In February of this year, I decided I was done tinting my hair. I had gone from dark brown four years ago to lighter brown, to blonde while in Brazil, and I was tired of not recognizing myself in the mirror.

Gray - 1 (1)I had gone progressively blonder because my Brazilian hair stylists didn’t like gray hair, and thought it chic to go blonde. (They aren’t the only ones. Look around you. Any woman over 40 who is blonde is actually going gray, almost guaranteed!)

I had become concerned about having chemicals on my head every four weeks, and decided I just didn’t want to put my very valuable brain at risk any more. I asked Tom and the kids what they thought about my going natural and the each said, “Do it!”

So, I began the transition. Because I’d already gone blonde, I simply went blonder and then let it go. Having short hair was a help, and by June I was pretty much done with the grow-out.

Gray - 1

No longer did have to tint my hair every four weeks, racing the creeping stripe of gray along my scalp. What a relief! And I actually love the natural color, or lack thereof. My color palette in clothing has changed back to what it used to be (royal colors and primaries), and I feel like myself again.

But there was a major adjustment. Anticipated, perhaps, but not to its actual extent.

The thing about going natural is this: suddenly, you look “an age.” It doesn’t matter if you are in your fifties or your sixties or your seventies. If you have gray hair, suddenly you are “older.”

Unexpectedly, I found myself being treated differently, ever so subtly differently. I was “old” in some people’s minds, especially when I was in Santa Barbara, where the retired population is so numerous and the non-old residents simply equate gray with old. It is a fact. I had to deal with it.

To combat that image, prevalent anywhere, I suppose, I have to stay fit, active, and continue to move quickly. Spryly, even. I want to surprise people by my youth and vitality, even as they mindlessly dismiss me as “older.”

It is up to me to dissuade people of the idea that gray = done in life. Hey, I don’t even have married kids yet or grandchildren. Age-wise, Tom and I are in that in-between stage: kids are grown, but no grandkids yet. We’re still working and have no plans to retire in the coming decade or more. But, we’re lumped in with the older set because of the color of our hair. (Empty-nesters might find dismissal by those with kids still at home to be more painful than the empty nest itself.)

It’s mostly a subtle change I have experienced, but not always.

Last week, a woman not much younger than I am offered me her seat on the bus. Startled, I smiled and said no thank you, I was fine. Then I grinned at Tom. I’m not yet ready to accept seats from others. Heck, I’m still the one offering up mine!

Gray - 1 (2)That has taken some getting used to. Tom has gone gray naturally over the past twenty years, gracefully. I, too, grayed over the past twenty years (graying early, as my grandmother had), but I hid it. Suddenly, in less than a year, poof! All gray.

But I love it. I love knowing that I am who I am and am not trying to hide anything. I’m not saying that tinting/dyeing is hiding for everyone, but it was for me. I wasn’t being true to myself, and anyone who knows me knows that that is essential for me. As Sammy Davis Jr. sang, “I Gotta Be Me!”

So, now I’ve done it. I have aged. Poof! The good thing is, I won’t have to age again for 25 or 30 year! I’ll be in that limbo of “ageless” for a while, and keep people guessing about how old I am. Fine by me. They can chase me down and ask me if they wish! But they gotta catch me first!