It happened just the other day at dinner. A friend, looking at her phone as happens all too often, made one of those spontaneous sounds.
“Ughch!” came blurting out. “Why would they do that?”
“Why what?” I asked.
“These young girls – they’re dying their hair white. Why would they try to make themselves look old?”
And that’s when she looked up and remembered that she was talking to me – the woman sporting a mop of white hair. I am that one friend of hers who simply got bored with my hair guy and decided to give my natural white a go.
It seemed the only good option was to laugh at the look on her face.
“Well, it appears I’ve become trendy after all, if this is what the young girls are doing.”
Of course, it has taken years for white hair to become trendy.
My hair started its shift sometime in my 30s. It’s easy to blame the arrival of the kids – hormones, stress, sleepless nights, all that. But it’s probably more of a genetic thing. People who can trace their heritage to the northern parts of Europe just go white earlier than others.
I didn’t notice at first. I was paying to have my hair highlighted every other month, and just thought the hairdresser was doing a better and better job with the highlights. That was, until he mentioned it might be time to add other shades to my excessively highlighted head.
I was mortified. White hair? I was only 35. How could this be?
So we doubled down and coloring became part of my annual budget. It started with an appointment every six weeks, then every four. When I started noticing The Grey Gap after three weeks, I knew I was in trouble. Actually, it was when my administrative manager told me she wouldn’t cancel my hair appointment so that I could attend an important meeting because “the white in your hair is out of control.”
That’s when I realized something needed to change. Fifteen years ago that was a radical position. Most of the women I knew were not going to “look old” by letting their hair go “natural” which meant a color anywhere from steel grey to pure snow white.
Risking scorn, I started with my hair guy.
“I’m going to stop coloring my hair,” I announced and watched as his face moved from disbelief to near shock.
“What do you mean you’re going to stop coloring your hair? Don’t you want to look young? You mean you’re going to stop coming in?”
I realized what I was telling him was going to be a significant financial blow to his business since I had been a good and loyal and highly regular customer for years.
“Well, I think I’m going to need your help to transition through what was to what will be, so I’ll see you several more times until I get there…,” I trailed off.
His look of shock was causing me to rethink my new-look resolve. Was I doing the right thing? Would I regret the change, and would I then be able to change it all back again without too much damage to my image?
That’s when I just went to my Zen place, calmed down, and realized I was ready for the change. I calmly explained that I was going down this path and that I really wanted him to help me make the change. His look of shock shifted to one of acceptance or resignation and we got to work.
It turns out that shifting from full color to no color takes work and is not a seamless process. There is literally a seam running along your hairline no matter how talented the colorist until finally, finally your natural hair color has grown long enough to hack off the remnants of the faded colored bits.
I did experience an awkwardly mortifying moment with a group of colleagues when one stopped mid-sentence, stared at my head, and said, “What exactly is going on with your hair, Mary?” as she waved her hands in a circular motion pointing at my head.
With audible gasps and startled eyes pointing at me, I found enough oxygen to smile and say, “Transitions aren’t easy, are they?”
And now, here we are. Gray is trendy. White is a statement. And I’m right at the forefront of the look – love it when things finally come around.