On Going Gray in My Thirties
Continuing our series during this final year of AoS of the top 12 published posts of all time (measured in simple traffic numbers), I LOVE that this one is so popular, at number 6. I’m now in my 40s, and a few years after I wrote this I decided to go back to dyeing my hair, I think as a way to remember that I’m still young. Well — I’ve reverted back to my natural gray, and I remember HOW MUCH I LOVE IT. And I love this post.
Not quite two summers ago, I shared rather uneventfully that I decided to grow out my gray hair. I was 36 and had been graying for about thirteen years by then, and since having gray hair at age 23 in the year 2000 isn’t “what you do,” I methodically covered it.
For kicks, I went through a variety of shades, the most fun being fire-engine red. But for most of that time, I simply matched the color of my original God-given shade. You’d never guess that I dyed my hair religiously every three months.
I gradually grew tired of the upkeep. There was the maintenance and the expense, and six years prior when I developed an interest in both living simpler and more naturally, it felt a bit…. incongruous.
I never felt that way about anyone else—it was all on me. It made complete sense why one would want to, and heck, I even appreciated the artistry of it. No judgment whatsoever towards those who’d prefer to cover their gray hair until the good Maker takes ‘em home.
For me, it just felt time to grow it out.
I made zero promises to myself that I’d never again color my hair; I loved—and still love—beautiful manes of aqua, pink, and green. I gave myself complete freedom to simply see this growing-out phase as an experiment. I could always dye my hair again.
We were also about to travel for a long time, and low-maintenance was key for my entire care regimen. And so, it was time for me to go gray.
It was slow-going at first, and I felt awkward about my obvious horizontal demarcation line as my locks grew longer. I read tips on gradual graying, but it just didn’t make sense for my situation. So I just winged it.
I laughed at articles that came out later that fall, announcing the new trend of gray hair on purpose. Never once had I been au courant with the style scene.
My hair grew longer and longer, and more and more silver streaks flashed across my head. Kyle swore my hair was only about ten percent gray, but it still felt strange to me. I felt the need to tell strangers that I was well-aware of my graying, I wasn’t just “letting myself go.” Silly, really, but there it is.
Twenty-two months later, and I gotta say…. I still love it.
Well, most of the time.
I do still doubt my decision sometimes, because I’ve got my whole life to embrace the gray. Why start now, before I’m even forty? I do miss looking young. I now look decidedly middle-aged.
But something my friend Shaun said soon after I made my style-decision announcement has stuck with me—he said that he was encouraged to go gray because it evoked an aura of wisdom, but when his wife starting showing gray, she was coaxed to cover it because “it’d make her look haggard.” He hated that.
Talk about a double standard.
In our culture, there’s this pressure for women to look as young as possible for as long as possible. It’s an overlying assumption that young = good and old = bad.
Why do we do that? Why not celebrate our aging? We all get older, every one of us. No one is immune. Several cultures revere their elderly because it means wisdom, strength, a hearty, hey—you made it! Keep on going.
There’s a gorgeous depth to silver-haired women living life.
I don’t want to speed up the aging process, but I also don’t want to shy away from it like it’s something to be embarrassed about. It is what it is. So I have gray hair.
I recently cut off several inches to finally do away with that demarcation line, and I gotta admit—I really, really like what I see. I honestly kinda like the free highlights.
I’m not yet forty, and sometimes my breath catches at the thought that I’ll be there really, really soon. (I think that’s mostly because I feel like I should know so much more by now than I do, that I really do still feel like I’m a kid playing grownup. Wasn’t I just in high school yesterday?)
When the day comes that marks the arrival to my fourth decade, I’ll be ready to throw one helluva party, because it means a bit more wisdom, a bit more strength. It means I made it a little bit farther.
I may still be rocking my gray hair, or I might have gone back to coloring it. Maybe I’ll be a cascade of blues. Who knows. Either way, I hope to embrace who I am even more than I am today. There’s something glorious about running my fingers through silver, and I love that this look both saves me time and money, is better on my body, and also sticks it to the proverbial man, culturally-speaking.
I love my gray hair.
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