WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Going Gray

We are a family of early graying.  I was in college when my then 70-something, bottle blonde and permed Aunt Dot suggested I cover up my gray, adding “there’s enough dreary in the world, Sug.”  Right then I decided to join her ranks, albeit as a lanky haired brunette. 

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Over the years I’ve flirted with other colors.  I wrestled with auburn (notorious for fading), highlighted toward blonde (the brassiness equaled a tuba’s), and rested in caramel (isn’t that a chewy candy?).  Some colors have suited me more than others, but I’ve decided the days of tending my gray stripes and roots are over.  

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not sinking the whole ship, at least not yet.  I’ve got cabinets of potions for plumping, tightening, and restoring my neck and eye areas, and I’m open to discussing injectables.  Graying up is a re-appropriation of funds from my expensive hair color habit to my increasingly expensive skin care regime.  As for the time spent in my colorist’s chair, I’ll use it to lie still to in hopes of supporting my fragile collagen.  

But going gray hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes I’m shocked at my hair’s shocking white.  Juxtaposed against my still brown ends, I’m reminded of an aged penguin.  And it’s hard to miss friends and acquaintances’ reactions.  They either give the nonverbal “startled-glance-quick-eye-aversion” or the verbal “I-like-it-but-could-never-do-it.”  The latter seems kinder than the former, but the “could-never-do-it” part likens going gray to opting for an amputation.  I most appreciate responses from women who have already embraced their silver selves.  They give a sort of “pride-in-the-club” nod.  It’s akin to the pointer finger lift my grandfather used to give to and get from other pick-up truck drivers.  A subtle recognition of “we’re in this together.” 

What I’m most aware of, though, is my hair ought not take up so much mental material.  It’s just hair after all and my follicularly challenged father reminds me to be pleased I’ve got it.  Instead of musing about the impact of my hair on self and other I could be solving big problems and dreaming big dreams.  So, I will.  From here on out time spent ruminating about my gray will go toward more meaningful considerations . . .  like how to get clean water to people who need it, medical care to those without it, compassion in our communities, and the best undereye serum for tightening and toning.

Photo Credit:  Inecto Rapid Notox Advertisement, 1925.

Whitney Cain