I have a dirty little secret. It isn’t something that many people know about me, and it doesn’t just affect me, it affects my identical twin sister. I have struggled to know how to handle it because it is going to blow her cover as well, but I am ready to stop living the lie. As a 43 year old with young elementary school aged kids, I have completely gray hair.
I first discovered that I had gray hair as a senior in high school. I quickly plucked it from my head, and got rid of the evidence. In my early 20’s, I began getting highlights, and eventually for the last decade, I have gotten all over color in a salon every 6 weeks. I’ve needed to spray my roots with dark brown spray after a week or two because my “natural highlights” were shining through. When my son was a preschooler, he loved to tell me that my hair was “sparkling.” While it was so cute, I immediately felt a sense of embarrassment and almost shame that I had these sweet young children and if I didn’t color my hair, I might be mistaken as their grandmother.
Over the last few years, I have had a crazy desire to let my hair grow out naturally and *gasp* embrace the gray. I spoke with my beloved hair stylist, who also happens to be my beloved brother in law, and while he was surprised I was considering it, gave me some options to transition to gray. When asked what most of his clients do, he said that when they are ready, they usually just go cold turkey and let it go! Yikes. That made my heart skip a beat. With as much gray hair as I had growing, I would surely age about 20 years. If you would have told me a few years ago that I would even be considering letting my gray shine, I would never have believed you. I have plenty of friends my age and older who have shared that they would never consider letting their natural grays shine through and I can totally understand that view point as well.
For some reason, I just haven’t been able to get the desire out of my head. Because I need to know all the information before I make a huge life decision (I realize this is a First World Problem,) I had to ask those closest to me what they would think if I let my hair grow natural. My husband (who happens to be 4 1/2 years younger than me) let me know that he was just fine with whatever decision I made. My twin sister was shocked that I was considering it, and jokingly said, “People are going to wonder why you are gray, and I am still a brunette!” I asked online forums of women their opinion and experiences. I perused Instagram accounts dedicated to the transitioning to gray journey. I wondered why I have had a sense of shame about having gray hair. It is natural, it isn’t a fault.
I have finally decided that I am ready to embrace the “natural” life and embrace the authenticity that comes with it. And guess what? I haven’t died of embarrassment. It’s been a time-expander; I was coloring every 6 weeks, and have now not colored my hair for 4 months. To make the transition a bit gentler, I invested in some powder for my roots along my part and wear my Chicago Cubs ball cap on my days off work. When I am ready to cut my long locks, I’ll choose one of the long bobs I’ve been scouting out. My friends have all been supportive of this decision, and when I see other women with young children in the community with various stages of naturally graying (or transitioning to gray) hair, I want to run up and give them a hug of solidarity. I still have a few moments of angst where I question if I can really do this, but I’m convinced that what I gain from exposing my secret is authenticity and that’s worth more than I could ever find in a bottle of hair color.
I really want my children to learn to embrace the things that might seem to be struggles or challenges, even if they ARE First World Problems. It feels like a dirty little secret, but it doesn’t have to be one.