Friday, April 23, 2010

To Gray Or Not Too Gray


I’ve been going gray since I was 24.

The shock came on an Easter morning. I had just washed my hair and was blow drying, getting ready for church. Something glisteny (that’s a word as of now) caught my attention in the glare of the bathroom lights. I dove in after it like I’d just discovered fleas.

I could not believe my eyes and immediately ripped it out. I was quite sure it was a freakish anomaly and now that it had been annihilated, I could proceed with my youth.

The thought did occur to me that three more gray hairs were supposed to take its place. Just an old wives tale, I reassured myself, and proceeded to kiss Denial right on the lips.

But those old wives are much maligned and they get even by being right.

Consequently, I began a serious relationship with “Sun-In.”

Now, in case you’ve never used this fine product, I should explain that Sun-In is supposed to make your hair look like you’ve spent a scintillating summer frolicking in dazzling light rays. It’s designed to impart the color of young locks and lend highlights and streaks to your carefree, tousled hair. You exude an aura of babe-a-liciousness. And it does that about as effectively as an orange spray tan resembles softly burnished skin, fresh from tropical beaches.

I’m pretty sure the look I affected was closer to the Straw Man (Scarecrow) in the Wizard of Oz. But not as attractive. My boyfriend du jour summed it up with “What did you do to your hair?” Well, I recaptured my youth (as a hay stack), thank you very much.

A few years and job promotions later, I was in the luxurious financial position to have my hair foiled fairly regularly. This is achieved by taking small strands of hair, brushing them with a bleaching agent, wrapping each piece in tin foil, and not stopping until you resemble an aluminum Christmas tree. The general effect is a masking of your gray and it works well until you have so much gray mixed in with the blonde that it looks like you’re having a May/December relationship with yourself.

Enter coloring.

This would hide the whole mess, I figured. (Well, except during outgrowth periods which consumed 9/10ths of the period between coloring and recoloring.) So I went lighter. And the lighter was so light it matched my nearly white hair which was good for outgrowth but then, what was the point of coloring? And if I was going to have nearly white hair, why not have white hair? Well, I reasoned, because I was a blonde at heart. I was born a tow-head – yes, almost white, but with golden highlights. And I was always a blonde, even when it darkened as I got older. It made sense then to move away from gray/white and back toward more golden shades. And everyone was fooled and thought I actually looked 13 even though I was 45.

And then one morning, about six months ago, I asked Grizzly what he would think if I raised the white flag over my white hair. He said surrender was decidedly French but he’d love me anyway. Maybe more, if I came with a side of fries.

So I grew out. And not just horizontally.

It is a fascinating occupation to watch your actual, real, bonafide, genuine hair color appear. My blonde had become pretty light again so it wasn’t striking, but it was noticeable. My hairdresser friends said blend it. I said no. It would only delay what I was trying to achieve: the unvarnished truth of my real hair color. And with each haircut, more silvery white appeared and the blonde tips were fading and disappearing. I currently lack one hair cut being completely done. (Pictures will follow when I am.)

And what do I think?

I am trying to figure out why I waited so long. It’s deliciously freeing. As I suspected, it’s decidedly silver, almost white. I don’t recognize myself in photos. I sometimes think I look like I overdid it in the coloring department. Then I remember: that IS my color. I can’t quite get over myself yet but I’m starting to actually love it.

I’m a tow head again just like when I was a mere infant - minus the golden highlights, sun-suit, and the diaper. I don’t think the golden highlights or the sun-suit will ever make a reappearance.

Let’s hope the same holds true on the diaper.

image (Me, at three.)

©Copyright 2010


  1. having a May/December relationship with yourself... hahaha... GIRL, you crack me up!! :-D

  2. Hilarious! At the moment, I'm in the colouring AND highlighting stage - I do it myself at home.. mainly due to the fact that the anklebiters kept calling me nanny goat!

    I can't wait for my hair to get a bit more silver and then I'll just go natural again...

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  4. I LOVE YOUR POST!! I felt like I was reading the history of my own hair!! My hair started its "change of life" at about the same time yours did, and I did it all too. Finally, one day, much to the horror of my "stylist Brian" I decided no more color, and I've never looked back. It's been kind of liberating!! People say my hair is a pretty color, but I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder who is that silver-haired woman that is wearing my pajamas!

  5. I've heard gray hair is the new black! I started coloring when my red turned more of a sandy color. I'm kinda scared to grow it out 'cause I'd have to cut it an inch all over and then have red tips for a while...not a good look for me! Can't wait to see the pictures!

  6. I am really loooking forward to seeing how youve turned out. Wish \i was that brave!

  7. I actually LIKE my gray hair, mostly white now. In pictures I sometimes wonder why I waited so long to let it grow out, same as you. And I do look forward to pictures, although us FB users have seen peeks of gray in some of your pictures already. :-) You are beautiful, ya know, just try to deny it!

  8. I did the exact same thing, and I'm very happy with my "true me". Everybody says they like the little sparkles in my hair, and so do I. No more fuss for me, no more wasting precious time at the hairdresser. Besides, it's a lot cheaper too!

  9. I've been gray for quite a few years now and am sick of the monthly touching up of the roots. You're tempting me!

  10. I can't wait to see the pictures! I found my first grey around 35 and now, at 38, I haven't had my hair highlighted in about a year (what with my recent pregnancy and birth and all). My hair is a bit darker now so the greys are starting to show a bit, but so far it just looks like highlights because there aren't that many. Of course with a new child, that number could increase in the near future!

  11. Oh that's good!

    My mom let her hair go grey a few years ago, after years of being an auburn (dyed of course). It's beautiful and she's gotten many compliments.

  12. Oooooh Sun-In!! Brings back memories! Your hair is glisteny and beautiful! Striking actually.

    And stop the press! When did I say "blend it?" I have a reputation to maintain you know. Be it bad or be it mediocre I'm gonna maintian it!! I feel I need to say I don't recall saying that, which of course means, I could have said that! :)

    love you friend of mine!

  13. I let my hair go grey this winter. I love it. And the surprise of all surprises I get all kinds of comments on how pretty it is and who did it for me!

    HA! Going grey is have been prefect for me and now you!


  14. Bahaha! May/December relationship. Bahaha! I'm proud of you for deciding to do it, and SO very glad that you are pleased with it! That's the best possible outcome. I have gray hairs creeping in already, and I'm only 28. I know if Frank ever decided to grow his hair in his temples would be really gray already. He had a few at 21 when we got married. I think I'll probably dye mine for the in between gray and brown time, unless I get a cool gray streak right at the top like Stacy London. :-) I dunno, I go back and forth on it. :-)

  15. I'm joining the group! I have been highlighting/coloring for YEARS and just recently let it my hair is its natural color, which is fascinating to me, I could stare at it for hours! the greys are showing up and now I'm worried about that-do I let them stay, or spend tons of $$$to hide them. Bravo for you for being brave enough to let them show! I bet it's gorgeous!

  16. What a great read! Your word selection and prose just jump off the page as I roar with laughter! Your humor is just always so refreshing and I can't help laugh at myself as I discover bits of my truth in yours.

    We are kindred spirits! But I noticed my first silver/white when I was 21. I too will be white/silver in a matter of a few more years, or less depending on how much stress my boys put me through :) I haven't stopped the fight yet though... I know who I am turning to when that time comes!

  17. Dearest Robynn,
    Although I personally cannot relate to this,I laughed all the way through this because my Mom was just like you...As long as I can remember, she colored her hair...and as she was naturally a redhead, as she aged, she chose strawberry blond in a bottle.

    Of course, I have some empathy for you both...I have had one round with prematurely gray/white hair...just after my first turned white and then fell out...but when it grew back in, it came back just as dark as ever...

    But you know what I think? (Too bad, I'm telling you anyway...LOL) White hair is GORGEOUS!!! And you are so very, very fortunate! I'm sure you look divinely chic!! Can't wait to see your new look! I just know I'll be jealous!!! Love you so much!! Janine XO

  18. I have a friend who's cath phrase is "own it"

  19. My dad had beautiful silver hair, prematurely. I think my hair is quite on the way to turning white, but still an ugly salt and pepper. I've been contemplating going natural too - It's a little scary! Love the precious photo at the end!

  20. You have such an FANTASTIC writing style. I loved the line "And proceeded to kiss denial right on the lips"


  21. Oh definitely no diapers! You are funny Robynn, I do remember Sun In. I wated to use it so bad but have dark hair and was always afraid of an orange consequence!
    I stopped coloring my hair years ago and you are absolutely right. It is freeing. Just like when I cut all of my waist length hair off about five years ago! I could never go long again!
    You go girl! Just be your funny,cleaver self! Love Di ♥

  22. I wore sunsuits just like that with little red sandals. Just too funny!! I can't stand the silver in my hair. Cover it up usually.

  23. Can't wait to see pics :-)

  24. I don't (yet) color my hair, but I saw my first gray at 24. I WILL color when the time comes (probably a year or two from now). I can't stand the thought of being single AND gray...I know I'm an old maid my 19th century standards, I just don't want to look it!

  25. I'm 25, and I've been graying for the past few years now. I'm still not entirely positive I won't color once it becomes more noticeably gray (the gray blends pretty well with the regular color for now), at least not until I hit my 40s. On my dad's side, everyone has pretty much white hair before they're even out of their 30s. I'm just not sure I'm ready for that, no matter how liberating it might be to let your true colors show.

  26. To all you young chickies with a few gray hairs I say, do whatever makes you feel best about yourself. I have NO REGRETS about my years of coloring - just regrets about some of the unfortunate outcomes. I was NOT ready before now! And it's not for everyone. We all have to be comfortable in our own skin and if that skin doesn't look good with gray/silver/or white hues - get thee to a colorist (or box of dye!)

    But, uh, being in my early 50's now, I thought I'd give it a whirl. And if I hated it, beLIEVE me, I'd change it back in a heartbeat. I had no idea I'd love it so much. And Grizzly and the kids love it so, what else is there, really?

    It feels good for me to be free!

  27. Love the post Robynn...I remember my experimentation with "sun in"...because my hair is dark I didn't get the gorgeous blond streaks I was hoping for..I had to get that from a much stronger solution!!! :0)

    I'm not ready to go grey/silvery/white...but I will admit my white/blond section of my hair acutally is for the most part white...I do have it bleached out to give it a uniform appearance! :0)

    I don't plan on going "o natural" for a long of the main reasons is my hair is very thin, fine and unmanageable...with out color is lays flat to my head and believe me I look like a "drowned rat" for me coloring is what I do...

    I was a hairstylist for 14 years & I've seen gorgeous grey/white/silver sparkly hair that was very flattering, but I've also seen dull, drab, yellow, pale grey/white/silver, terribly unflattering, my thoughts are to each his/her is a very personal choice!

    You look beautiful regardless of your hair color!!!

  28. Brilliant!! I hail to thee, O Gray One. As a brunette with REALLY ANNOYING GREY HAIRS here and there, have never really done the colouring thing, but then did. In November. Horrible. Came home with dark hair and felt AWFUL. Have now grown all that out and back to the occasional and getting more, gray hair.
    What a sweetie you were at 3!! And what a babe you are now. Nice one, friend. xxx

  29. No grey on me...but I've gone from natural platinum blond, to really dirty dishwater:-( Lady Clairol is now my friend.

  30. I color my hair, I don't have enough gray to "go gray" yet. I love the gray hair in that picture. I pray that my hair will be pretty like that. Growing it out from brown is another issue all together!

    I am sure that you look wonderful!

  31. some women can definitely pull it off. It sounds like yours is a nice shade of white if that makes sense. Own it girl!!!

    I have seven grays and counting. My son likes to stand behind me and point it out - darn him!

  32. Sorry to hear about your hair issues. My hair disappeared after I started shaving it for the police academy when I was 21--it has never found its way home either.

  33. I didn't start to gray until I was in my late 40s and when I did, I tried coloring it myself with "Nice and Easy" for a little while. Finally I decided it was more work than it was worth. My profile photo shows what I look like's mostly gray, and I don't mind a bit. I figure I earned everyone of those gray hairs, having survived 3 teenage boys! I so enjoyed this post that I decided I have to follow you!

  34. I am having the same dilemma, I am getting more grey in my temple area that the dirty blonde that I have come to at least love if not respect. I want desperately to go blonder- but then I'll have to maintain it, and I just can't- no, won't - do it! So that leaves me with dirty dishwater blonde hair going grey. I have several friends that have gone totally silver grey and it is stunning! I would go there with them if my hair would only co-operate. sigh@@
    I want to see pictures when you are ready for the Big Reveal!

  35. I'm proud of you! I bet you look wonderful.

    I don't think I will color mine - I just hope I have enough hair left on my head to warrant making a decision. My next option may be what brand wig to buy (Raquel Welch or Dolly Parton).

    Have a great weekend Robynn!

  36. smiles. a great tale...i have had grey in my beard since high school. the only place so far, but it adds character. i am sure you look just wonderful...

  37. I love this..I hate coloring my hair..I have gray patches... You are sooo funny You made my whole day!!!

  38. The hair dilemma plagues me also. Long story short, I went from dark brown to salt and pepper to blond streaks and back to dark brown. When the roots get very silver, and I am 80, I will go natural.

    Love your blog and the red, my favorite color.

  39. I took the plunge several months ago. I had long (really long hair) and after having it most of my adult life I decided that having gray hair was one thing having really long gray hair was something completely different.

    One day I may give up the Clairol "Natural Instinct's" #14, but not until I am completely gray headed!

    Blessing, and glad you took the leap of gray!


  40. I color my hair and always will. However, I love the look of gray hair...on someone else. Great post, great blog.

  41. Good on you - how liberating! Think of the money you'll save! Sorry, I can say all these things because I do not possess one gray hair on my head...yet!

    Cheers - Joolz

  42. "I asked Grizzly what he would think if I raised the white flag over my white hair. He said surrender was decidedly French but he’d love me anyway. "

    did grizzly really say that? :) it cracks me up!

    I like your is a little like the saying I like of "Walk with confidence" (and I like to add, even when you don't know where you are going!)

  43. April! Poor Grizzly - I frequently put words in his mouth but he would have said it if he would have thought of it! He is a one-liner kind of guy and keeps me hysterical half the time.

    So nice to see you "out and about!"

  44. You make me laugh so much. what a hoot!! I let my hair grow out to its 'natural' state starting a couple years ago. Got sick of all the layers of colors trying to grow out. Now when I get sick of the gray and think I'm starting to look tired and washed out (I'm naturally a brunette) I consider heading back in for coloring but have discovered if I just get a good haircut I'm usually good for a while. Feeling that way right now so should make that hair appt.

  45. It's beautiful and she's gotten many compliments.
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