I knew I was in trouble the moment I sat down in the chair. My firstborn was 18 months old and keeping me busy. I wanted a haircut that was easy and low maintenance, which felt increasingly out of reach. My blonde highlights were growing out, and I loathed continuing to touch them up. My hairstylist was understanding and gave me an all over color, as dark as my roots.
I didn’t really like that, either.
The dark color made my random grays pop. Why can’t I just be happy with my hair? I wondered one day. If this is close to my natural color, I’ll just let it grow out and deal. It can’t be that bad.
Several weeks later as I anticipated my next haircut, I saw my neighbor stroll by with her salt-and-pepper hair cut in a chic bob. Her kids were in high school, and she seemed to be embracing her gray. I loved it. I wanted that ease. So I made my decision.
Or rather, it was made for me, when I finally sat in my stylist’s chair again and explained that I was newly pregnant with my second child. No more dye.
“I think it’ll be great,” she said, surprising me. “The gray adds so much sparkle!”
Bless her. My heart clung to those words. I wanted a little more sparkle. With a second kid on the way, I needed to feel more comfortable in my skin somehow. I just never expected it to come from my hair.
A Harried History
In years past, I have chopped my fine brown hair into every conceivable style. An almost pixie. The bob. The lob. The Rachel, way back in the day, followed embarrassingly by some ill-advised perms. I dyed it redder, darker, even black (that was bad). Yet somehow, embracing my age and my low-maintenance stage finally brought me some peace.
To be clear, I knew the grays were coming for me. My grandmother was platinum for as long as I could remember. My mom also sports her silver with sass. (Having claimed she’d give up the box when she became a grandmother, she was essentially forced to back those words up when my sister announced her pregnancy a month later.) I always admired singers like Bonnie Raitt and Emmy Lou Harris, with their wide silver streaks.
Stepping off the hair dye rollercoaster felt fantastic. Consequently, so did having extra funds in my wallet, no longer spent on something that wasn’t making me happy anyway. Embracing my natural, ever-changing color also brought me a little spunk, something I sorely needed in the exhausting stages of raising young kids.
I get compliments frequently, from all but my sister, who upon seeing me for the first time in months exclaimed, “Good God! Let’s go buy a box and cover that up!” I stood my ground and defended my sparkle. She rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she said with sisterly smugness. “Look old.”
I realized in that moment that if these streaks of silver in my hair make me look old, I am perfectly okay with that. Proud of it, even. I’m 38 and not ashamed. If my hair continues to go silver, I’ll be thrilled. For once in my life, I’m not forcing my hair (or myself) to be something we’re not. And finally, unexpectedly, I feel the most like myself.
I see more and more women falling into a few camps: those who don’t need to dye, those who are slaves to the upkeep, and those who can embrace who they are becoming. If you’re considering going gray, look up Instagram accounts like @grombre or @saltandpepperpixie to see how amazing it can look. Perhaps you, like me, will find freedom in an unexpected place.