One shade of gray

Both of my parents’ hair started to go gray at a relatively young age, so following in their footsteps, mine did the same. Right around age 28 or 29 I began to notice a few gray hairs mixed in with my dark brown. And then within what seemed like a week, there were a lot of gray hairs. This was a big problem for me, since I was not even 30 yet. It didn’t seem fair. I solved my problem quickly by dyeing my hair as close to my natural color as I could, erasing any signs of old age.

And so I continued this pattern for a good 12 years. I was cheap, so I never paid a professional. I just went to the beauty supply store every couple of months and stocked up on color, developer, and disposable gloves. Along the way, Andy protested this routine saying that he liked gray hair and it was a sign of wisdom; something to be proud of, but what does he know.

I turned 40 and felt great because I still had very dark hair and people were shocked when I told them how old I was. But then I was approaching 41 and had gone from dyeing my hair every 6 weeks to needing it every 3 weeks. The gray roots were showing up faster and I hated the contrast of what was growing out and what now looked like black after so many years of #311 Very Dark Brown. I had a decision to make. Carry on like this for at least another 20 years and then deal with “gracefully” going gray in my 60’s, or just bite the bullet and go natural.

I remembered back to a conversation with my sister-in-law years earlier. We were discussing whether or not we would “have work done” on our bodies as we got older, if money wasn’t a factor. She was more open to the idea, but I was way more self righteous saying something like, “I don’t think you should mess with what God gave you. We’re all going to get old someday; things will sag, we won’t look as young as we once did, but oh well. I would never have any work done. It’s so vain.”

She quietly replied with, “And what color is your natural hair?”

Ouch. Point taken.

And so, at almost 41, I decided it was time. I didn’t want to be subtle about this decision. My intention was to go to a professional this time and just dye it all gray; really go for it. I figured this would be the easiest and cheapest way and if my hair was all gray, then growing out the natural wouldn’t be a big deal. If there are any hair stylists reading this, I’m sure you’re laughing at me right now.

I had no idea that when you’ve been dyeing your hair #311 Very Dark Brown for twelve years, you don’t just walk into a salon and walk out with beautiful silver-gray hair. If you’re me, you walk out after 8 hours of sitting in the chair with several shades of red, fried hair, and about $200 poorer. Time to go to plan B.

It was obvious that my hair could not handle the 2-3 more bleaching sessions necessary to get my hair to gray, so I went to see a color specialist who gave me some great information and asked if I was ready to take “the journey” with her to get me to my natural color; gray. Turns out “the journey” was going to cost me at least another five hundred dollars and since I like my journeys to stay under one hundred dollars I moved on to plan C.

After five shades of red and one shade of gray,  I had a decent amount of my hair cut off. I’ve done my best to speed up the process of gracefully going gray and really, there’s been nothing graceful about it. Here I sit with my new short hair, a cut that people say “you have the face for short hair, I could never pull it off,” which is a nicer way of saying, “dang, that was a bold move! One that I would not have made.” It’s okay. It’s just one more step in my journey. At least now I’m down to one shade of red and one shade of gray. Almost there.