Close to a year ago I wrote a post entitled: Aging gracefully: allowing the gray. Since it’s relatively short, I’m including it in full below before I make additional comments based on now having grown my gray hair!
I am growing my gray hair in. I did this a couple of years ago, but it was by default. I wasn’t well enough to wash my hair regularly, forget dyeing it. So when it was done growing out I was not only just able to start leaving my bed, I was GRAY…and I felt like I’d gotten old while bedridden. It was a disquieting moment and really too much for me to adjust to at the time.
Now, it has become an active choice that I’m embracing. Aging brings maturity and wisdom why not let the way I look reflect the life my body has lived? I am excited now to see the gray hair I have earned by living my life the best I know how on this wondrous planet we have been incarnated on. My hair is long now and healthier and fuller than it’s ever been…my recovery strategy is clearly working!! Even while still sick some systems of my body are healthier than they’ve ever been my whole life!
Anyway…many many years ago, I swore I would not ever dye my gray away it seemed false and unnecessary, like most plastic surgery. The thing with me was that I was dying my hair for fun since I was about 18 years old. So when the gray started coming in I just kept dying my hair. In any case, it gets harder and harder to keep it looking nice. Especially if you have a graying pattern like mine with SOLID WHITE STRIPES at your temples!! Ha ha! Yes! The rest of my hair really has not much gray in it…but the temples!! Oh my.
Also, I’ve cleaned my diet from toxic substances as well as what I put on my body. All clean and non-toxic now. Most hair dye is highly toxic and carcinogenic! Even the stuff that claims to be natural and organic. The only exception are plant based dyes like henna and indigo, which I did start using after I went gray the first time. The thing is they’re hard to use and make a major mess AND don’t give consistent coverage, they also made my scalp itchy for 24 hours.
I’m happy I’ve let go and will just now go gray!
Lots of women are coming to the same conclusion and with an aging baby boomer populace those of us who are following have it a little easier. Some of our big sisters are Celebrating Gray Hair.
So, mostly I’ve enjoyed this process this time around. But it sometimes gives me pause too. I wrote the little below blurb to share with girlfriends recently.
Before I got sick I was still mistaken to be in my 20s pretty much routinely. The last time I got carded was the last time I was in a bar at age 42. Now at 48…having grown out my gray hair and having been largely homebound for the last 5 years…on the occasions I see people I find that I’m dealt with totally differently…and younger people will refer to my age in a way I never experienced prior…as though I’m not like them…ouch.
My skin and face still look young…this is just about the hair. I don’t want to dye my hair but I miss being treated like a young person…yet I feel that learning to embrace my role as a mature woman with gray hair may be even better once I get there.
Still I have been so removed from people while sick and homebound that it’s all strange and weird now…as I get used to it…as I am able to get out into the world a bit more.
We live in a youth culture and I find it stings to be viewed as old…because there is a sort of implicit dismissal…still, I think there must be a way to embrace it and that won’t matter so much…
And I promised photos when my hair grew out and some people are asking for them. So there is one with my Beyond Meds kitty, Jezebel…highlighting the white stripe. I guess you can’t really tell from that photo by most of my hair is still dark. The stripe is just right there at my temple and in this photo it’s what you see. If I comb it down I almost look like I have no gray still.
So when talking about how it’s different to have gray hair I often think about and refer to one of the many memorable scenes from the HBO TV series Six Feet Under in which the character played by Kathy Bates is friends with the mother of the family in the show. They are women in their late 50s or early 60s. Kathy Bates gets the mother to join her in a shoplifting adventure. Her rationale for such behavior is that women of this age are invisible and therefore one should take advantage of such invisibility. I appreciated it then even 10 years ago, but now I really grok, it…for better or worse…this is how it’s going be. I imagine there will be legal ways of taking advantage of the invisibility too. I will be on the look out for them. I think being a calm witness of all that goes on around us can be one of those ways. Maybe not as glamorous, reckless or romantic as shoplifting but it will be a way to grow in the world and tread lightly through.