I found my first gray hair a few months ago. It kind of freaked me out. I knew it would happen some day. I just didn’t think it would happen one day when I am 32 years old.
I know, I know. Some people start going gray much earlier than that. Heck, my mom started going gray in her 20s and colored her hair for a good 30 years before she let it go gray. Now she has gorgeous sliver hair. My dad started going gray in is 30s, I think. I don’t remember. But he’s going to be 59 this year and he’s still not completely gray. And he’s not really salt-n-pepper either because his hair is a light, mousey brown. The same color as mine.
Which is why I am freaking out about the gray hair: how do I know if I will have my mom’s gray hair or my dad’s gray hair?
Maybe I should read this book? Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters.
Why is going gray such a big deal anyway? Is it because it signals aging? Is it because youth is the beauty that’s idealized in our culture? Why do women obsess about covering up the natural parts of our body? We cover our natural hair with dye, to hide the color we don’t like. We cover our natural skin with make up, to hide the zits and wrinkles. We cover the parts of our bodies we don’t like with clothes: if we don’t like our feet, we don’t wear sandals; if we don’t like our legs, we don’t wear shorts; if we don’t like our arms, we don’t wear sleeveless tops.
When I found the first gray, I told my girlfriends. They said I was hallucinating. They looked at my hair and practically had a magnifying glass pointed at my roots before they said, “ah, oh, there it is.” And then promptly followed it up with, “but you can’t even see it. Especially with your curly hair, it won’t be noticeable forever.”
That didn’t help. Stephanie doesn’t color her hair (she’s low-maintenance, like me) and she has no gray. Allyson colors her hair every 4 weeks so she wouldn’t even know if she has any gray.
Then I went to see Samantha, my hair stylist. And I told her I was thinking about getting highlights to help cover up the gray. First she didn’t believe that I have gray hair. She did the whole, “where? No, you don’t” thing that my friends did when I frist told them about the pesky things. Then she used her pinky finger to slice into my hair, pulling up each section and looking at the part along the side of my head. “oh, yeah, there they are,” she said. There were even more hiding underneath!
So I said, “Yeah, highlights. To help hide the gray for a while.”
“Highlights are too high-maintenance for you,” she said.
And that’s just it. I’m a low-maintenance girl. Always have been. I barely wear make-up. For a long time I only wore mascara. Now I wear mascara and eye shadow. It doesn’t take me more than 10 minutes to do my make-up in the morning. None of this concealer, foundation, powder, eyeliner shit that takes more than 30 minutes to apply.
I used to think that women who got their legs waxed were high-maintenance. I associated the cost of up-keep with the level of maintenance required: the more it cost the higher-maintenance it is. Now I get my legs and armpits sugared every 4 weeks. No, it’s not cheap. But I’ve decided that shaving every day is more maintenance than getting sugared once every 4 weeks. It’s about time, not money. So forget spending more than 10 minutes on doing my make-up.
That’s why I’ve never colored my hair.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did get highlights once a few years ago, but only because it was a birthday gift from my best friend Sarah, and she paid for it. She also helped me communicate to the stylist what I wanted: something natural that I could let grow out without it looking funky.
And that’s exactly what I did. I got my hair highlighted one time. No fuss, no upkeep.
So when Samantha now tells me that highlights are too high-maintenance for me, she’s so right. What was I thinking? But I don’t want to dye my hair, either. I like the my hair color. But Samantha also says that doing a full color would be easier to maintain, and I could just dye it the same color as my natural hair to cover up the gray.
This has all happened in the last six months, and guess what? I now have more gray!
Sarah decided this would be the year that she doesn’t color her hair. She has more gray than I do and she seems to be OK with it.
None of my friends admit to seeing my gray hair. Neither does my husband! (He probably knows that’s the best choice in this situation.) But I know they are there. I see them. They are little shiny specks on the top of my head, right along my part. I see them every day. And, yes, I think about coloring them. But then I think about how it’s not like me to cover things up. And I think about the upkeep of one. more. thing.
So for now, here’s what I’m going to do about going gray: absolutely nothing.