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.
I succumb. I get four inches cut from my hair. And I am genuinely happy with the results. It feels sleek and light and sophisticated. My bangs are long enough to not look stupid, and if I blow my hair dry, it looks great. It shines in the sun, looking vital and healthy. One thing I’ve noticed lately: The hair of almost any woman over 40 who dyes it looks a little lifeless. There is either too much color, deadening the look, or the color washes out and makes the hair look brittle. I genuinely love the variety of shades and nuance that are part of my natural color. And every year more white will replace the gray and allow me to feel subtly different. I won’t ever need to think about changing it because it will do so naturally. Unanticipated bonus.
By going gray now, I get a sort of Steve Martin effect. I will look older until friends adjust to my new color, but when I’m 55 and 60, I won’t look very different from the way I do now.
In yoga class a woman sets up her mat in front of mine and says, "Your hair looks fantastic. I’ve been watching over the past few months and you’ve given me the courage to think about quitting coloring my own hair." I tell her she’s made my day.
I’m waiting to meet one of my daughters at the movies, and a slightly heavy 20-something guy stops directly in front of me and says, "Hey, beautiful, what are you doing out here all by yourself?" I smile as he walks past and say nothing. He is hitting on old lady me. Not so bad.
Back to My Roots: A Diary of Going Gray
Anne Kreamer decided to stop coloring her hair and embrace her gray natural look. This is her journey back to her roots.