I started noticing my grey hair when I was 45 years old. And I loved it.
I felt beautiful, like my hair had a natural sparkle to it, and that it represented the privilege aging truly is. I never thought about dying it. And that put me at odds with society’s expectation of what an aging women should do. How we should present ourselves. How we should hide our age at all costs. How we should never let on that our body is experiencing natural changes.
I started to receive comments from strangers and friends alike.
“You’re so brave.
“I could never let my hair go grey.”
“Wow, you’ve gotten more grey since I saw you last.”
“Why don’t you colour your hair?”
These comments didn’t sting so much as they frustrated me. What was wrong with embracing my natural hair? Why was the expectation for me to hide my age or attempt to appear younger than I am? Why couldn’t I be happy just the way I was?
I was and am happy with my grey hair. And I want to help you be happy with yours, too!
It’s Just Hair
Society has all of these outrageous expectations of women, but none perhaps as silly as the preoccupation with our hair. As we approach middle age, society seems to obsessively fret over whether our greys are showing. The dreaded skunk stripe is condemned, causing women to fearfully book salon appointments every six weeks to avoid it. Hats and scarves are sold as a way to bridge the gap between said appointments. There are an endless number of advertisements preaching about how ditching our grey will make us feel more youthful. All of this in an attempt to control us and what we do with our hair.
At the end of the day, it’s just hair. You could shave your head and still be the same wonderful human being you were prior. But, we attach a lot of self worth to our outer appearance and, especially, our hair; it can be hard to detach ourselves from that.
How To Embrace The Grey
Figure Out Your Resistance
If you struggle to separate your self worth from your hair, take some time to sit with your feelings. What is the root fear you’re experiencing? Are you scared of how people will perceive you? Are you worried about what those in the workplace will say about you? Are you terrified of being cast aside? Are you fearful of aging because it brings us closer to death? Once you truly understand what your blockage is, you can start to move through it.
If you decide that you would like to embrace your grey, you can make the transition a gradual process! Speak to your hairdresser about your plans of embracing your natural hair, but explain that you want to get there slowly. You could start with a lighter colour treatment, maybe less frequent appointments, and get used to your real hair over a longer period of time. There is no need to rush the process. Embrace it and enjoy it!
If, on the other hand, you feel most empowered with your hair coloured, fabulous! It is your body, your hair, your life and you should do whatever you feel most powerful doing. The point of this article isn’t to convert everyone to the Grey Hair Club. It is pointing out that much of our decision making process is clouded by society’s expectation of us. It is about getting to a place where we can see ourselves (and our hair) clearly and make decisions about our appearance on our own terms.
Celebrate the Newness
If you’ve spent your life colouring your hair, embracing your grey can feel like a really big and sometimes scary change. But once you get there, it is freeing! By embracing ourselves as we naturally are, there comes a heightened sense of confidence and self love. This tends to translate to other aspects of our life.
Find ways to celebrate the newness! Maybe embracing your natural hair has given you the confidence to try a new hobby! I recently spoke about starting Carolily at 53 and why I think all women should start something new in their fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond (an article you can read here). Perhaps you feel inspired to start traveling more and experiencing more of the world! Whatever it is that lights you up, give yourself permission to do it.
Try New Colours
Along with my grey hair, I have noticed a softening in the colour and texture of my skin. As a result, I have begun reaching for brighter colours that I didn’t always used to wear! It has opened up a wonderful new array of makeup and clothing options for me that I maybe wouldn’t have worn before. If there are outfits you’ve always wanted to wear, now is the time. Rock your natural hair, an outfit you feel fabulous in and radiate so much love and positivity into the world that it is palatable.
Wear Bigger Jewelry
One of the many reasons I wanted to start Carolily was because I couldn’t find jewelry that felt like me. Everything on the market felt too young or too frumpy. I wanted something that made me feel fabulous and like I wasn’t trying to be anyone but myself.
I now reach for statement necklaces that incorporate pearls and gemstones, things that naturally bring light to my face and chest. It also helps to distract from the sun damage I gave myself after years of tanning with my sister as teenagers (a story you can read by clicking here).
Greying Is a Privilege
As I mentioned in the introduction to this piece, my grey hair signifies the privilege that aging is. We don’t all have the luxury of reaching old age. We don’t all get to choose whether we want to grey or not. And that’s something that is on my mind often.
If I am fortunate enough to wake up each morning, I don’t want to waste a single moment worrying about if my hair is pleasing to society. This is my life and I intend to make the most of it.
When we’re gone from this world and a loved one is reading our eulogy, do you think they’ll mention our hair? Do you think they’ll say “She never missed a single appointment with her hair dresses! Her hair was always perfectly coloured. I didn’t even know how old she was!”. I sure hope not. They will speak of who we are a person, how we impacted those around us, that we were so loved. No one will care about our hair when we are dead. And no one should care about it now.
Share Your Joy
Change can be frightening. But, once you understand what you are really scared of, you can move beyond that fear. And once you’re on the other side, you’re going to feel nothing but joy!
Finding a way to embrace the truest parts of ourselves is such a gift and one we should openly share with others. If someone asks you about your newly grey hair, share with them the wonderful reasons why you’re choosing to embrace it! Talk to your friends about how society’s expectations have made you feel and why you’re choosing to ignore them. As women in our second chapter, we know that every day is sacred. There is no time like the present to make meaningful changes in our lives!
Think of the Men (Something We Don’t Say Often)
When women embrace their natural hair, it’s often assumed that we’ve let ourselves go. That we’re dowdy. Unkempt. Less than.
In contrast, as men age and begin greying, we start to refer to them as stately, distinguished, handsome or a silver fox. Bit of a difference, isn’t it? As men age, they are seen as more valuable and competent in the work force. Women are seen as disposable, as the world witnessed with the unceremonious firing of Lisa LaFlamme last week.
Next time someone is making an unkind comment about your hair, you might consider asking them if they’d say the same thing to a man. Their answer, if they’re not too embarrassed to say it out loud, will likely be no. And, sometimes, that is the reminder we need to know we’re not in the wrong. Society is.