Why Gray Is Beautiful

What does it mean to show the world you are going gray?

I got my first gray hair when I was 21. At least... I noticed it at 21. It must have been there for awhile as it was dangling down about 7 inches from my forehead. I was horrified and immediately plucked it out and discarded it into the trash. I threw it away along with the feeling that I was becoming one of those old gray women. Yes, I had become old and gray after just one thin hair. It wasn't long before I began coloring my hair. I wasn't ever going to let that unpleasant and unexpected event happen to me ever again. Since I was a vegetarian and an environmentalist, I tried the natural versions first, like henna, and although the muddy substance was not toxic, the end result was the reddest hair I had ever seen. Feeling like a twin to Lucille Ball, I soon gave in to the local drug store and began trying different shades to lessen the red. These toxic mixtures burned my sensitive scalp and leaving them on for the full treatment time was pure misery. The end result, however, was a beautiful shade of golden brown and deep auburns. So I reasoned with myself that I only had to put up with the painful discomfort only once every six weeks. Strangers began to complement my look and instantly I felt like I was part of the world of glamorous hair dyers. I felt young and stylish and I was hooked.

I convinced myself, that when women begin to go gray, especially when they are young, they must color their hair. It is just what women do. You see my dad began to gray at age 19, and let it be, while his two sisters, never let it be known as I assumed from pictures of their different shades of red hair. Dozens of products and several professional appointments later, I found myself at age 34 tired and losing my hair. I was tired of the pain my head endured every 6 weeks and tired of using products that I knew were not good for the water that washed it down. When my thin hair started looking thinner, broken and sick, I realized how tired I was of hurting myself to hide the natural me. I was inspired by the women in my new neighborhood who chose, in their late 30's and early 40's, to be gray. I made the decision to begin to embarrassing process of growing out my roots.

After forgoing the ritual of root repair for a good 3-4 months, on my 35th birthday I went to the nicest salon I could afford and told them to cut off all of the hair that had color on it, and try to make it look good. I will never forget the look on my face as I studied this new look in the mirror. Now that the color and long hair was gone I felt lost and regretful. Instead of seeing this as an empowering moment, all I could see was my large patches of gray amidst the mousey dark brown color that was my head. The loss of my long blonde highlighted stylish hair was more painful than I was ready for. "I am an ugly old and very plain woman," the voice in my head told me. I could not believe I was meant to be such a drab, old, and ugly woman at age 35. I tried my best not to cry, but the minute I got out of the salon and back in my car, I did.

Later, to appease my sadness, I decided to go shopping at my favorite used treasure store. To my complete joy, I found a beautiful pair of long, dangling and sparkly earrings with every color rhinestone in the rainbow and fell down to my shoulders. I figured if my hair was going to be short and ugly, my earrings would be long and sparkling. Strangely three years later, my whole earring collection is filled with long, super-sparkly, colorful earrings. It is the signature of the new me.

I would like to say that after a few weeks, I got used to the gray, but that just wouldn't be honest. The truth is it took almost a year before I finally felt comfortable with the gray on most days. There were the days when I went to the salon for a haircut and they would practically beg me to allow them to color my gray. There was also the day my mother, who is blessed with barely any gray in her late 60's, said I looked older than her with my gray hair. It took me two years before I looked at my long, grown out, gray hair and honestly saw the beauty of what it was. I have realized, as time has continued to pass, that the truth is beautiful. I am gray. I eat organic foods, I buy natural cleaners, I choose natural shampoo, and it only is honest and true for me, that I do not put chemicals on my head. I am not against the right to color, I just want the women to know that it is not a necessity.

And with the acceptance and love for my own honest appearance, I began to see the world outside of me, differently as well. What is now beautiful to me is seeing women who are proud to show their changing bodies, faces and hair color. It is beautiful to know that we are not spring chickens. We are heading into late summer. And with our wisdom gained by living our honest experiences, our bodies are showing this wisdom to the world. Maybe at 21, I wasn't ready to show the world, or myself, that I was ever going to be 35 or 40. Now I know that turning gray isn't about being old, it's about growing older. Growing is the key word. And honestly for me, growing is beautiful.

Copyright 2008 by Rain Fordyce Click here to Join the Conversation



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