Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

It Works for Wizards: Embracing the Wisdom and Power of My White Hair

The day I decided to no longer deny who I really am.

Comment Icon
Woman with white and gray hair
Getty Images
Comment Icon

I’m not proud of it, but the truth is that my relationship with permanent hair color outlasted many other relationships in my life. And I was very loyal to it.

I started experimenting with my naturally medium brown locks in high school. I’d go from black to auburn to brown, and back again. But by the time I hit my 30s, things got more serious. I found myself scrambling to cover up the scattered silver strands that my friends called my “tinsel.”

I’m not a fan of tinsel on Christmas trees and I was even less thrilled about having it on my head. I wasn’t ready to accept the changes happening to my body due to aging. With an arsenal of little plastic bottles and a mountain of disposable gloves, I was ready to fight to hold on to what I perceived to be my youth and vitality.

For the next two decades, I hid my emerging white roots like a dark secret, resorting to hats and headscarves on those rare occasions when I was unable to visit a salon or a drugstore hair color aisle. I used temporary sprays, powders and pastes that left my hair feeling as stiff as a discarded bird nest. I longed to be free from my beauty product bondage. But I was stuck.

What was I so afraid of?

Now in my early 50s, I look back and see that I was terrified of what other people would think of me if I let my true color show. How would society label me? Was I just one missed salon appointment away from becoming an “old lady”?

Thanks to genetics, I always had a reasonably youthful appearance and could get away with passing for a decade younger than my age. I didn’t mind revealing my real age because I could rely on getting those predictable compliments like, “You don’t look a day over 40.”

Part of me was proud of my years, my achievements, my wisdom and the more self-assured person I’d become. I’d raised a daughter, conquered insecurity, completed two master's degrees and even spent a year learning Brazilian jujitsu. I knew these were things that only life experience and maturity could have afforded me.

I went all age-positive and celebrated my 50th birthday by writing an article for Thrive Global called “I’m Turning 50, and I Want to Tell Everyone.”

But letting my hair go white was another story. I refused to do it — until something strange happened.

I was on COVID-19 lockdown at home, all by myself. I brewed some cinnamon apple tea, popped a bowl of popcorn and sat down to watch The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers.

There’s a scene in the movie where the wizard Gandalf the Grey appears in the forest in a shroud of blinding light. He dramatically reveals himself as Gandalf the White, now wearing snow-colored robes with shocking white hair.

After he bravely defeated and killed the menacing, fire-breathing creature called the Balrog, Gandalf experienced a rite of passage. He was reborn, transformed into a more powerful white wizard. In fact, he’d moved up the hierarchy of wizards, from grey to white. Gandalf was sporting all white hair and at his full power.

I decided right then. I was going to stop being afraid. Instead of using Dark Brown Number 47, I was going to have my own natural hair color. If I had to give it a name, I’d call it “White as Truth.”

There would be no more hiding, no more spraying, powdering and dyeing. There would be no more denying who I really am.

If I allowed myself to show up in the world as bravely and valiantly as Gandalf did, I would defeat the menacing creature that is my fear and shame about my age. And I too could emerge victoriously, more powerful, more inspired and more myself than I have ever been.

Editor's Picks
Find money-making endeavors that are personally satisfying.
, July 18, 2024
Here are the ones that top the list.
, July 18, 2024
It's incredibly welcoming, especially for older women travelers.
, July 18, 2024