I am literally living 50 shades of grey — sadly, not in the same way as one Miss Anastasia Steel of E. L. James’ recent trilogy sensation. It’s a different kind of grey. The kind that says, “Hello…you have become your mother.” I am talking about the grey that slowly invades your hair follicles and causes millions of women to run screaming to their local salon every three to six weeks for a youthful burst of color.
Let me back track a bit. As a child, I recall accompanying my mother to Neiman Marcus. As we walked through the cosmetic department, I truly believed I had arrived. The women at the counters stood tall, dressed in their perfectly tailored navy blue dresses with strands of pearls and high heels. Although, the crowning jewel, in my opinion, was a smart, silver bob that many of these women sported. I had no idea that their hair was grey. I just thought they were the pinnacle of glamour. Now I walk through the cosmetic department and everyone looks like Kim Kardashian.
So what happened? You can’t get through an hour of Kathie Lee and Hoda without one mention of the great search for the secret of youth. (Side note: I saw Kathie Lee last month on the streets of New York City. She looks fantastic, but come on…she’s almost 60. Let’s face it: If she rocked a grey coif, there is no way NBC would have beckoned her back to host the coveted fourth hour of Today.)
At age 30, I started going grey — a family trait that greets the women of our family just when you are about to hit your stride in life. I chased the grey for over 10 years with regular visits to the salon, but never really liked the results. At 43, I had enough! Our family had just moved to the Bay Area, and I don’t know if it was the Zen energy of Marin County or the fact that I didn’t know anyone, but I decided that I was going to morph into the silver haired woman that I had once admired behind the cosmetic counter at Neiman Marcus.
I initially used the expertise of my beloved stylist to weave a little color in but kept the grey so it would not be an overwhelming, grow-out nightmare. About eight months into my transformation something happened. I not only loved it, but I started feeling more authentic in general. As grey became the predominant color, I felt more and more comfortable in my own skin. But then something even more bizarre started happening. Random people started approaching me. It got to the point where almost daily at least one person would comment about how much they loved my hair.
So why is it that the more I was pulling away from the youthful demands of society, the happier I felt and the more unsolicited attention I received from men and women? One day I was in Trader Joe’s (side note: best grocery store ever), and I noticed two women looking at me. A few minutes later they approached me with some hesitation and said, “We hate to bother you, but we just have to know: Are you the Chico’s Model?” Not being a Chico’s customer, I was unfamiliar with the woman they were speaking of, but said, “No, but thank you for the lovely compliment.” This was beginning to verge on insane. Could it really be the grey hair? I mean model? Really?
While the compliments flowed, there have been times when my hair has thrown people off. There was the unfortunate day when I took my daughter to a new doctor. I had my head down when the doctor entered the room so all she could see was grey. Without missing a beat she said, “Are you grandma?” I slowly looked up from my phone and looked at her in shock. She quickly did an about face, and said something about not “seeing my face.”
So I get it. The stigma is still there, and frankly, I am fairly certain that grey hair will never make a grand resurgence as the coveted color of youth. It’s okay, though, because I am okay with it. Don’t get me wrong. I had a few minutes after “grannygate” where I thought about why it was that I was so adamant about living a pro-age philosophy and rebelling against diving head first into the fountain of youth.