Friday, September 3, 2010

Why I Love My Gray Hair

Several things converged around the same time.

1) I bought the huge telephone-book sized Fall Vogue magazine, which I've not done for years.

2) I read a great article by Aliza Sherman who gave a fiery response to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, pontificating about why there weren't more women in tech start-ups. (And I loved her comment about women who have gray hair are often passed over for jobs let alone venture capitalists.)

3) While flipping through the pages of Vogue, I wondered what happened to one of the more interesting supermodels of the 90's, Kristen McManamy.

4) I discovered that Kristen, now 46 years old, had decided to no longer color her hair and allowed it's silver magnificence to wreak havoc upon the fashion world. I was smitten.

I had a conversation with Aliza via Twitter. She admitted she loved my gray hair but had trouble thinking she could go through with it. I've received this response many times from women. Strangers will greet me at a store, for instance, and say, "Oh, my gosh.. I just love your hair!" Meanwhile, I can tell they're still coloring theirs. I thank them and say with a smile, "I'm not sure if you considered it, but if you do it -- believe me, you'll be spoiled!" They usually laugh and say "Maybe someday..."

Yes, we live in a culture that idolizes youth. And people like Oprah don't help matters when they say, "The quickest way a woman can look younger is by coloring her hair." Oh, yeah? Well I've seen plenty of women who color their hair but the color is all wrong for them. Or they color their hair too dark and it accentuates their older features.

In fact, this is what I find so hilarious: it's a long-held beauty rule that as you age, you lighten your hair color. How wonderful it is that God gave women natural "highlighted" hair by adding silver? No need for anything "extra."

When I met my husband when I was 38 years old, I had been coloring my hair blonde for many years. In fact, I started to color my hair when I was 19. So for about twenty years, I spent quite a bit of money and time on trying to achieve that perfect color. I was platinum blonde, honeyblonde, dark blonde, reddish brown, chestnut, auburn, black (which turned out awful) and then back to a light ash blonde. So when I asked him what he thought of me letting my hair grow out the color, he was thrilled. I, on the other hand, was just plain tired of the work.

There are many reasons I love my gray hair, not the least of which is minimal upkeep. But my absolute favorite reason is that it sends a message loud and clear that I'm not stuck on "looking young" forever. I like getting older. In fact, I see each day as a day closer to getting to my true home, with my Creator, my heavenly Father. I like the joys that aging brings -- renewed appreciation of relationships, wisdom, and the delightful sense of freedom that comes with caring less what most people think.

I honestly would not trade my current life for the one I had at twenty. I loved being twenty, when I was twenty. But there was a part of me that couldn't wait to reach "middle-age" because I suspected I'd feel more confident in who God created me to be. I was right.

There are more and more women who are choosing to go gray. It's an honest choice, reflecting a woman's beautiful individuality and experiencing the joy of every stage of life. If you're a woman who's not quite sure but intrigued by the prospect of going gray, I highly recommend readingGoing Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters by Anne Kraemer. It's a poignant tale of how one woman took the plunge toward letting go of certain expectations to discover her own brand of beauty.

If you do take the risk, let me know. I'm betting you will be pleasantly surprised.


Elizabeth said...

Both of my Grandmothers had pure WHITE hair and with the amount of gray in mine I am hoping that I inherit that beautiful color! Right now my hair looks either dark strawberry blonde or light reddish brown...Sometimes I color it just to make the color prettier, but you can barely tell when it is growing out :)
The only problem is that I am 46, have a 9month old and have been asked twice recently if he is my grandson :p
C'est La Vie!

Mary Rose said...

That is awesome about your grandmothers, Elizabeth! It will be interesting to see what happens to my hair as I age. My father's mother colored her hair up to the day she passed away. My mother's mother had "salt and pepper" for awhile and then it switched to a pewter color.

My aunt (mother's sister) who had gray sprinkled throughout her dark brown hair, was told by her twenty-something daughter that she looked "old" and to color it. She finally did, lol. Having a young baby at our age is bound to cause some puzzlement, but your hair color sounds pretty. I still have my moments when I look at a particular shade and dream a little. But then I remind myself of how much time and money I'm saving. C'est la vie, indeed! :-)

kkollwitz said...

It's different for men, but I couldn't wait to get gray. It looks so...substantial, so fully human.

My wife is going gray as well. I think it makes women look mature and in command of themselves. I mean, women who have done the woman thing (as opposed to the perpetual-adolescent-girl thing) know better than to buy into the eternal youth claptrap.

Lola said...

You do have gorgeous gray hair!

I'm in my early 40s and colored my hair in my 20s. Now, I think I might 'frost' my hair with an ash blond just to bring those first grays in a little more blended with my natural dark hair.

But even that makes me chicken.

I remember reading this article in O magazine and thought you might find the photos interesting:

Just this week I found a link to this:

Thank you for your lovely thoughtful post today and your blog everyday!