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January 27, 2021

Joining the Grey Revolution

Joining the Grey Revolution

By Deborah Garratt Intuitive Coach & Spiritual Arts

I think I found my first grey hair at the age of nineteen.  It was quite a shock and I persistently plucked it right out.  This method worked for about a year or two and then I was confronted with the reality… that if I kept this up, I would eventually be bald.  Not a great choice when you’re twenty-three years old.  So like most women, I turned to the bottle…I know what you’re thinking!  Don’t worry I will turn to wine but not until much later in life.  I turned to a bottle in a box with a picture of a beautiful brunette with her gorgeous hair glistening in the sun.

Coloring my hair started as a DIY project in the privacy of my own bathroom.  This worked fine for a while until a harried application left permanent stains on my towels, floor, and rug.  It was at that time that I started seeing a professional.  It’s funny the money that one can come up with when it comes to vanity.  I really didn’t want my girlfriends to know that every 8 weeks I was sitting under a hair dryer at the salon on Saturday morning along with all the other old ladies.

This was during the permanent era when having soft poodle like curly hair was all the rage.   I have no doubt that in the history books of cosmetology this era was and will always be remembered as one of the worst.  And for good reason, the chemicals they used smelled awful.  The end result was severely damaged hair forced by harsh chemicals into an unnatural curl pattern.  Due to the damage, you had to get your hair trimmed every six weeks to cut off all the split ends.  Hair color was just beginning to really take hold in hair salons.  And it didn’t take long to realize that a permanent + hair color don’t mix too well.  That was a guaranteed disaster at the shampoo bowl.  You were lucky if had any hair left on your head after that double whammy.  And hence, this became my dilemma.  There wasn’t enough deep conditioner in the state of California to make up for that combo.

After years and years of coloring my grey roots with dark hair color or feeble attempts at camouflaging them with highlights, it had finally taken its toll.  My hair was declaring war and fighting back. But I continued to ignore the revolt and kept on coloring my hair.  I was finally forced to wave the white flag.  My feeble attempt at maintaining an illusion of youthful hair was at an end.  The reality was that it’s hard to pull that off when it’s falling out all around you.  I left some hair whereever I went.  I’d go over to a girlfriend’s house for a glass of wine and she’d find a nice little hostess gift, a pile of my hair on her kitchen floor. One time I loaned my vacuum cleaner to a neighbor who had to empty the vacuum bag due to a hairball about the size of a tennis ball and I don’t have any pets.  These were the subtle hints that my hair was on the verge of falling out and for good.  If I wanted to have any hair left on my head not in my car, bathroom floor, or bed, then the time had come to give up the fight.  Face the truth and say good-bye long dark youthful hair…RIP.

As we age, Mother Nature has a way of softening our appearance.  The purpose of grey hair might be to be a softening halo for our faces that are succumbing to gravity. A darker more full mane might be too harsh of a contrast to what age does to our skin.  I am sure that Mother Nature thought this out and although my mirror says otherwise, it is for the best.

I have always had an incredible sense of fashion timing.  Meaning that I am usually ahead of the curve.  For example, if the new fashion craze was jeans worn with a black blazer, I would have started wearing that 6 months before.  I have always tried to be fashionable and keep up my appearance but letting my hair be it’s natural color was failing in both categories.  This was not going to be an easy journey for me.

When the trend of bleaching then coloring your hair as a unicorn started I was shocked when I saw young women in their 20’s opting to color their hair grey of all things.  Why in the world when you can have lavender or neon pink would you choose grey?  A color that if you are lucky enough to live another 30 years you are apt to have anyway? This made absolutely no sense to me.  I kept seeing images of youthful, wrinkle-free women dawning grey hair and intentionally at that.  I can’t honestly say that it worked on everyone but it certainly got me thinking.  If this is the chosen color of many young women who have can have any color in the unicorn rainbow then why isn’t it a good option for me?

At the time that I decided to go grey or au natural, I was having my roots done every three weeks and that was pushing it.  I spent the last week touching up my roots before the touching up.  As women, we can spend hundreds of dollars a month maintaining our hair color.  I told my stylist for years that my hair was falling out.  Not from the root all the time but breaking off at all different lengths.  She finally had to admit the severity of the situation when on one visit she pulled a fistful of my hair out of her shampoo bowl drain.  Until then, she swore that hair color was not harmful but actually good for your hair due to all the added conditioners and etc.…  I bought this theory for a couple of years but my hair was getting thinner and thinner.  It was finally time.

I waited about 6 weeks past my normal touch up time and finally went in for a haircut.  My hair was colored dark brown which is my natural color and my roots were a shocking white.  I knew that on my Dad’s side of the family everyone’s hair eventually turned white.  It is a beautiful shade of white and not grey.  I basically walked around with a white skunk stripe on the top of my head. I traveled quite a bit at this time for work.  Several times men walked up to me and said I love your hair and this took me back because they were much younger than me. Often women of all ages complimented me on it or said things like good for you!  But my favorite comments came from Millennials who said “I love your hair, you look like Billie Ellish!”  I had no idea who they were talking about.  Eventually, I went on YouTube later that night and found her images.  This beautiful young girl with dark hair but her roots about the same as mine 3 inches down but the only difference is hers are neon green.  I cried myself to sleep. We decided to cut my hair into a bob just above the shoulders.  My theory was that the shorter it is the faster the dark brown will grow out.

During this awkward and at times humiliating process, I scanned the intranet to find my “Embracing My Grey Tribe”.  There are a lot of bloggers out there that have dedicated themselves to helping women embrace their age, hair color, and the painstaking process of getting there.  They offer tips on different methods of going grey including having your entire head bleached and having a second step of coloring your hair grey so the outgrowth theoretically will seamlessly blend in.  In my case, that was not an option.  My hair was so damaged that subjecting it to bleach would have been a death sentence.

There are lots of tips and tricks out there and plenty of information on what to expect.  The truth is that this will impact your clothing, make-up, and overall self-esteem.  You might find that the warm colors that make up the vast majority of your wardrobe may clash with the cool tones of your new hair color.  If there was ever a good reason to update your wardrobe, this is it.  Also, your skin tone against the grey or white hair can wreak havoc with your expensive make-up collection.  I always liked my pale skin against dark hair with blue eyes look.  Well, that look was out the window.  Now instead of white hair, my skin was suddenly tan in comparison. This caused a make-up upheaval and I had to adjust accordingly.

At about 8 months in, it was time for another haircut.  My goal was to someday in the hopefully not too far away future have a short white bob.  I didn’t think this was too much to ask.  I went back to my adorable stylist and said ok, let’s cut my bob shorter so the white roots can catch up faster to the dark ends.  (Brilliant plan, right?)  Anyway, she did that and cut the back slightly shorter than the front and it seemed to be ok until she handed me the mirror and spun me around.  I was aghast at the two-tone, pray the wind doesn’t blow back of my head.  It reminded me of an old man who colors his hair black with a temporary haircolor. When the white hair has grown out several inches, he parts it and combs it over to an extreme to hide it.  I felt like I was one of those old men.  And whom I am trying to fool here? The moment of truth was it was time to cut it short and fully enter the sisterhood of the grey revolution.  I was about to become a full-fledged member.

I left the salon that day with a short all white pixie.  I had worn my hair short for years and have the kind of face that can pull it off.  My thought was I can be ok with white hair or I can be ok with short hair but having both at the same time was the epitome of being an old woman.  Aging for me like most women has not been easy.  I have a theory that women who were pretty in their youth, they feel the loss more than women that have never felt attractive.  Even at my age, I can still occasionally turn heads but I was certain that with this new look that was a thing of the past.  But much to my surprise, people say they like my new look and I still get a once looking over.  Not that that is any measure of one’s attractiveness.  For me, it made me feel that I am not suddenly invisible.  So many women in their later years experience this and I can see how devastating that is.

I am proud today of my decision to embrace both my grey and my age.  I will not say that the road has been easy but like most things in life, it continues to get easier.  I am also proud of our culture today that is encouraging people to truly be themselves and that beauty comes in all different colors, shapes, and sizes.  Maybe I had the courage to do it because of this or because I always try to be a strong role model for my two grown daughters.  It was time for me to show them that I accept my age and I have earned every grey hair through both hereditary and the perils of life.

I don’t miss spending hundreds of dollars each month, the monthly visit to the salon, or the constant upkeep of coloring my grey.  This experience has been freeing and a huge part of accepting my age and place in life.  There is a huge feeling of empowerment being who you really are and having the courage to share it with the world.  As women, we are barraged with images from TV, magazines, and the intranet about what beauty is and what it looks like.  I can’t and frankly don’t want to look like I’m thirty years old.  I would rather have my short grey hair and the laugh lines and wrinkles that I etched into my skin from years of living and laughter.  Maybe it’s about time that that is considered beautiful, too.

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