Going Gray

For years, I debated about the pros and cons of letting my hair grow out to its natural color. I wasn’t even quite sure what that color was anymore. Like many women, I started dying my hair in my 30s (red, if you must know). I had no idea what color was under my current ‘do. The specter of going gray was fraught with conflict and I knew a change would require patience and some re-branding. Was I ready for that?

How to begin

My marketing background pointed me in a logical direction—first, do some research. I conducted a survey of my closest inner circle. Most people shied away from giving me advice. They didn’t want the tremendous responsibility of guiding me toward a possible disaster. I heard more than one hearty, “No! You’re too young.” The best advice I received was, “Only you can make that decision.” This was from a friend who always has my best interests at heart.

OK, so I made the decision. Through my generous network (Circles of Gold®) I found a hair stylist who would work with me through the stages of growing out the color. After a succession of adding highlights and low lights, then less and less, my natural hair color has revealed itself. I still have more brown than I thought I’d have, and there’s a soft silver throughout that makes me fondly think of my mom.

Why such a drastic move?

Here were my reasons for going gray:
• If I took all the money I’ve sunk into the chemicals on my head and invested that tidy sum into a mutual fund, I’d be… richer. That money can now go toward a fabulous cut and my SEP-IRA.
• The current administration, beginning with the last presidential election, gave me the impulse to cut off all my hair and run around the city howling. I remember the urge on Nov. 9, 2016, to hack it all off like a widow, rending her clothes in sorrow. My friend Karen Halvorsen-Schreck, a writer with gorgeous curls, let her hair grow gray in protest. Inspired by Karen, my anger made me brave.
• The National Speakers Association—my professional association of choice—is brimming with colleagues who admonish us to “be authentic.” For me, that meant letting my hair catch up with my status as a woman of wisdom. No judgement re: my sisters-in-speaking who opt for fake eyelashes and stilettos well into their 70s. I believe in the You-Be-You campaign. I just got clearer about who I am and how to live in my own skin.

My friend Janie Gabbett once told me a hilarious story about tinting her hair to get through the transition from black to (prematurely) white hair. The details are fuzzy but they included attending a correspondents’ dinner in Washington, D.C., getting caught in the rain and sitting next to then-First Lady Laura Bush on a dias. According to Janie, her hair color, diluted by the rain, provided quite a spectacle on national TV. Janie, forgive me if I’ve blurred the storyline, but I’m still laughing at your account of the dramatic debut of your current gorgeous color those many years ago.

Personal and political

We live in a culture that worships youth, sending conflicting messages to women about using our sexuality as an advantage while also building skills to protect ourselves from abuse. In this #MeToo era, we may need to see and accept ourselves in a new light, one that shines like silver. For me, this bold decision to go gray was both personal and political, both powerful and graceful as I step into the next stage of my life. Whatever that stage may hold, I embrace it with a toss of my silver mane. May your next hair stage feel like freedom and may it embolden you to the life you are meant to live.

[Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash]