I guess it has been a choice all along…to color or not to color. But it certainly didn’t feel that way with societal norms and all. Freshly colored meant young and vibrant…gray meant old, haggard and washed up. At least this is how I took the messaging and was programmed by media, commercials and print ads in my youth and even now into adulthood. Wash that gray right out of your hair…loving care or gray hair. We can all play those commercials over and over again in our heads. Women with dull, dingy hair emerging from a salon with newly colored locks looking fresh and fabulous, regardless of her age. I have been feeling an urge to buck the trend for quite a few years now. Wondering what if? What if I stopped coloring my hair. What would it look like? Would I have gray, white, salt and pepper striped hair? Would it all be gray?
After all it’s just hair, or is it? How much of my identity has been tied to my hair? Which is so ironic isn’t it? I am someone that wants to spend as little time as possible in the salon chair…for cuts or colors. About 16+ years ago I resorted to coloring my hair myself because I couldn’t stand losing 3-4 hours out of my day for the vanity of my hair. There were a million things I would rather do, workout, cook, take a yoga class, go on a hike, etc… etc… etc… but yet here I am writing a blog about out the decision to transition my hair to it’s silvery roots. Am I more vain that I thought I was? YES. I am accepting that.
For as long as I can remember…it’s been about my hair. As a little girl, I would sit for hours while my mom put sponge rollers into my hair so I could have Shirley Temple piggy tails with curls the next day. As I got older, I would sleep with perm rods in my hair so I could have kinky hair the next day (gotta love the 80’s and I really wanted Alyssa Milano’s hair). My hair has always been long, full, thick and dark. It’s been one of my defining qualities since I can remember. And I loved it long…so much so that when I was about 15 or 16 my mom accidentally cut off 6 maybe 8 inches while trying to give me a permed layered look. I was so distraught I kicked a hole in the wall in the hallway outside our bathroom. Furious that my hair was gone, I cried for a week. This happened to me again as an adult….at 43 – my stylist decided I needed to freshen up my hair and chopped off about 8-10 inches from my waist long hair. I was instantly transported back to that moment in my teen years, like something had been stolen from me. I hated the hair cut, cried for a week and have not been back to that stylist since. Only finding the silver lining in donating my hair to Locks of Love (which I’ve done 3-4 times) and knowing a little girl might have a wig from my chopped locks.
So, as I explore my vanity and how much of my identity has been tied to my hair I think how grateful I am that I have a full head of hair. That the choice to let it go gray is mine. That I have that choice. I instantly think how vain I am…there are women who are choosing to shave their heads because they are battling cancer and are in chemo or their hair is falling out due to illness. This brings me back to reality. Yes, I am a fearful that the process of highlighting and stripping years of color from hair may leave it damaged and dry. Ultimately, I may need to chop off 6-8+ inches of dead hair. But the choice is mine and I am already feeling the Freedom of Choice.