I include these photos though, because I'm so happy that we had our very first proper set of photos done - there had been basically no pictures of me and my husband since we got married, and there were hardly any pictures of Julia and I together. (mamas, I KNOW it's hard, but get.in.the.frame.) And I also include them because they might be the last photos taken of me with my dark hair. Not long after we had these photos taken, I decided that I was Done. No more coloring my hair.
So I began with semi-permanent color and then a few years in, I made the move to permanent color. I never, from Day 1, enjoyed the process like some folks do. I hated the time it took. I hated the chemicals. I hated the expense. And I hated that over time, my poor scalp (which has always been sensitive skinned like the rest of me) was just unhappy most of the time. But by gum, I kept coloring.
I also began seeing some noticeable thinning along my part line and at my right temple - I started calling it 'my fragile area' and I would tell my color/haircut person to try and avoid coating that area with too much color. I was so worried I was literally killing off my hair follicles, because those areas around my face were the most grey and the part line was always where we really concentrated on applying the most color.
Flash forward to this summer. By now, I had been coloring FOR TWENTY YEARS. Let's look at that number again. 20! Years! My beloved stepfather had recently died. I felt like it was very much a time of taking stock and cutting out things that just did not belong in my life anymore. And pretty much at the top of that list was Coloring My Hair.
I had tried telling my colorist for several years that I really hated coloring, but she told me that I shouldn't stop coloring until I was a grandmother. And I had mentioned to an acquaintance that I ran into at the grocery store that I was thinking of quitting coloring and I'm here to tell you - a look of abject HORROR crossed her face and I'll never ever forget - she gasped out "Oh no. That would be so AGING." It was like I had announced that I was about commit some kind of CRIME. I tried feeling out some other people and friends, and the reception was lukewarm at best. I told another lady that I was thinking of stopping and she sort of looked me over and said..."I would keep coloring."
But despite that, after looking up a ton of grey hair blogs, especially this one, and seeing more mention of #grannyhair and grey hair as a kind of fashion statement, and reading stories about people like Sarah Harris, the fashion features editor of British Vogue, I made up my mind. Especially after my very last color appointment, wherein my color literally did not take at all on my most resistant grey spots, and SEVEN DAYS LATER - I had roots. Seven days! (My hair grows pretty quickly.) That was the kicker for me, and I decided right then and there that I was cold turkey done. I might as well have taken the money I spent on my last color appointment and lit it on fire for all the good it did!
And once I made the real deal decision in my mind.....I can't tell you....the FREEDOM. I didn't realize how much the whole hair coloring thing was weighing me down until I stopped. I felt like I had been released from hair prison! Aside from marrying my husband and having my child, I kid you not - this has been my 3rd best decision! I wish wish wish I could go back and tell my 26 year old self - just rock it at a young age! Don't do it!
Coloring was never fun or a form of self expression for me. It was a punishment for my hair having the AUDACITY to go grey at an early age. And the more I read about going grey (I started referring to my greys as silver all the time but my hilarious husband informed me that was trying too hard), the more I realized certain things that coloring says about our roles as women and about our society and about youth vs. age.
I had never honestly given much thought to the fact that there is an entire color industry built primarily for and around women's hair color. Women apparently are 'not allowed' to age in the same way men are. Can someone explain that to me? And youth, or the illusion of it, is something to be prized and chased after - even if it no longer is reality.
I realized that no one had ever showed me another way or another choice - my mother actively encouraged me for years to color and was the first to point out when I was overdue for a color appointment. It isn't hard to figure out what psychology was at work there. And it took 20 years of me bumbling around on my own to finally figure out what I wanted to do and make the commitment to do it.
One thing I want my daughter to know is that she has choices. If she greys early, she doesn't have to color if she doesn't want to. Or she can. If she wants neon pink hair, she can have it. Or whatever she wants to do that makes her feel great about herself, she can do. And that it's not just about what makes her feel great about the way she looks, but how she feels all the way inside. I don't want her to feel like coloring her hair is something she has to do simply because she's a woman, and That's What Women Are Supposed Do.
My child and husband are so over hearing me process my way through this, but really, it's been one of the biggest changes in my life, the decision to stop coloring. I'm happy for people to do whatever makes them feel happy about themselves, color no color, whatever color - but for me, stopping the color wagon is the right choice and I just wish I had made the decision sooner. I told my husband that I'm hoping that I look like a little frost fairy. I figure, if I can't be my natural black anymore, I'd rather embrace a whole new deal. My colorist was making my hair lighter so the greys wouldn't show as readily. My natural color at one point was actually much darker than how it looks in these photos! And at some point, when I'm all transitioned - sounds like I'll be a new alien life form - I'm going to dip the ends lavender, or make some streaks, which I've ALWAYS wanted to do! But nothing that touches my scalp, nope nope nope. Never again.
Would love love LOVE to hear thoughts from you all on this. I think it's fascinating topic, the whole what women-do-in-the-name-of-beauty issue.....and P.S. - my kiddo came in to me before bed the other night and told me that she thought my burgeoning grey streak in the front was really pretty and that she was so glad that my greys are very silvery and don't look like "moldy mustard'. WHAT. I laughed and laughed and laughed. She's the best!!!