“MOM!!” I yelled, panicked, as I ran down the stairs with a strand of hair pinched between fingers.
A discovery I found while meticulously straightening my usually wild, curly brown hair, while getting ready to go out on my 22nd birthday. I observed it carefully before yanking it out at the root and running to my mother.
“Please tell me this is platinum!” I demanded.
“If by platinum you mean platinum silver, then yes, yes it is.”
She was amused. I was not amused.
From the moment my dermatologist told me that I would age pre-maturely if I continued to lay out every day, I did everything I could to stop the aging process. I did not want to be old. I wore sunblock religiously. I even stopped wearing my glasses, which I know sounds ridiculous (it is ridiculous!), but in my mind old ladies wore glasses. I would not go grey because grey is old!
At first there were just a few and I would yank them out with repugnance. Once I took adulting to the next level and had a regular beautician do my hair, I would have her cut out any grey strand that she found (against her advice). One day she proclaimed that there was just too much to cut out and my obsession with dying my hair was born. I’d joke that I would be a 90 year-old women with rich, chocolate colored hair. I would never be grey because grey is old!
Dying my hair was fun! I got to experiment with many colors. When I felt like changing it up and going red for awhile, I did. When I felt like “keeping it real,” I kept it in the dark chocolate range, no worries. Every 3 weeks I’d see a grey hair peaking through at the roots and panic. Friends and family claimed they didn’t notice, but how could they not?! They would appear as bright flashing neon lights, “Hello world, call me grey!”
As the years went by, more and more silver strands appeared. I would meet women, younger than I, who would proudly rock their grey locks with envy. I wish I had that confidence, I would think as I spent countless hours covering up the very thing I wish I had confidence to show. A slave to a bottle of dye.
Several years ago I decided to go bold. I went purple! Oh, how I loved my purple hair! I gladly sported my vibrant locks to a school field trip with my daughter and giggled at the mom’s who not-so-quietly judged the color. I’d smile at the women who would frown at me in the grocery store. I loved that hair! Despite having to wash it in ice cold water and the frequent trips to the salon to keep it going. The maintenance was worth it. I’m happy for that experience; sometimes you need purple hair.
One night I was reflecting on the things on a list that I would call, ‘The things I don’t like about me,’ and realizing that a majority of these things should, in fact, be labeled, ‘Things I have been told to not like about me.’ I realized how conditioned I had become to view grey hair, among many other things, as unattractive. I grew up watching commercials about how certain products were guaranteed to cover the grey. Every woman in the media, who I felt represented attractive, did not have grey hair.
Then it occurred to me; what if I had been lied to this whole time about what attractive is? How is it possible for me to look at another woman rocking her grey hair and think she is a goddess and fail to see myself in that same light? What was broken in me to feel completely comfortable standing out in my unordinary purple tresses and feel so much embarrassment for something as ordinary as a 38 year-old with a head full of glitter?
Thus began my journey to the grey.
It wasn’t easy. I noticed within a few weeks and the itch to pick up the bottle and address these abominations was strong, but I resisted. Others didn’t notice until about week 6. My hair dresser friends would kindly offer, “I have some openings next week.” My older, sweet nephew asked concerningly around week 12, “what happened to your hair?!” He was shocked to learn that I wasn’t lying about the grey that hid underneath the chemicals that most came to know as my natural hair color. However, here I sit about a year and a half into the big grow-out and realize the significance of growth, both physically and emotionally. I love the strands of glitter that remind me of the magical unicorn that I truly am.