Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Life Learning: How I Came To Know Myself By Loving My Gray Hair

Life learning. When it happens, it often happens without us knowing it's happening. Sometimes we do things, unaware, at least at first, that there are meaningful lessons to be learned. Sometimes, we get so lost or caught up in the doings of life, that learning happens without us knowing that huge changes are coming, that knowledge and understanding about our world our ourselves is happening.

Like with my hair. Hair? Oh yes, I'm going to talk about my hair for a moment. As hair goes, I have pretty nice hair. It's what my mother called chestnut brown, fine, mostly straight and I have lots of it. I've been told it's beautiful, and usually I agree.

Eventually it became less chestnutty and more gray. I think I started getting some gray hairs around age thirty and every year it was a few more until my late thirties and my temples and hairline were growing in white, nearly. And I didn't mind. Not at all. Until one day I did. I thought my gray hair made me look tired and washed out.

More likely it was a long winter that made me look tired and washed out. All of us look a bit like that come March or April in Maine. What I should have done is increased my vitamin D instead of reach for some hair color. Even more likely, I was wrong in my perception, uncomfortable with the changes I saw in myself. Learning that would take some time.

So about three years ago, I started down the road of coloring my hair every four weeks. Yes, it looked alright at first, and I did rather enjoy my darker, (though accidental), locks.

I felt a bit more modern somehow. Edgier-whatever that means? (Why I got it into my brain that edgy comes from a box of hair color, I don't know. Like Arwyn, I'll blame the kyriarchy. That, coupled with the grief, perhaps, of losing my mother and some friends along the way, too. Maybe I just wanted to feel different, since what I was feeling wasn't so great?)

It did look nice. At least it did, right after I colored it. And in the sunlight.

Out of the sunlight, it just looked dull and flat.

And there was always the commitment to chemicals. Then, I think as I began to get grayer, it became more difficult to color consistently. Where my gray roots were coming in, I would have lighter, now colored roots, and they were often orange. The rest of my hair just became darker with every coloring, so in order to get the roots dark enough I ended up having to color with darker shades. It became a trap and eventually, I became so self-conscious about my orangey roots.

I was fed up and frustrated and annoyed. I resented the chore of coloring. I was too frugal to spend money at a salon and a salon would only have continued the cycle, while increasing the expense. I decided that wasn't for me. (Incidentally, it's no accident that I have been coming to the realization that I want my authentic hair back as I learn more about HAES (Health At Every Size) and caring for myself in a way that is not toxic, emotionally or physically. I'm feeling myself come back to me, these two years since losing my mother.)

Also, I think I read it here, first, that there comes a time that I knew I'd be done with coloring. It seems that time is this summer. I haven't colored since April and I have about two inches or silver coming in. It's not all of my hair, but my hairline and my temples are almost entirely silver. I must be done and ready to move on, because I love it.

growing out the gray

I feel free already and looking forward to further growing out the old color. I won't ever color again, I know that now. It's simply not me anymore. Learning that took a couple of years, some of it fun, (a lot of painful) most of it frustrating.

Learning to be our true selves is very hard work. It's intense, and feels uncomfortable often. I was coloring my hair, but it wasn't just about my hair. I was hiding me and who I was becoming. Being me for awhile wasn't so wonderful. Understanding that took work, in the form of reading, and support from friends and family. It took me being okay with being internal, caring for myself, excavating those thoughts and feelings, having patience and love for myself. I was still here, yes, still caring for my family and my home. But my inner light was dim and my ever darker locks proved it. Letting my gray grow out, embracing that, relishing that, is like letting my inner light shine again. Gray hair will be my crown, proof that I learned this love, this acceptance of self. It will announce to the world that I'm here, and not faded or washed out and that I'm a woman who found out who she is, a queen in her power, her knowing. I'll be silver like the moon, shining and radiant. I already am.

on a summer evening


  1. De-lurking to say I LOVE this post. It gave me chills. I turned 40 last year, and I haven't colored my hair since my twenties. And I am quite gray, but I really, unabashedly love my gray hair, and I loved how you put into words much of what I feel about my beautiful gray!

  2. Oh Amy, good for you!
    I'm also loaded with white hair... it's not even gray, it's super white and a little wild.

    I been through all of the same things you have. Only I became allergic to hair dye and had no choice but to embrace my hair the way it is. Those nasty chemicals!

    Very hard! But now, I'm loving it too.

    You know, I think it's very attractive to see a young beautiful face like yours framed by some sparkling hair.

    Hey, I even wore mine in pig tails today:)
    Have fun with it!

  3. Great post, Amy!
    My friend Linda lost her job recently and has been unable to afford salon visits and her usual coloring routine. As a result, her hair has come in the most beautiful shade of silver. She looks fantastic, and so do you. Cheers! SarahV

  4. Hear, hear! You have such beautiful eyes and that gray hair will just make them pop even more. :)

    I started getting gray in my teens and had a big white spot on my bangs by my 20s. I do sometimes dye my spot bright red, but only that spot and it has to be temporary since I am allergic to the perm hair dyes. The rest of my head is more and more and more (and recently MORE) gray. Every once in awhile I think...oh, I guess I should try to find a way to color it (henna, or...). But then I stop myself.

    My mom has beautiful white hair and I hope mine is as crystal colored as hers when mine is finally 100%.

  5. Thank you, friends, for all your kind words and gorgeous gray support!

  6. I have never disliked grey hair (or aging)--UNTIL this last year when my momma died. I kinda had a panic attack about my hair--like I could defeat death by dying it. I held off, tho', and the fear subsided. I see the beauty in my grey strands and consider it natural highlighting. This last picture of you is so radiant, Amy, and your words, too. Thank you.

  7. Hi there, I found your blog through a Google search on growing out gray hair… I'm really inspired by your story! I'm 30 and am about 40% gray right now and am attempting to grow it out. I was wondering if you have any tips or encouragement about the growing out process? It seems like it is going to take a long time as I only have about an inch of gray right now, and my hair is shoulder length… Also, what did you do about the orange-y coppery color of the faded gray from coloring? That is the WORST part of this whole thing! Any advice would be great! Thank you for posting this!!!

    1. Hi! Thanks for your comment! Hmm, for me, the orange roots bothered me the most when I was still coloring my hair and between colorings. Once I committed to going gray, I found my hair much easier to live with. Frequent trims helped remove the old color, and I've read that a lot of people like to go short once they have several inches of gray grown out. I figured, it just couldn't look worse than it did when I had dark, dyed hair and orange roots! Good luck!

  8. Hi there, I found your blog through a Google search for growing out gray. I was wondering if you had any tips or advice on doing it? I'm only just starting and it looks terrible and I'm self-conscious, but SO DONE with the vicious coloring cycle. Thank you!



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