I Have Gray Hair

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I have gray hair  

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, very validating. So if you don’t already know, I have gray hair. Grey. Silver. Salt and Pepper. Gunmetal. Pewter. 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.

collage with captionsOne 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.



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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Habib Faruk Himel May 20, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Some people think that gray hair is a sign that a person isn’t caring for himself, however that’s not the case. People who have gray hair and don’t color it believe that it’s a sign of self-confidence, and that they are embracing their reality; and more often than not, that’s true.

2 Rob Mac December 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Not surprised men are complimenting you, you look fabulous.

The great myth is that women dye their hair because men would think them unattractive. The majority of men are actually attracted to a woman that has the self confidence to be herself Women actually dye their hair because other women who don’t have that confidence convince them too.

3 cathy graf June 26, 2012 at 8:20 am

Fabulous!!!! You look amazing. I haven’t dyed my hair in 5 years. My husband loves it (also a Larry). Says my hair looks healthy, and shiny with natural highlights. I’m more salt and pepper. I just found your blog via Grey and Proud on Facebook. Hope to see you in the Chico’s catalogue:)

4 Worth The Whisk October 12, 2011 at 6:49 am

Thanks for this great comment, Terri. Will become a follower of Diana Jewell for sure.

5 terri October 12, 2011 at 4:16 am

so perfectly stated! although i can’t empathize with world travel, i certain DO get it about transitioning to natural hair! i’m almost a year in to transitioning from dark dark hair to my new chromed out black curly tresses! Going Gray Looking Great (author Diana Jewell) is a must read, as is her web site of the same name. She is our grey guru and has a huge following of women like us! Shine on!!!!! Love your writing style! i’m a salt and pepper tattooed teacher, and whoever doesn’t like it can keep their flapper shut and keep on walking!

6 Anne Block September 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm

That was SO much fun to read! Thanks for “coming out” about hair-coloring enslavement. Ain’t it relaxing to just appreciate what we’ve got?
With admiration from another silver fox, your fan, Anne Block

7 Patricia Moss September 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Your look is great. Thanks for the tip about more colorful makeup.

8 Worth The Whisk September 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm

June, how very helpful for you to provide this experience. I do admit that being an entrepreneur helps with this decision. And YES there is a ton of ageism in the workplace, so sorry about that. Keep up the good work and good for YOU.

9 June M September 12, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I wish I could go gray. I’m looking for a job, it’s hard here in Oregon. I went gray, did not have any call backs after interviews. I dyed my hair and it does make a difference in how interviewers treat me. I just use a semi permanent at home. It’s from the beauty supply store. In between times, just don’t dye it. I don’t act any different with dyed hair cause I know it’s fake.

I wish I did have the freedom to let it go. Good for you and it looks great!!

10 Worth The Whisk September 11, 2011 at 8:09 am

Diane – THANK YOU for the nice words about the recipes.

11 Diane Sinner September 10, 2011 at 8:54 am

I think Patti’s hair is gorgeous silver/gray! I’ve been so tempted, so many times to let my gray “just be” and see what I’d look like. I am still working up the courage 🙂 (aside: I have been remiss in not posting how wonderful most of your recipies are.)

12 Celia September 10, 2011 at 6:26 am

Your hair looks gorgeous. My mother had beautiful silver hair before she passed–finally gave up dying it–and she just looked so refined and classy. I only hope my hair turns that shade of silver. (I dye it now, but am fully prepared to embrace the gray in a few years! Errmmm… when I’m not 29 anymore.)

13 Worth The Whisk September 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Shannon, GLAD you like the recipes. And now, GLAD you gave up the color. Great club, isn’t it?

14 Shannon G. September 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Congrats on giving up the color! It looks great! I did the same thing back in April, only I went extreme and had it all cut out at once! Can you say crew cut…, well almost. The reactions have been mixed, but I’m happy and my husband seems to like the salt & pepper. I’m young to have done it I guess, only 43, but I was so tired of coloring. I still long for my “red” hair sometimes:( I have toyed with getting highlights, but I’m too cheap to pay a salon for them, lol. Love your website. Found it while looking for recipes online. Can’t wait to start cooking;)

15 joanne opdahl September 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Love, love, love your new look! I am one step away from going down the same road. Very inspiring.

16 Cynthia Traina September 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Love, love your new style. Bet you wish you’d done it ages ago. You look beautiful!

17 Arlene September 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Patti, I’m a new subscriber but I’m an oldster at 73. My hair has been SILVER (shame on you for calling it gray!) for YEARS and I have to laugh and feel smug about all the money I’ve saved on hair dyes. I’ve had a perfectly fine head of hair without them. Finally in your posting you called yours SILVER…thank you! Having raised five children to adulthood mostly by myself since I was widowed at 29, and now with 14 grandchildren, I firmly believe that I’ve earned every single silver hair on my head and I’m proud of ’em! Who covers up a badge of honor, anyway? 🙂 And by the way, you look terrific, Gal! (So do I. heh-heh-heh I don’t believe in false modesty.)

18 Kate September 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I am a hairline tint addict but it’s such a constant drag in my life. I am not a good sitter so don’t do well with endless loitering in hair salons. On the other hand I don’t think I am ready for the inevitable just yet.

19 Worth The Whisk September 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Thank you Cindy! Rock the Silver is a great resource, isn’t it?

20 Cindy D September 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Rock the Silver directed me here – and I must say – your silver is fabulous! I’ve been growing mine out for 2 1/2 years, and the sense of freedom is amazing. I’m NEVER hitting the bottle again!

21 Worth The Whisk September 6, 2011 at 9:07 am

Patsy, this club is FABULOUS. Maybe we should have a convention!

22 Patsy Brunner September 6, 2011 at 9:02 am

Loved this column! Like many of the commenters, I came to your blog via Rock the Silver, and I am something of an advocate of going gray, embracing my natural self, being me in spite of pressure from “friends” to color/inject/fix/cover/control the unruly parts of my aging self.

I’ve never felt more Myself than I have since a.) quitting the lowlight coloring and finding my silver and b.) turning 60.

An unexpected bonus: I’ve never had so many compliments on my hair as I have since going gray. 🙂

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