Dye, or let live?

I still remember when I found my first gray hair, about fifteen years ago.  I was  standing in the ugly functional bathroom of my grad school apartment, and I lifted up the silver strand and held it to the light and stared at it, intrigued.  It wasn’t traumatic, really;  it was more like a fun novelty, something curious and quirky.  I’ve always been someone who looks younger than her age (a fact which was incredibly vexing when I was in my twenties but which ceased to be annoying oh, about five years ago), so I hardly worried that this single gray hair, covered by the waterfall of my brunette ones, would in any way make me look middle-aged.

Now, fifteen years later, I stand in the bathroom and look in the mirror and noticed that my single gray hair of old has been joined by more than a few others. I seem to notice more and more of them all the time.  And I can feel myself moving inexorably towards a moment of decision.  I will have to decide whether to dye, or let them live.

This is a harder decision than I would have thought it would be.

Scott, by the way, is no help.  I will lament my grays in his presence and he will squint at me and say, in all honesty, “Where?  I don’t see any.”  I veer between being touched by his gallantry and worried about his obvious trajectory towards blindness.  So when it comes to advice, he’s not the person to ask.

And seriously, even if he did see the grays, he’d probably shrug and ask why it’s a big deal.  He would probably point out that he’s going gray, too, which he is.  But he is going gray in the way that most guys do, where it starts at the temples, which makes them look all patrician and distinguished.  I’m going gray from my bangs outward, which means those hairs are front and center, baby.  And that’s a pretty annoying place for them to be.

So why does this bug me?  I guess it’s because I don’t feel old.  I actually feel pretty young, most days.  And I have this knee-jerk reaction that gray = grandmotherly, which is certainly the prevailing message of our society.  So when I see those gray hairs, it feels fundamentally off-kilter, as if my outside just doesn’t match my inside.  I know there are a zillion holes to poke in this theory, and it’s kind of a lame one now that I put it in writing and stare at it, but it is the number one reason why I would consider adding Clairol to my shopping list.  I simply don’t feel old enough to have gray hair.

But then, on the flip side, isn’t this a chance to challenge my own knee-jerk assumptions?  The truth is that some of the most vibrant and active women I know have a full head of gray hair.  Some of them have gray hair that is absolutely gorgeous; my mother-in-law, for example, has those black Irish roots that translate into stunning silver.   So maybe this whole thing is a chance for me to recognize and challenge my own assumptions, to fight against the narrow messages of the broader culture in which we live.

And, to be perfectly honest, some little part of me fears the slippery slope: if I dye my hair, will I someday be injecting Botox into my face?  (Actually, I doubt it.  Needles give me the willies.)  And seriously, where would I find the time to dye my hair?  If I’m going to add anything else to my already ridiculously pared down personal grooming routine, it should be flossing my teeth twice a day (please don’t tell my dentist I just wrote that).

So I’ll have to decide, at some point.  I’ll either try to resist and destroy this advancing army of gray, or I’ll give up and make peace with it.  And if you have any advice for me, I’d love to hear it.

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