I have been coloring my hair for about 16 years. The first five or so were purely for enjoyment, to experiment and play and give my first-born, youth-group-leader-self a space to be a bit rebellious. My favorite was fire-engine red, age 20.
But when I saw the first signs of gray around 23, I obediently added to the grocery list a number on a bottle in a box labeled with a model. Rinse and repeat a couple times a year for 13 years in various shades and hues. Lately it’s been a simple mimicry of my original hair color.
I am now growing out my gray hair to celebrate my 37th year.
At first it was a bit out of laziness, a sigh to accompany a peek in the mirror and the splash of water on the face; a mental note on my to-do list: dye hair. A month passed, then another, and one day it became an actual thing; I was either negligent in my beauty routine, or I was doing something different. So, I decided to call it something different.
It surprised me at first, every time I’d glance in the mirror. Oh yeah, I’d remember, I’m going to see what my hair looks like without dye. (And yes, there’s a certain oddity to this rebellion when I’ve already been shampoo-free for four years and only use one product called Hair Butter. But that’s another story.) Yet it grew on me, this gray hair, and it stopped being such a thing.
It still resurfaces as a thing from time to time, when I let it. I notice it when I notice friends my age or older with a head full of brunette or blonde. And then I feel compelled to let it be known, so that people don’t think I just haven’t noticed my gray. “So, I’m growing out my gray hair, to see how it looks.”
Most people admire this tenacity, which has been gratifyingly surprising. They’ll say things like, “That’s cool—your gray hair actually looks awesome, as though you did it on purpose.” (I guess it does help that it’s spread out like highlights; it’s not graying in patches).
But even if it was, I think I’d grow it out anyway. There’s something freeing about being myself. About jettisoning one more beauty routine. About doing the opposite of what mainstream magazines tell me I should do.
I don’t mind getting older. And I don’t mind graying early. It’s helping me delight in a more uninhibited version of myself.
I’m giving myself permission to dye again later, if I want. But don’t be surprised if the next time you see me in person, I’m that thirty-something girl with a rapidly-graying head.
I really, really dig it. It feels good and right.