Not such good feedback. At a party, a friend remarks, "Oooh, how lovely. You’re going gray — just like a man!"
New Year’s Eve
I feel like backing out. Three months into the process and my hair is now coming in pretty clearly white and gray. There is no doubt in my eyes: I look older. My fantasy — looking like an awesome 40-year-old with snow white hair — probably won’t come true. Everyone I know says they like the "softer" color I have now, but I feel more tentative. I’m sure that when people glance at my horrible roots, they think I have let myself go. To bear their condescending looks of concern or even contempt requires seriously thick skin. If I weren’t writing about this experience, I know I would crumple.
I go back to the colorist. I get more light highlights pulled through to blend the roots into my overall color. This time, the rinse she applies makes me feel really cheap-looking. I hate it, but what can I do? I can’t strip the color out — the processing would make me look like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, with a head of straw. The best thing to do is just let it grow out.
It was the dreariest February, and it feels as if my hair is mirroring the weather and my mood. But at the gym I see I’ve lost six pounds. If going gray is what it takes to get me in shape, that, at least, is a silver lining.
It is taking forever to grow out! I’m neither here nor there.
In a single day, I hear the full range of opinions. As I step outside to pick up my morning newspaper, my vibrant, 84-year-old gray-haired neighbor says, "I love the way the gray is coming in." Coming into the house this afternoon, her sexy, 50-something dyed-blonde daughter blurts out, "Why do you want to go making yourself look older? I’d never do that!"
I hate this growing-in phase. I should have just bitten the bullet and cut my hair short at the beginning. But I believe my long hair is sexier and more feminine than short. I am also feeling proud of myself. I’m past the "one day at a time" phase, when I couldn’t stop thinking about my roots, or girding myself not to. Now it’s like watching bulbs peek out from under the winter snow: I begin to sense the new me, light gray around my face and steel gray in back. Most of the time I actually like the two-tone quality, since it reflects precisely my stage in life: neither young nor old, but an intriguing equilibrium.
The whole family is in Los Angeles, looking at colleges for Kate. We’re staying at the Chateau Marmont, the cool Sunset Boulevard hotel, but I find that I can’t bring myself to go for a swim at the pool. The idea of rising up out of the water with my wet head of gray hair is too depressing. I want to shout, "Hey everybody, I’m not any different than I was six months ago — it’s just my hair color!" Everyone in this city seems to be blonde and buff and committed to the artificially pretty. Can all the cliches be true? I haven’t seen a single woman with gray hair.
I love the liberation of not going to the salon every couple of weeks. But my stylist wanted me to grow out my bangs (after 35 years). He thought I’d look more glamorous without them. I’m all for that. But growing out the bangs has added a whole new level of hating-my-hair-ness: I end up clipping them back with little bobby pins, which further emphasizes the gray and makes me look like I’m 12 going on 60. A few months back, my colorist applied toner to the ends of my hair to blend the gray. Now it has turned to an orangey grunge. Frankly, it all sucks.