Why I Decided to Stop

The gray hair couldn't have surprised me more if it had tiptoed into my kitchen and tapped me on the shoulder. At the carefree age of 24, I stood in front of a mirror in the restroom at work and tried to breathe. There it waved, taunting me--a lone gray hair on the right side of my part.

Stunned, I wondered if my DNA had somehow gotten mixed up in a weird blood transfusion, but then I remembered I'd never had a blood transfusion.

Unwilling to surrender, I pinched the gray hair defiantly, snapped it out of my head, then marched over to the trash can and watched it float down onto a pile of used paper towels.

A decade later, I climbed up a stairway behind my pastor. He turned around to say something, took one look at the top of my head and with a note of surprise in his voice said, "Well, you're certainly getting some gray hair there, aren't you?"

I nearly choked.

That very weekend I high tailed it to the hair salon and begged Teresa, my hairdresser, to pluck every last gray hair she saw--or color it, if the plucking would leave me mostly bald. Teresa wisely chose the latter, and after passing the hair color initiation, I began the coloring-your-hair-at-home adventure.

And suddenly, fourteen years passed. The silver I tried so hard to cover began rudely shining through just eight days after each coloring. I wrestled with the reason I colored my hair now. What started out as a desire to look my age somehow morphed into something I had to do to "look beautiful".

But who defines beauty?

I started to think that I had imprisoned myself in our culture's relentless and unrealstic beauty ideals. And while I'm all about being healthy and taking good care of myself, coloring my hair began to feel like pressure to be who I wasn't. Besides, I grew weary of handing Loreal hush money every three weeks.

Finally, I broke free. I made the bold decision to stop coloring my hair this past September. While I wish with all my heart that I still had beautiful brown hair with auburn highlights, the reality is I don't. And if I desire to embrace authenticity, I need to accept reality.

At this point I've outgrown the awkward stage where I felt compelled to announce the obvious to everyone right away. "I'm growing out my gray," I'd tell people I hadn't seen in a while. I guess I'm growing comfortable with the transition.

Now, when I glance in the mirror, it's always a surprise. While I can't claim to love the gray that's taking up a quarter of my head, it feels oddly liberating, like I'm allowing a more authentic me to emerge. And though I won't say I'm best friends with my gray hair yet, I can honestly say I don't resent it any longer. And I think that's a good start.

How about you? Is there something you're resisting that you just need to accept? Is there a new level of authenticity you'd like to embrace?

Check back for occasional posts on what I'm learning as I go gray.



28 comments:

amysorrells said...

Love this. Especially since (no joke) I colored my roots this morning and was (no joke) praising God for the Loreal Touch-Up system every second of the ordeal. "But I'm not even 40!" I want to scream. Yet I look like Pepe le Pew if I go longer than 3 weeks. I can't bring myself to stop coloring--yet. But I love, love, love this blog post!!! It sure is making me think. If not about stopping my hair coloring, then about something else . . . praying for God to reveal exactly what. Blessings, Julie!

Terri Tiffany said...

Hmmm- I still can't go dark--need the highlights but not as often. I really have always tried to be authenic in what I do and say--say more often than I should really:) So trying to actually tone it down!

Debra @ Common Ground said...

Ouch Julie, you're hitting me where I live. I color my hair, and I have lot's of "highlights" LOL. But my problem that I've been fussing about is my neck. Yipes, there are times I feel like a turkey, and unfortunately I can't wear a scarf in summer. (I would if I could!) A few wrinkles don't bother me but the "sag" is no fun!
"Viva la Gray"!
Debra

destrella said...

Sags, bags, rolls and droops. :O)

Kelly Combs said...

I'm finally graying at 40 and don't like it. I am not ready for full color, but I do highlight to "blend" the grays it.

I think you do whats right for you. And this seems right for you - so good for you girl! you go!

Cheryl Barker said...

Julie, I'm one of the lucky ones when it comes to hair -- so far. I'm 54 and have never colored my hair. Yes, I have some gray, but it's not been enough so far to the expense and hassle of coloring. I'm thinking I'm old enough now to just let it all happen naturally.

Other things that drive me crazy, though are cellulite, spider veins, and flabby upper arms. And why is it that every ounce of extra weight goes straight to the ole saddlebags? Argh. Yes, I have issues, too :)

Rose said...

Oh boy, this hit home. I love my Loreal' color but have been flirting with getting back to "me". I haven't quite gotten up the nerve, but you certainly have given me something more to consider. Great blog!

Tammy said...

Gray hair? Yes, I see and I cover it.
Oh, I loved this and I hope that one day I can be as brave as you.

love and hugs~Tammy

Karen said...

Julie, I'm right there with you! I'm finally giving in to my aging, too. Sometimes I convince myself that I've "earned every wrinkle." :P

Heather said...

I have been going gray since sometime in college... but had no money to color my hair. So let it go... besides it was just a few strays.

summer of 08 I highlighted blond for the first time. Never colored my hair before. Done it 2 more times since (about 6 months apart) and now seem to be mostly blond with dark brown lowlights.

I have been trying to plan my strategy for letting it grow out. My hair is long and I am trying to grow it longer, so I don't want to "shave" my head to let it grow back in naturally... so I wait and slowly cut it out, though I might do some low lights at the salon, to help the transition along! :)

Thanks for this... beyond just talking about gray hair, I mean. It's true, if we want to be authentic in all we do, as Christ followers... then why are we (am I) coloring my hair? Am I really trying to hide the genes God gave me?

Questions I am asking myself now.... oh, so much food for thought between your post, God's words to me in church today, and another person's post....

God bless, and thanks for being so transparent about what you are doing! A sign of true authenticity! :)
Love,
Heather

Sue J. said...

When I was growing up, I was verbally attacked by other girls for what they saw as issues with my physical appearance. They became my issues and thorns through high school.

Going away to college allowed me to discover that I had gifts and talents to offer that had nothing to do with the way I looked. That was so freeing to me. Not that I "let myself go" completely, but trying to change my physical appearance so others would like me was no longer a mission.

I'm finding summer dress to be more difficult now that I've had issues with skin cancer. How to feel cool when you have to be completely covered up!?

In all seriousness, when you claim that Scripture about your inner beauty being what God loves and what shines in front of others, you can drop a lot of weighty earthly things that don't add a bit to how God created you.

Way to go, Julie!

Tonya said...

Good for you!! My mom turned completely gray in her 30s and when she gave up the fight...she was SO beautiful. Like you, she had a young beautiful face, and the silver lining just made her more so. I think woman with young faces who choose gray look beautiful AND strong...comfortable and proud of who they are. Congrats on taking that step. Me?? I'm still plucking..LOL

Julie Gillies said...

Heather,

Because the contrast between my colored hair and the gray was so stark, I cut it short, and then had highlights added--hoping to ease the transition (first time I EVER highlighted...gasped at the cost!). I think it has helped, but there is still no mistaking what's going on. LOL

Jody Hedlund said...

Wow. That was a totally convicting post, Julie. I think most of us women buy into our culture's scramble to look and stay young. As the wrinkles start to appear around my eyes, I frantically try to find cream that can remove them. As the grays appear, I strive to hide them. All in my quest to keep up with culture's push to stay young.

Now, I am glad for advanced technology which can help us stay healthy and pretty. But I think we can begin to fall into the trap to redefine who we really are and it leads to discontentment--which happens at any age (young and old!)

Katie said...

You are awesome!! Yes I love House Hunters my husband watches it too. I am constantly trying to be authentic and of course I struggle in some areas. I like how real you are.

~*~KIMBERLY~*~ said...

Julie,

This is a great post. Very transparent. It's great!

I've long sense passed this mode. I just accept me for who I am and what I am because God's word tells me He created me in His image and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Praise HIM.

Rachel B said...

Well, Julie, I would say from all the comments already posted on here today that you "struck a cord." All of us women seem to have things that we do to keep up on our image.

It's hard to accept the entire aging process!! Wasn't I just 18 yesterday?!?! I still feel 18...sort of! :)

I'm only 33, but I have been noticing an increase in laugh lines, gray hairs and tired bones. My hairstylist pointed out my first gray hairs at 27. Fortunatley, blonde hair and gray hair blend rather well. :)

I would like to see a picture of you with your "new do." =)

(((HUGS)))

Laura said...

I'm going to have to ponder "authenticity" for a while, but I wanted to tell you I love your blog! Looks so nice! I finally got my new one up and running, Julie, so come see me.
Good to read about your honesty,

Bridget said...

Hi Julie,
I have missed you! Thanks for commenting on my blog...I've been caught up with life, family and all that stuff. Trying to get a new routine going for 2010 with the blog, writing and hopefully, publishing my bible study this year. I finally convinced myself that this is a job and I must schedule my time accordingly.
Can't go there with the coloring just yet...I did stop with the highlights, because well I'm not a blonde, not even a sandy blonde anymore. LOL

LesRowe said...

You are a brave soul. I can't do it! (strains of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" in the background.) I guess I'm just refusing to accept it yet. Tee hee. Don't tell anyone.

Tea With Tiffany said...

You are the third brave woman I know within the past year who have embraced the true woman they are with their hair color. I love it. Good for you. You are beautiful. God is smiling.


Someday you need to share a picture of your beautiful new hair.

Lee said...

Great post.
Lee

Jackie said...

Great post and ouch, hallelujah!!

I can certainly relate to the Loreal hush money!! LOL! Just galls me to hand over the dough knowing full well that in about seven days my "coverage" will be about gone!! Bummer!

Love your thoughts on authenticity.....I've always endeavored (with His help) to be real and authenic. But, I'm not ready for the full gray reveal!! Someday, maybe...uh just maybe!!

Glad to run across your site. I remember you from She Speaks last summer.......We were trying to arrange a carpool from the airport to hotel....If I remember correctly, you had a long layover and were unable to join our group carpool.....but, we did speak briefly in the hall in between sessions!! Nice to meet you again sister!

Sweet Blessings!
Jackie

CHRISTINE said...

Oh I will not give up my touch ups! lol my gray is white

Nancy said...

This was a great post for me. I'm older than you and I still have a need to color the gray. I didn't start until a few years ago, so it's still fairly new for me. What I don't like with my hair is that it's just splotchy, here and there. In your photo, you look great. Right now, I'm struggling more with looking old in my face. This what 60 looks like or used to. I'ts just so hard to accept because I don't feel how I look at all. Thanks for such a great thought provoker.

Gaia said...

I know I left a comment here... well just to share, I had to do mine every 21/2 weeks. I hate it especially now with my strained shoulder, it gets more difficult. I hate white hair. I look so hagged.

Janice Johnson said...

I just ran across your blog, and was so suprised to find an article on "going gray!" I like to say that my hair came out of the witness protection program this year--it had been in hiding since I was 23! Now I am 54 with 6 granchildren under the age of 4 years.

There were many reasons I decided to go gray, but one was how much I love being a grandmother! I don't mind at all looking like one either. It took me about 7 months to go gray/white. I do have my hair a bit shorter than I like, but now all the color is off, so I can just let it grow. I get SO many compliments--mainly from men, both young and old. Women act a little scared of me. That's ok, cause sometimes I scare myself too! Even though I love my new hair, I do sort of morn the passing of my brunette days.

I love the feeling of being "authentic" now. I feel like I am being true to myself. My husband loves the new me, but he also loves having an extra $85. every 5 weeks! Goodness, can you imagine the hungry children I could have fed all these years!!

Loving Life A Latte said...

"I grew weary of handing Loreal hush money every three weeks" made me literally laugh out loud. I admire you!

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