Prior to the pandemic, I was in my stylist’s chair for hours every 5 weeks. Every three months the process of highlighting was even longer. For YEARS prior, my husband and daughter tried to convince me to go gray. They said it would be amazing. (My son wisely said once after being asked if he liked my new highlights, that he doesn’t notice my hair so much as my mood. If I’m happy, he assumes all is good with my hair.) I’ve been graying since early 20s slightly and much more forcefully in my 40s. But the pandemic hit and I had an opportunity. I didn’t have an opportunity with my jobs not to be seen – LOTS of people saw this process – a process, by the way, that my hairdresser told me she could soften and make easier. I said no.
But I then imagined something. Do me a favor and make believe (remember how fun it was being told to make believe?) that there was never any hair dye – ever. No one ever invented it. No one ever used anything to color their hair. The world was without that one piece. (If any of you ever saw the movie Yesterday, this is a concept they put in the movie – a world without The Beatles, cigarettes, Coke and so on.) So every person’s hair was authentically theirs – balding, blonde, brunette, streaked from sun, silver, red. Everyone would have their color hair – a color as unique as they are (opposed to the thousands who have the exact same dye number on theirs.) And their hair would age along with their skin and their bodies. Now imagine in this world, if ANYONE would associate gray with “grandma”. They wouldn’t. You wouldn’t. It would be a realistic expectation that as we got older there would be a lot of silver going around. Some brilliant marketing and a multi-billion dollar industry and we are convinced we all look younger if we don’t have it. I believed this to my core. Neil has no grays and I wouldn’t let mine go because I didn’t want it to look like Aunt Marci is taking little Neil to a movie. I sat with my hairdresser and a calendar when big trips would be and we moved backwards so my hair would be PERFECT.
Fast forward to this pandemic. There are a lot of negative things about this pandemic but letting my hair free wasn’t one of them. I’m pretty vain and put a high price on beauty. I love my makeup, having my hair colored, doing things to my features (including my hair) to look beautiful – or as best as I could. So was it hard to be on Zoom with this line of gray/brown? Yes. But one of my core values is connection and I was not only NOT going hide from people, but I wanted them to see this process. I wanted them to see that it can be done with a smile, with some humor, with some class.
This week in WW workshops we’re talking about body confidence. This can be a very touchy and vulnerable subject for everyone. But the technique is adjusting the mindset from looks to what your body can do. (For example, going from seeing big bulky legs to seeing the legs that allows you to walk or run or hike.) I would look in the mirror and from 2 weeks in from the hair appointment, I’d see roots. I hated them. I was a prisoner. My hair became this burden. And the pandemic allowed my already-strong mindset to say – NOW. Now is the time to release the burden of a calendar of appointments. And this decision was followed by months of this line getting bigger and more pronounced (in my head as well as on my head!) and I joined Facebook groups to talk me in to keeping it. To support each other. I found strength. I found women who were still unsure and asking others to help them. I felt like I was watching the strongest people reach out their virtual hand and say to each other, we can accept and move forward together. It was mind boggling and beautiful. Throughout the process – even when I hated that stupid line in my hair, I got comments from strangers. Some of them ridiculous and rude. But most have been positive. And since the transition, I’ve received more compliments on my hair from family, friends, and strangers.
Our society and culture and family gives us messages:
fat is unhealthy
curvy is beautiful, but only to a point
fat people are lazy
don’t wear that
women who are gray are letting themselves go
men who are gray are silver foxes – distinguished
Guess what? The stuff people can see about us doesn’t even come close to what makes us US. Not even close. If I walk into a job interview with my gray hair some people might judge. But the right people won’t fear experience. But I don’t worry about that because part of this process is owning myself – more authentically each year. (I’m not 100% there yet!) Plus I really don’t want to expend any energy on those who only are judging me by what they DO see. I want my circle to be those willing to go deeper to find out what they aren’t seeing.
I’m a compassionate, connected, loving and strong woman married to my best friend. I love speaking in 3rd person for fun. I have emotional problems and successes. I’m Jewish and a proud mom. I have two jobs I adore. I have kids who are adults and have their own mishigas (craziness in Yiddish) and I love people and bacon and dogs and chocolate and coffee and the sound of M&Ms being poured in a crystal bowl. I practice gratitude but might smack someone who told me to look at the good in every situation. I get angry at politics and dehumanization of people and groups and bullies and stupidity and closed minds. I love loving people.
I also have gray hair.