Open Letter to My Greys

Dear Grey Hairs,

It’s nice to see you.

No, seriously. I’ve been waiting for you.

Most people express horror in meeting their pigment-free hairs. Not me. I’m excited. I’ve always felt like a fraud. A little kid sneaking into high school. A tween who tricked her way into college. A teenager posing as an adult in jobs. An adolescent playing house and pretending to be married.

A friend and I always joked that ordering furniture was the milestone after which you became a genuine grownup. I ordered an armchair, a rich purple velvet and gold brocade lounge-singer-y armchair in 1998.

Still no grownup.

Once I had children, though, I felt pretty damned grownup. Paying the bills wasn’t a ruse any more. We needed heat. Buying groceries wasn’t for fun. It’s really really seriously to feed small, growing, helpless creatures. And seriously, lactating feels pretty damned mature. (Let’s ignore for a moment that 13 year old girls can do this. Don’t interrupt my revery, grey hairs. This is for you.)

It was after having children that you, my sweet greys, arrived. I rejoiced. I even thought about having a potluck in your honor. You’re invited to a “Welcome to My Head, Expired Hair” Extravaganza. Please bring a side dish or salad.

Since you first appeared, you’ve been reproducing REALLY quickly lately.

Maybe it’s the sleeplessness.

Maybe it’s the constant struggle to stay patient in the face of such blatant illogical hysterics as those acted out by tiny people.

Maybe it’s the worry. Not just the “oh my word, please don’t fall down the stairs” worries, but also the “will the world be cruel; will he be bullied; will he follow the wrong crowd” worries. Even the “will he tell his therapist this” worries.

Maybe it’s the total lack of breaks. Maybe my hair pigment decided to go on vacation.

Whatever it is, dear greys, I honor you. I totally dig seeing more of you each time I look in the mirror. Sure, that’s about once a week on average, since I just don’t care rarely have time to check my appearance. But you are coming on fast and furious.

And I dig that about you, grey. To the point that I’m promising you I will not color you. I will not hide behind chemicals, greys. I can’t afford it, honestly. I respect you too much. So much, in in fact, that I’m willing to risk the British spelling in defiance of the American disdain for gray. For you, my rime, are the evidence of my adulthood.

Grey means I’m old. Grey means I’m free to stop trying to look young, act young, feel young. With grey hair I’m allowed to complain about my aching back, refuse to go out late because “I just can’t do this anymore!” With grey hair I can stop trying to keep up with technology and can adopt slightly antisocial behaviors. Because we have enough friends, don’t we, greys.

With you, grey hair, come all the possibilities for what I can do and be when I no longer focus on the nonsense I’m supposed to as an American woman. No longer caring about being “nice” and thin and measured and muted seems quite freeing. I can let go of the trying to look in favor of trying to be. I can finally nurture my eventual curmudgeon.

And I owe that release to you, my greys. You are the wind beneath my withheld flying fig newton.

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21 thoughts on “Open Letter to My Greys

  1. Kudos to you and your greys attitude. I *thought* I was going to feel the same way and was prepared to be grey by 40 or so. But then, I really started going grey and I started looking really old and run down. I was already depressed, but this depressed me more. I was able to find a cheap(ish) solution — a toner rinse at the salon that costs 35 dollars, and it lasts two months, washing out naturally. So it’s not permanent dye and leaves no root line.

    Anyway, my vanity absolutely surprised me. I wish I had your confidence.

  2. Great post! I refuse to colour mine too and, along with stretch marks, they’re my badges of honour: I’ve earned them. Kinda hoping they convince people that I am oh so wise. aheemm.

  3. God. Bless. You. Or Lilith, or whoever blesses the washed-out tresses of the middle-aged. Self: acutely allergic to hair dye – which hasn’t stopped me from fighting my way through the dirty laundry, past the pile of dishes on the sink, blocking my ears to the mewling cries of my young and begging the hairdresser to just have one more crack at that shiny brownish-black wot used to crown my head. And within hours my ears are rendered like two raw, blistered and weeping things that no long hug my head, but sit perpendicular to it, swollen – and, I shit you not, DRIPPING. They drip some clear substance produced by my body in order to fight the severe chemical burn it has just sustained. The same deal is going on all over my head, it’s just easier to see on my ears. It’s gross and it hurts and it’s not worth it. My last “episode” was after doing two test patches of some new 97% natural stuff, just behind my ears. I am that stupid. The 3% chemical component tried to flesh-eat me. Hope over experience.

    I’ve had a quick snoop around here and I can’t see if you’ve updated on The Pale King. We were rightfully worried and I am so sad.

  4. Witch, LOLZ. Shit. Don’t worry, the curtains will match the rug soon enough.

    I’m with ya Nap. Mine are white tho. I’m gonna be a q-tip in a few years. I can’t color my hair – too many chemicals seep into my skull. I like not being thought of as a 15 yr old, except that well, I’m still treated like one by asshole dudes. I wish the white hairs wouldn’t congregate – it would be nice if they would space themselves out evenly on my head. I welcome their arrival into my perpetual ponytail. If I could ever find non-toxic pink streaks to add in temporarily, I would do it in a heartbeat.

    The story in nymag about Roseanne Barr was amazing. The pic of her is defiant. LOVE.
    http://nymag.com/arts/tv/upfronts/2011/roseanne-barr-2011-5/

  5. @Fie I was a fake blonde for a long time and I always feel too dark with my real hair. I think I’m just glad it’s naturally lightening. (And I don’t judge those who color. Whatever it takes to make you feel good. I’m too unnaturally obsessed with weight to worry about my hair.)

    @Karyn that’s exactly my hope. All the really cool people I know have more grey than I do, so I’m just trying to look as wise as they are.

    @Alpha Betti ouch! You poor thing. Sounds just caustically painful. Your search for Pale King posts has turned up nothing because I’m stuck on Chapter 6. I read that far one morning while Spouse took the kids to see the trains and I haven’t had time to pick it up again. I am managing my expectations since there were two phrases in the first six chapters I know he would have changed given the chance.

    @macondo curmudgeon is a family way of life. Those who don’t follow the curmudgeonly path are black sheep.

    @Cathy Interesting. Maybe it’s the cruel light of summer. Or the cruel nights of children.

    @letmestart believe me, the sentiment expressed in this letter does *not* apply to the white wires sprouting from my chin and neck. Those jackasses take too much of my time, and not just because they’re too hard to find and tweeze.

    @Kitch you’re hilarious. And correct, of course. Keep your eyes on the blog for news on whether I find one or more. (Keep forgetting to pay any attention at all to the area.)

    @jc I’m totally with you…I’d love a chunk of white up front so I could make it blue or pink or fire engine red or something interesting. At least until I have the full gravity of Barr’s wizard locks. Thanks for the link.

  6. I’ve always been overweight and always thought, “Well, at least I have nice hair.” (Wrong attitude, I know. I could lose weight if I wanted to. Keeping it off is the real bugger.) So anyway, when my hair started looking different, I panicked. I didn’t want to lose my best feature.

  7. @Fie I hear you. But I think of Judge Judy’s line “beauty fades; stupid is forever.” I figure as long as I have half a head on my clenched and chubby shoulders, I can make my brain my best asset.

    @Cyn Holla atchya greys! Mine look like free highlights, too. Yay for wisdom streaks, in our fetching shade of Experience Glimmer.

  8. I found my first grey hair at 19. So…for me the greys=experience=acceptance=freedom equation does not compute. As soon as my belly is babyless I’m dying those suckers again. Yee-haw!

    P.S. You have a rockin’ bod to go along with those greys, lady. :)

  9. So it’s kids that will bring on the greys. Thanks for that nugget of wisdom.

    My younger sister has a ton of whites already, but I have yet to discover my first.

  10. @Meg hormones have made you insane because I have no doubt that at 19 you had wisdom. You started with acceptance and freedom, so you just got the greys early.

    @Ink yeah, baby. Wisdom streaks. Sweeping the nation with their crackers on.

  11. I have more than I care to count. But sisnce my hair is so dark, I just look drab. There is no stylish streak of white to define me…just a visit to the hairdresser every eight weeks to keep them under control!

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