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Going Gray Wasn't Easy. Here's What Helped

Why I'm finally embracing the transition.

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Woman from behind brushing back her beautiful gray hair
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As we age, we begin to experience physical limitations in the areas of vision, hearing and mobility. For me, one of the greatest challenges of growing older was an emotional one, the onset of which I saw increasingly in the mirror.

Gray hair.

When those first wiry strands appeared in my late 30s, I yanked them immediately. My 40s required an every-six-week camouflage of the roots, so the choice of a cheap brand of hair color saved on the expense. The gray stampede began to accelerate once I reached my 50s, shortening the dye-timetable to every three weeks.

Going gray was a genetic inevitability in my family. My granny had snow-white hair that looked and felt like cotton. My brother has a long, silvery white braid and bushy mustache, reminiscent of the actor Sam Elliott. Salt and pepper hair is the standard among relatives, so I could not be sure which shade would eventually choose me. But no way was I ready to seriously consider inviting the gray to stay.

My husband had already gone gray, and he was not a guy who was comfortable using Grecian Formula. He was fine with the fact his color promoted him to elderly status, but he made it clear that he didn’t want a gray-haired wife.

I held onto that bottle of Revlon Colorsilk Dark Ash Blonde not because of my husband, but because I convinced myself that coloring my hair made others believe I was younger.

For 35 years, I worked in the administrative professional field. I perfected the ability to market myself, dressing fashionably and never appearing in public without makeup. I was proud that employees and executives, all of whom were younger than me, considered me a cool woman for 50.

I wanted to hide the fact I was about to be 60, and so I felt that I needed to keep the gray away. Then came the pandemic. Home was my new office and the people for whom I yearned to appear youthful were gone. I had been handed a reason not to color. After 20 years of fighting a losing battle, I finally surrendered — gradually.

The decision to stop dyeing was not one I made because I was ready to BE gray but was ready to TRY gray. I took the plunge, side-stepping the popular trend of going gray all the way, by slowly blending in shades of Barbie-blonde.

After six months, I began to like it. One year later, I was sold. My hair grew in silvery-white, the same shade as my brother’s mane. I sampled many styles, such as bobs, shags and blunt cuts. Now, each time I venture out into the public, I get compliments from strangers, young and old, and my kids rave over my color.

I believe the main reason I didn’t welcome the arrival of gray hair is that I didn’t want to look or become that “old lady” who is often deemed invisible and irrelevant.

Many celebrities, like Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga, have influenced the younger generation by sporting gray styles. The Granny Gray I avoided for so many years was the hottest hair color for women of any age in 2018, according to Allure magazine.

The fact that older actors such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Andie McDowell, both 65, have adopted the gray permanently serves as an inspiration to non-celebrities like me. Watching famous women defy public perceptions of age forced me to reevaluate my own perception of beauty and aging.

Terri Garber, best known for starring in three volumes of the blockbuster mini-series, North and South, spent 2023 transitioning from brunette to gray. Although she experienced a few “what am I doing?” moments and wondered if the decision meant she might never again work as an actor, Garber was willing to take the chance.

During the process of growing out her gray, she was cast as a grandmother in a Campbell's Soup commercial. She admitted it was jarring to see herself portrayed in that role, but embraced her new reality with grace. Now a platinum stunner, Garber is proud to say, “At 63, I’ve earned this!”

I was raised to be “pleasing;” to say and do the right things and always look the right way. Every teenager lives with the crippling fear of embarrassment, but I was overly obsessive about the way I appeared to others. As I got older, the daily pressure I shouldered to make others proud of me became too much. I discovered that our most difficult battles were those fought with ourselves, and it was exhausting.

I want to look as good as I can for as long as I can. The way I dress and use makeup, along with the style and color of my hair, are all a part of the way I present myself to others. The compliments are a nice boost to the ego, but they are not needed to justify my choice. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see, which is an attractive, mature woman who has fab silvery hair.

Even as aging has its physical and psychological limitations, it provides a welcome gift — freedom. Freedom from caring how others perceive us. Freedom to choose how we perceive ourselves.

I love my gray hair and it doesn’t make me feel old. Maturity has made me develop a strong self-esteem and awarded me a healthy, hard-won right to be vain.

And at 63, I’ve earned that right.

Who else has gone gray? Do you love your hair? Let us know in the comments below. 

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