Not 27 Anymore

For years I have jokingly claimed my age to be 27.  The harsh reality of that joke came crashing down on me last month after I began a new workout program.  I run most days of the week so I considered myself to be rather fit - right!?  The new program is a strengthening and toning routine that works the entire body, selecting a focus area each day - no big deal, I got this.   I launched into the routines with the vigor I give most endeavors only to find myself in such pain after the first week that I knew I needed to back off.  Two additional days later I ended up cancelling my daily runs due to a self diagnosis of plantar fascistic.  Ugh!!  What just happened!

Embracing the gray has truly become more than just letting my gray hair shine through.  Most likely it always has been but I never really wanted to admit to it.  Growing older has benefits but it also brings about a reality that life is passing and the once seemingly endless future does not seem as vast.  Couple that with the passing of friends my age and the physical changes that appear (hot flashes are a new reality); the world begins to look different.  Embracing my age in no way means that I am allowing self or societal restrictions to alter my outlook but, as I have been discovering, I actually feel my choices are increasing.  My sons are moving into their future and as they do it is altering what I feel my life's trajectory is. The reason I wanted to have a career was for the challenge and gratification of a job well done, the financial freedom it affords, and ability to send my son's through university and come out on the other side debt free.  A burden that not every college graduate is fortunate enough to have.  Having soon accomplished all three of these categories - do I still want to continue this path?

My age has brought some limitations, such as a pain free transition into a new fitness regiment, but also a new outlook on where I may be or what I may be doing when I grow up.  No, I am not 27 anymore and as the laughter that claim receives is becoming more riotous my outlook on life remains youthful as to what adventures lie ahead.  This realization has come upon me suddenly as I have been dealing with the color of my hair and the introspection I have given as to why it has troubled me.  

I am not sure I would have the same sense of future if I was working to keep my appearance in the past.  

How to Embrace the Gray?

As my hair color is changing I realized that my makeup had to change as well.  Off to my favorite makeup store I went to get some professional advice.  As fortune would have it I requested help from a wonderful young lady capable of giving me the right advice.  I really love to talk with people who enjoy what they do and send their positive energy directly into their tasks which is exactly what happened.  We discussed my goal of gray hair which sent her scurrying through the store to obtain the elements that enabled her to work her magic on my face.  As she was educating me on color and contour she surprised me with a question.  "I wish my mom would let her gray hair grow out - how did you embrace your gray?"  Good question!  How did I embrace my gray?   I can explain what I went through but that does not mean it is the path for everyone.  The most important aspect to remember is acceptance of self and a non-judgmental stance.  If you feel hair color makes you feel better then color away. 

I approached the decision to go gray in the same way I approach most things in life: this is a choice.  A choice carries no risk so I set out to gather the information I needed to make my choice.  When I decided to let my natural color emerge I was at a point where the gray hair peeking out past the brunette within a week of coloring was very distracting.  I was spending too much time in the salon and despite loving the experience and my stylist I needed to break free from the obsession.  I wanted to accept every aspect of me and to challenge the seemingly double standard between gray hair on men vs. women.  I could always go back if I did not like the way it looked or how I felt,  so why not?  Now onto the how.  As you have read in  prior blogs I had to enroll my stylist and be open to trial and error - this is the hardest part as I was not always perfectly happy with the appearance of my hair - a positive self image is important coupled with loving, honest friends and family who will support your goal.  The path has humbled me and allowed me to embrace some fears of aging that I was not yet addressing. 

  1. Deal with your actual age.  Hey you made it this far and you are doing great.
    1.  Stop mumbling your age when asked at the doctors office :)
    2.  Enjoy the fact that you will never be carded again.
  2. Find the inner and outer beauty that only comes with age:
    1. The smile lines.
    2. The confidence.
    3. The understanding of what is important.
  3. Find examples of older women that seem to age gracefully and follow in their wake.
  4. Accept that your actual age does not dictate your emotional age or your ability to love life and have fun.
  5. Get a great hair cut.
  6. Limit your makeup and show off that smile.
  7. Go for it and love what you see.

Now - if you are not ready to let the gray shine then color on as my dear friend MM shares in her story.  Find out how she feels in the Women of the Gray section where you tell us YOUR story.

Failure is not an option!

Best laid plans... If at first you don't succeed... When one door closes... etc. etc. etc.  My hopes to become instantly gray has not worked.  The color that I hoped for would not stay for more than a week despite religious adherence to the prescribed home care protocol.  I tried a new salon thinking it was the product but was met with the same results. UGH! I had to accept that instant gratification was not possible as my hair was strongly fighting the metamorphosis into the color of advanced age.  Sadly I felt I was back to the beginning: to color my hair or the seemingly painful options of letting the gray grow out or cutting it short (the horror).  The new salon suggested a temporary glaze on my hair to blend in the grays rendering them less obvious.  The veil of color lasted only a week before I felt the stares from others publicly flogging me for the offense of partially gray hair.  They seem to be asking: Is she doing that intentionally? Does she know how bad that looks? What is she thinking?  What was I thinking?  It did look awful and I just could not continue to walk around like that.  This was now personal and failure is not an option.  

I am not willing to go back to the every three week color appointments and hating seeing the shimmer of gray peeking out.  I have embraced my gray and I want to keep moving towards my goal - so I took measures into my own hands.  The temporary gloss seemed to work but not for long enough therefore a trip to the store was in order to discover my DIY options.  I found a nice temporary product that I now use to blend in the grays.  I use it each time I wash my hair and actually had compliments on the appearance of my hair - what!?!

My gray really is not fully showing yet due to the glaze but I feel I am on the path to let it grow out, keep my hair healthy, achieve the goal of long gray hair, and ultimately the love of self that comes with fulling embracing my natural state.

 

My Patina

Several years ago a friend of mine was removing the carpet from her home to reveal the beautiful hard wood floors underneath. The result was stunning with the beautiful patina that had developed over the years in these old oak floors.  When her grandmother came to visit she just could not understand why her granddaughter would ever have removed the beautiful carpet. From Grandmas perspective the cold hardwood floors made no sense as the rage in her day was to put warm carpet under her feet. As I visited with my family this week I feel my mother's response to my hair was similar to the carpet controversy. Why would you reveal your gray when the color you have looks good?  It is a question many of us ask ourselves.  We often feel that youth is in the color of our hair and why would we want to look old?  What I am discovering is that it is not about my age and the gray, it is about looking good and that is different for each of us.  The question still remains why would we not embrace our age and all the wonderful changes it brings as good

In objects we appreciate what time has done to them and how valuable that object has become through the time spent on earth. Yet with people we always want to polish out the silver and cover or convert the signs of aging instead of showing it off it of as the value age brings us. As my color is growing out blending nicely with the gray Gunner has added my personal patina is being revealed.  I feel it is even nicer than the added color and I am growing more fond of it.   I am enjoying the conversations with others who have made a similar choice and those that have not and the variety is wonderful. It is great to feel that any choice is acceptable with the key being the discovery of what you love about yourself and feeling good with who you are.

A Good Place Indeed


I had an interesting conversation with a dear friend who shared that she feels that a woman needs to be in a "good" place to make an atypical change such as going gray. She needs to be in a good relationship or comfortably single. Her career path needs to be steady and she needs to appreciate herself as is.  I feel this was a good observation as without that we feel the need to change something to help us feel more confident.  We may go on a diet, start a fitness program, alter our physical appearance, or color our hair.   I feel she is correct as I am in a good place and may not have and the courage to make this move otherwise. I do exercise regularly and eat in a healthful way, I got remarried a few years ago and have never been in such a healthy relationship.  I am thankful for my family, friends, and enjoy my job.  If I were not in this "good" place would I have the courage to show my true colors? 

As I reflect further on this I consider what if the key to getting to a "good" place is acceptance?  I personally feel we can always learn more, be more fit, be better spouses, parents, or friends; in other words continual improvement should be a goal.  But what if we are more accepting of ourselves along our journey?  That the changes we embark on are those that belong to us alone.  As we actively change those qualities that do not bring our lives into the place we want to be and yet continue to appreciate who we are along the way would this bring each of us to that "good" place?  If instead of beating ourselves up over someone else's vision of beauty, ideal body image, complexion, or hair color we embrace our uniqueness and treat ourselves and each other with loving kindness instead - empowering but not easy indeed.  To  truly accept oneself is easy when not looking in the proverbial "mirror" set by others around us but simply spending time with loved ones and enjoying things that bring happiness.   I still feel some uncertainty but I am going to continue this path and see how it goes - maybe  I need to get rid of some "mirrors" to make the path easier.

Well that's new...

It has been three weeks since my last color and at this point I am normally fretting over the sparkle of gray becoming more apparent around my face and part line. My journey to the store for a box of color or in recent times to see Gunner for a touch up would consume my evening or weekend. In stark contrast I spent my brief weekend between business trips with my husband and family,  even having time to spend with a few friends. Who new how much time I was spending keeping up the appearance of youthful hair - what a new and  freeing feeling it is to not worry about my hair color.

My "new" color has opened interesting conversations amongst me and my friends or even new acquaintances. The ladies I talk to one after the other share feeling of the conflict between accepting ourselves in our natural state and the feeling that we don't look our best that way.  I do not know where that perception has come from but it seems to be pervasive with so many people I talk to.   I personally feel my hair looks great but I have caught a glimpse in a mirror and still felt a bit off guard by the gray hair. The thoughts of what do others think and will this impact me at work by looking older when compared to someone with more youthful looking hair still plays in the back of my mind. My male friends who are not compelled to spend time hiding their gray hair agree there seems to be a double standard but also seem very much indifferent to a woman's hair color when considering her attractiveness or her ability to achieve at work.  Is that really what others think? Does the color really not make a difference, is it just a great cut and confidence?  It would be great to think that it does not matter like I thought it did.  To be able to freely choose to go natural or to continue to color and not be judged as old or less viable would be great.  Embracing our gray and looking great too?  (*!). Now that would be new. 

Salt & Peppa

Normally I would say I am a tear the band aid off on one pull person but today I have to say I am glad that did not happen.  My stylist, we will call him Gunner, gave me permission to use his real name or his alias.  I feel when you have an option to use a cool alias you use it. So Gunner, happy to see that I showed up, started the process to convert my colored hair to gray early this morning. As he stripped off the color we realized the second process would be too harsh on my hair so with the patience of a saint he began the second foil of the day weaving in the gray and something close to my natural color, like an old familiar friend, into my hair until salt and pepper arrived - ooh baby - baby.  Now wait a minute y'all this dance ain't for everybody, just the sexy people.  Try to get that song out of your head now it has been in mine all day.

The result, even though not yet the gray I want to embrace, is beautiful.  I was surprised, there is enough gray to see but I still think my hair is pretty.   If I am honest I was shocked with my reaction to my hair,  do I somehow equate aging hair with ugly hair?  As the process took the colored and highlighted hair into the straw looking interim step (trust is a big requirement at that point - yikes if the power went out right then - the horrors) to the final salt and pepper looking hair that was actually nice.  I always used to think and often hear others share that the reason they color their hair is to look their best - but why is only hair that reflects youth our best?  I am still the same person with the same swagger.  My face did not suddenly look older and I in no way feel the need to sit in a rocker with a shawl.  So what was I thinking, what are we all thinking?   I am actually excited now instead of nervous for the next appointment when we make the gray even more apparent as I feel more prepared than before to go the next step.  I am fascinated by my personal thoughts on this as I go through the process and  I am curious what you think.  Have you embraced your gray or still somewhere along the journey?  Let's talk.
 

Choices

I have never viewed myself as a risk taker and yet when I have been evaluated at work or via my financial planner the results indicate a high tolerance for risk.  From my perspective I don't feel I take risks as most things I do I have thought about therefore a choice.  These choices often come with well thought out contingency plans coupled with a mindset to fail fast and course correct.  This simple word swapping from risk to choice has served me well both at work and my personal life allowing me decide to take roles outside of my expertise, move to new cities, travel alone when I could not find someone who wanted to go along, or embrace the gray . 

Now onto the rub: I do have an admitted amount of OCD and control freak in my DNA therefore the options need to be choices that I can see as advantageous to the situation - not necessarily my idea or original thought - but the choice must follow my values and have some logic to it.  More rub: I, as most women do, have a certain level of vanity particularly as I spend most of my time in a male dominated corporate environment.  My 'reality' says that not only do women need to prove themselves more often we are also expected to maintain a different appearance standard as our male counterparts.  Yes, this is my perception I admit but as I look around at all my color treated female colleagues I do not think I am alone.  I don't believe any of my male colleagues would dream of spending countless hours and dollars at the salon adding color to create the appearance of youth.

So where am I going with this?  Until I met my man Gunner I had three choices:

  1. Color my hair indefinitely: original color or lighter,
  2. Cut my hair short and let the gray grow out,
  3. Keep my long hair and let I grow out. 

WTF - Are You Kidding Me!!  I chose the first for the past several years as the other two were not options I could face.  I love my long hair.  I have cut my hair short before but keep going growing it out.  I like to pull my hair back when I exercise, in an up-do for a fancy occasion, or just a messy knot on the weekends.  That said outside of the first week or two after a color I would not pull my locks back in public due to the multitude of glitter beneath the surface a.k.a. vanity. Choice #3 letting the gray march down the length of my hair  - I shudder at the thought but have seem some women work through this process only to call uncle and revert back to a color or cut it short part way though.

Now I have choice #4 and one that works for me.  You will not have to probe deeply to see the control freak peek out.  Choice #4 is to have my stylist expertly weave the gray color into my hair matching my natural color palate.  Don't you love instant gratification!  By process but not plan we are moving gradually which has been helpful as I do not have a center of attention or shock value personality. To suddenly go full on gray may have been too much and all the questions - yikes!!  My stylist is on this journey with me and if you decide to take choice #4 you need to find someone equally as committed.  Gunner and I both find it interesting that he is coloring my hair but instead of covering up the gray  we are letting it out and in turn letting me out. 

 As we discussed in my prior blog I took my first step to embrace the gray last weekend.   I just spent my first week post gray-day travelling for work, meeting some new people and visiting old acquaintances.  Anyone who knew me as a solid brunette was surprised and the women were very intrigued with the journey, curious bystanders for the time being.  Coincidentally on the plane I heard a woman ask a fellow female traveler in front of her, who had a really cute short gray cut, how she made the switch to gray. As the gray lady shared  that she made choice #2 the quizitive traveler shared that she just could not part with her longer locks to go gray.  I wanted to stop and give her an amen and Gunners number but the isle way of a plane during boarding was just not the time or place for a high-five.  I have to admit choice #4 has been liberating to me and so far met with positive feedback most importantly by me but the support of others is helpful.  Now let's see how I feel when we peel back more of the onion and let more sparkle shine through. Stay tuned sisters.

 

Man You Old

My process to gray included a lighter shade of blond and some test highlights of gray in the temple area.  This of course led to more gray showing now than ever - a very disturbing trend for me but one I forget about when not faced with a mirror.  Obsessing over the upcoming transformation I was discussing this with my family.  My three sons are a bit horrified by the notion as thankfully they do not think of me as old - but with the talk of gray hair that is somehow changing.  My eldest said just make sure you rock it mom like you do everything.  My second son said it's going to be weird but he is okay with it - always the practical and analytic one.  My youngest says 'Man You Old' - funny for 17 - horrifying for 50. 

Actually it was funny the way he said it and we all laughed.  The idea of getting old, why is it so bad?  I am struggling to understand this part of me that both embraces age and hates it.  One part of me is thrilled to be 50, having lines, and gray hair.  I feel great, can still run, am doing well at work, have a wonderful husband, and thriving children.  This weekend I bought a paddle board hopped on and cruised around, no problem.   I started practicing yoga this year and feel amazing.  This does not feel old, but it is all very relative.

When  I was younger I used to imagine what the older me would be like. I reflect back on those younger me thoughts and am happy to learn that what I thought aging would be like is not what I feel.  The younger me thought 50 was old and that would be somehow a bad thing, yet I still ask myself then so what is wrong with age and the physical signs it brings?  Now on to the other me that stresses over the idea of showing my age, as if somehow I cover the  gray it makes my age not so.  Why is aging for a woman like the end of her vitality or attractiveness?   Is it an imagined reality or is it true?  Isn't there beauty and vitality at every age?  I feel there is and yet I hide my age as if it defines me. 

Tomorrow the youthful color is going to be stripped from my hair but it should not change how I feel about me.  I hope it will be what I want and that it brings an even greater confidence by not being afraid to show the real me or stressing when the sparkly highlights show  through. I will let you know how I feel, the reaction at home, and at work but I still can't shake the comments of youth: Man you old.

Six Dayze

Six days. In six days I will be visiting my colorist to strip out most of my color and embrace the gray that has infused my hair - or make it sparkly if I listen to my new best friend. What am I thinking?  I have been coloring my hair for the past fifteen years. At first a semi permanent was all. I was too young to have gray hair, right?  Seemed innocent enough. The permanent color soon followed now highlights to make the regrowth  less obvious.   But every three weeks since I cannot handle the calico mixture that my hair has become. My appointments are booked in advance and I have declined meetings at work to keep them. My colorist knows I will be there and rarely needs to send a reminder.  It's a bit out of control this first world problem of mine. 

 So how did I reach the place I am now where in six days this all changes and my charade is over?  My revelation came in a yoga class when the yoga guide was having us imagine ourselves as babies. She asked us to imagine how we would treat ourselves. She asked if we would alter the beautiful baby  in anyway or would we simply treat it with loving kindness. My immediate thought was 'don't judge my colored hair' but the next day I really started to think about it. Why do I color my hair? What is wrong with my natural state? 

My logic: Social norms.  For men gray hair is distinguished for women it washed us out, makes us look tired - old is somehow bad. Youth is essential for women yet age is wisdom for a man or so I think.   I look at all my thriving male coworkers with gray weaving through their hair and they look fine. My handsome husband is perfectly gray and has been for years, he still gets hit on. Very few men I know  would even consider coloring their hair so why do I?  Help me understand: Why do we?

I am faking it as many women are. I'm not fooling anyone closer than a few feet away - if only people wouldn't  get so close I might pull it off, but my face reveals my truth. Oddly I like the lines that have started to appear. It shows the life and the laughter I have experienced in laugh lines or crows feet when I smile. So what's with the hair?  I love the original color of my hair and even my blonder color - I get compliments all the time but I am becoming less brunette each time so why not go all the way?. 

Six days. I'm starting to sweat thinking about it but I am determined. Maybe  my colorist will ease me into this and I won't really be gray. I just sent him a text - he assured me gray is in and I'm going to rock this - ugh my stomach hurts.

A Tale of Three Women

Grow old gracefully… yea right! 

My life is a tale of three women: who I was, who I am, and who I will be. 

Who I was:

I was stubborn, bold, determined, sporty, nurtured a strong body, had great (black) hair. I look back at the beautiful, younger me with raven hair and no wrinkles who didn't need anyone nor would ever ask for help. Acne: I had plenty of that, with a load of insecure thoughts and youthful self-doubt.

Often in our youth we obsess with trying to find our purpose and figuring out who we are and who we are going to be. Yet, as we age we look back to those times as the best of times.  Sure, they were more carefree.  My major worries were where to go out dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. It was a great time and I do miss that excitement. Yet I also remember the sadness of youth as one tries to discover what life is about and the value one brings to it. Before I thought that maybe if only I looked differently and had more money life would be better. Well…that’s what I thought.

Who I am now:

I am still bold, not as stubborn, and a lot more secure. I am not afraid of taking on any challenge and have no problem stating that I don't know something or need help. My body is imperfect, but I love it, as I run, practice yoga or feel my husband’s arms around me. Time has only mellowed me and allowed me to truly blossom into the woman I am.  My children are growing and I find myself becoming more carefree again, as I am getting back into the activities that bring me joy. So then why do I feel afraid of the physical appearance of time?

Who I will be:

So what is the big deal about age and its veil of wrinkles and gray hair? 

Is it the passage of time that I worry about? Is it the potential inability to experience life with the joy and energy that I have cherished so far? Or is it the finality of it all? 

The journey I am on is to discover this and face it head on. The best way to do this is to ‘Embrace the Gray’ that has infused my once beautiful dark hair to challenge the societal norms and those that are made up in my head that define a reality that does not exist.