I recently met a friend I hadn’t seen for a few months for a walk. We hugged, and she said, “You’ve decided to go grey! I love it!”
To which I responded, “Decided? Sure, I guess you could say I ‘decided‘ to go grey.”
She laughed, and I did that laugh that’s more of a forced squeak accompanied by a slightly frozen smile.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t offended in the least by her remark. It’s just that when you’re in your late 40s, all kinds of aging stuff happen all at once. (Can you say peri-menopause? But that’s an entirely different post – don’t get me started.) The grey hair is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
What my friend noticed is that I am no longer covering all of my grey with color, particularly right around my face. There’s still plenty of color in my hair, but not as much as there could be! My hair stylist (I love you, Bee) has been using her incredible talents to blend my grey with high- and lowlights to create a natural look for more years than I care to remember.
In the past couple of years, the hair around my face has become fully silver-white – a prelude of what’s to come eventually for my whole head. The added highlights there began to look brassy and decidedly un-natural. I also have the good fortune of fast-growing hair, meaning roots show at a rapid rate, which can be hard on the budget. So I decided to bite the bullet (this I did “decide”), and no longer color the hair around my face. Bee crafted my hair color to allow a powerful silver stripe there, which I like quite a lot. And there’s plenty of grey elsewhere, blended with lowlights.
Enough grey to be asked once if I qualified for the senior discount. That one did not elicit a laugh – not even the frozen squeak laugh. That one just floored me. Mostly because it was a woman much older than me who asked, not a teen or 20-something who might think anything older than 30 is just plain old (eloquent rebuttal at Forever Amber). I have to be honest; that one stung.
Since I’ve embraced (sort of) my grey, I get many more comments about my hair – some from friends, some from complete strangers. Most (but not all) of them are positive: “I like your grey hair.” or “Good for you for going grey!”
It is interesting that people feel compelled to comment on it at all. Friends, I get – they are noticing what’s new with me. I appreciate that they are paying attention, as long as they’re kind about it! But why do strangers feel the need, and the liberty, to comment about a natural aspect of aging? Are we that uncomfortable with it that it is an oddity?
Alyson Walsh, British style writer/blogger of That’s Not My Age, recently had an article written by the Guardian about her decision to embrace her grey. She had an “Ouch.” moment when the article was published, to which I can completely relate. She handled it with thoughtful grace that I can only hope to embody.
Everything about my business stems from the foundation of positive body image, and I am on a continuing journey towards this just as much as my clients. I have good days, and I have bad days. It sounds cliché, but aging for me has brought wisdom and a stronger sense of self. My 40s are the decade where I’ve learned to love myself for who I am, both in body and mind. Again, I have bad days. But they are now DAYS – no longer a mindset. My silver stripe (and all the 1000s of other grey hairs on my head) represents that for me.
As our bodies change with aging, it has implications on what we wear in many ways. I’ve written before about the idea of “age-appropriate” clothing, which also is trending on many style blogs. Alyson Walsh prefers the term “ageless style,” which I quite like. I feel that focusing on context- rather than age-appropriate clothing is a better approach. Women should wear styles that make them happy, regardless of age. Context is the considering factor.
I’ve had to incorporate my change in hair color into my wardrobe choices. My hair and complexion look different with my clothes now. I have had to rethink colors – less browns, more cool colors. White actually works better for me than before. My style has evolved a little as well to be more tailored/classic with more neutrals. It’s actually fun to style the silver stripe with clothes – it’s a built-in accessory!
Hair color is an intensely personal choice. The irony is that everyone sees it – it is likely one of the first things someone notices about another person. Many women (and men, for that matter) choose to cover the grey. Some would never consider color at all. Some are “hybrids,” like me. And some make choices they never thought they would make until actually faced with the reality of going grey, losing hair, or another aspect of aging. There’s no wrong choice, even though our culture has a lot to say about it.
Aging, especially for women, gets a bad rap. And, that, I fight against. I’m trying to wrap my (grey) head around my own aging, some days more gracefully than others. I do know that being true to yourself – meaning doing what feels right to YOU, not what the media or strangers or even friends say you should do – goes a long way.