virgin hair is cuts. For about six months, evolving from a warm tone to a cool color, every glance in the mirror was, “This is NOT going well.” It was just not an attractive new color. But I was in deep, and kept going.
One day at about 90% grown out, chatting with a woman whose color I was aiming for, she offered, “Oh honey, you’re going to have to wear a WHOLE LOT MORE makeup.” Bullseye, THAT made total sense. Gray makes your face fade. Eyes, brows, lips need to be more visible. I hit Nordstrom for a fresh wheelbarrow of product and vowed to color-up more. And I do, sporadically.
Now, I’m officially Silver. It’s EMPOWERING. Salon visits are 2/3 cheaper. No more “roots.” I feel more ME. My eyes are a steely blue and when I wear certain clothing colors – gray, blue, pink – people say nice things about my peepers.
And my hair, lots of people talk to me about it.
Just last week, Larry was commenting on how he doesn’t understand some hair colors (faded orange on grannies, for example). “I’m OK with your gray hair,” he said. Thank you, Larry. And thank you FRIENDS who told me — within earshot of him — that you love the gray hair.