Does having gray hair mean you’re old? What do you think? Check out my Pinterest board pictured above. Feel free to do your own search, I didn’t make those pictures up. They are all real and beautiful women who have chosen gray hair. Some even colored their hair gray on purpose. Just like you and me, many have chosen to let their gray come in naturally. Look again, does every woman pictured look old to you? Nope, I don’t think so either. I’m inspired when I look at the pictures of those who have been there, done that, and have gone gray.
Moments of inspiration wane when I pause and reflect on what people say when I tell them I’m “going gray.” Sadly, I wonder why it is we choose put-down comments about ourselves? “Oh, I couldn’t do that, I don’t want to look old,” or “I couldn’t do that, but…good for you, you are lucky, you won’t look old, but I would.” “My family/spouse/children/friends won’t let me, they don’t want me to look old.” There’s that nagging old theme going on as I replay their comments in my head. They are tough to shake messages, especially if I’m in a crowd surrounded by old faithful hair colorers. (Yes, that’s a word…made up…but still, a word that fits!).
I confess, when I first thought about going gray, I felt kind of the same way. I didn’t want to look old. I was obsessed and dreaded my hair turning gray. Gray hair meant I was going through another stage of getting older. But once I finally decided to go gray, my mindset changed. I tossed out those thoughts and became ready to let it go and be free to be me. I reminded myself I wasn’t choosing to turn old, just choosing to let my hair go gray. Period. We can’t choose to be older. We turn older as the years tick on by. Our hair has its own course (slight pun intended). We can’t naturally control that course any more than we can our aging.
Gray hair is just another color in the rainbow of beautifully natural hair colors. Gray hair is no different from the natural brunette, black, brown, blonde, red, or Auburn. Gray hair doesn’t discriminate, at some point, we all will have gray hair. See, we’re not really different from each other. Gray is simply a different amount of melanin in the hair.
We’ve been told time and time again that melanin decreases as you age (aka grow old). We are all aging, every single day. There isn’t a specific age where someone’s melanin reduces at a faster rate. Think about it, don’t you know people in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 100’s, who have naturally gray hair? Gray hair does not equal old any more than any other color hair.
Society’s “norm” of hair coloring has created an illusion that only people over a certain age stop coloring their hair and go gray. Therefore it must mean the population of those who have chosen not to color their hair is only the elderly and they are old. I bet you know people in their 70’s or 80’s who still have their hair colored? They enjoy the familiarity of doing so, it has become their habit. But does that mean they are any less their age than someone who is just beginning to try hair coloring? Nope, our age is separate from our hair color.
We are bombarded with messages about age, mostly about remaining young.
Look around at ads, or billboards, or in magazines, or pictures on the internet. Sure, more recently there has been a sprinkling of more gray-haired people pictured in publications outside of AARP, but it is still pretty rare to see a gray-haired person who is not pictured as a senior citizen in trendy media. I recently read an article on LinkedIn talking about the “older” workforce and it pictured a woman with her gray hair up in a bun. I was appalled, who says sexism (or is it grayism) is gone? Jeez…
Plus, oh crap…that is one of my favorite hairstyles. I’ve worn my hair up in a bun for years, not just since I let my hair start going gray. Now what, does that mean I look old because of how I style my hair and my hair color? That’s a double dog dare ya if I’ve ever heard one. Hmm…maybe if I just add a scarf?
I say that’s just plain malarkey! I’m done with that thinking! I’m standing up for all us who have chosen to love our natural hair color, no matter what the color. Period. Hair color does not equate our age.
What is the difference if you’re naturally a brunette, had colored your hair pink or purple for several years and now you’re just done with it and want to go back to your natural hair color? You’d begin the same process as those who decide to go gray naturally. You’d let it grow out, have the dreaded demarcation line across the top of your head and you’d experience all the crazy emotional stages. For some reason, society depicts that as more OKAY because it isn’t gray coloring coming out.
Again, I say, malarkey.
You’re simply embracing your natural hair color, just like me and all the other people who are doing the same thing.
Here’s a new mental challenge for all of us. Figure out if and when we do feel old? Not based upon our hair color. Gray hair has more to do with a choice to let it be its own natural color. Same as if it was a dark brunette before being pink. If it is not hair color, then gray hair has nothing to do with our feeling old.
We decide to feel old or not old based on something else, what is it?
Perhaps the answer to the age-old question of when does one become old is really when we feel we are old? When you look in the mirror and see gray roots coming in, do you immediately think that means you’re turning old? Does that perception trigger you to physically feel older, or is it just your perception of feeling old because of gray roots? Physical manifestations of aging are different from our gray hair.
Physically we begin to feel older when our body doesn’t move as well as it did before. Or how many wrinkles we see in the reflection in the mirror. Or our (my new favorite) the increased ability to predict the weather by new aches and pains. Or our perception of how we personally compare to the rest of the “youthful” people we see around us. Or worse, how we adapt to the messages we hear in media about what others think is old.
Old by definition is an adjective meaning, “having lived for a long time, no longer young.” Again, there’s no clear date in your life that you are officially old. There will always be people younger than you and people older than you.
So when on the continuum of life is one considered old? Isn’t it really when we personally decide we’re old?
Look around at people in their 50’s – 90’s who are still active, enjoying life, and not worried at all about their hair color. Heck some of them are even still running marathons, teaching yoga classes, and oh my, still working and wearing their hair in buns. Just look at them. They are not old. I bet you’d have to ask them their age to really know how old they are. They certainly don’t act 80 or 90, and they don’t appear to feel old because their hair is gray. They aren’t old because they are “senior citizens.” They haven’t fallen into society’s norm of thinking anyone over the age of say 50 is old. They don’t buy into the malarkey, they just love living life. I’m sold, I am totally ready to embrace that kind of thinking.
So there you have it, my “gray hair doesn’t mean you’re old” rant for the day. Hair is hair, it doesn’t define your age. Gray hair is simply a color. Gray hair is just natural. Gray hair does not define a person’s age any more than any other color. Let’s choose to stay healthy and vibrant by loving who we are, loving our hair and taking care of ourselves and embracing whatever age it is that we are. Good graycious, that’s the way to beat feeling old and by the way, that’s a great way to look awesome too!
How about you, do you feel old because of your hair color or is it something else? Are you ready to challenge your thinking? See you soon!