Note: English is not my first language. Apologies in advance in case I have perpetrated grammar atrocities. Many thanks for reading :) Jennifer.
My sisters don’t like my gray hair. I’ve changed physically during lockdown: I’ve regained almost all weight I had lost in 2016 and I’ve grown my gray hair out, and I had never worn pajamas for so long. They said nothing about my weight, I’m always ready to lash out at those that comment on my kilos wantonly, and perhaps they’re conscious we’re all fatter now and it’s better to overlook it. But my gray hair seems to be another story.
My sister Carolina approached me, inspected my hair fully while I was sitting in my mom’s terrace. By the way, mom doesn’t tell openly, but she also dislikes my uneven roots. My gray hair looks like a white bouquet against a fading landscape. Carolina said: ‘I can fix this for you, you know, right?’ She looked very worried. She dyes her roots at least twice a month.
My sister Sandra was direct, she told me to dye my hair because gray hair looks terrible on me, she wrinkled her nose in disgust. And when I met my sister Monica just a few weeks ago, after several months without seeing each other, first thing she said to me was: ‘Please, don’t tell me you’re growing your gray hair out’. She laughed in disbelief. However, mom is the subtle one, from to time to time she reminds me that my sisters ask her to talk me into dying my hair again. I always say that I don’t know what I’m going to do, that for now I just want my hair to be healthier.
But the truth is that I don’t want to dye my hair again, and I don’t want to fail in my desire because of pressure. When I remember what my sisters said I look to my reflection on the mirror anxiously: gray is everywhere, especially where I part my hair. These days I use lots of headbands, and I know intimately that it’s to cover this so much gray a bit. It’s pathetic and absurd, and I don’t know why I worry this much. I’m 33, I thought I was done with body image issues. What If I have a job interview and the interviewer thinks that I look older than I am, that I am not presentable enough? A woman at a café that I go to daily told me that you have to be very brave to sport gray hair. What If I’m not brave enough? Is my gray hair that noticeable at first sight? Now when I take pictures of me, I don’t like me any less than I liked me a year ago. I’m a bit sorry that I’m not going to fit in some of my favorite clothes. But clothes are just clothes, we’re in a middle of a pandemic. When I touch my new hair, it feels different, fuller and nicer, less dry. My boyfriend really likes my gray hair, he will tell me so twice for every time my sisters have told me something about my new look. But I’m afraid that I’m going backwards in my self-love journey and that is unpleasant.
My friend Sara is a major inspiration. She quit dying her hair in her late twenties and now her silver hair seems to irradiate with sunlight. She’s so beautiful. She’s been one of the prettiest brides I’ve ever seen: she married with her short gray hair and a red dress. Red is possibly my favorite color, and for many years I have dyed my hair red. But I’ve come to terms that I’m not a redhead. I was born very blonde and at age 3 I became a very pale brunette. I confess that somedays I really want to call my hairdressers or my sister, so they dye my hair. And then I try to think of my friend Sara and follow her example.
And truth is that I haven’t been to the beauty salon since before lockdown. I’m transitioning to my natural hair color and I feel that I must be in charge of the whole process. I’ve been cutting my hair with my boyfriend’s help these past months. It feels like an atonement, something I owe to myself, and it’s a very enjoyable experience to create your hairdo. I’ve been dying my hair since I was 16 and I’m very tired of it all, of inspecting my roots and trying to have a perfect color, to try to look younger, to attempt to always look so great that my sisters or anyone won’t comment on it.
I talked to another woman once who had decided to quit dying her hair because my hairdressers had suggested it. It was a revealing conversation, at the time, a bit troubling, because it put a doubt in my mind about cosmetics. Sadly, I didn’t give it much thought then and followed along. I’ve also been make-up free since my birthday in January, and I used to love using make-up, I still like it, I love black eyeshadow and dramatic looks, I’m a sucker for vibrant colors. But this woman felt at peace with her very white hair and it looked fantastic on her. She was beautiful, and coherent. It’s a bit weird to see someone in her sixties having a perfect unchallenged hair, and it is not. My grandma dyed her hair till she was 87. You should always be in power of your image, of the way you present yourself to the world. You should not be questioned for the way you look. I truly believe that, now I need to apply it.
I’m aware that gray hair is somehow a trend these days. Many young people dye their hair silver or any shade of gray, even white. In beauty media you can find as many articles defending your natural gray hair as many other articles with tips to cover it, prevent it or minimize it. They say stress and genes are important factors when it comes to gray hair. My mom took my older sister to the doctor because she had her first gray hair when she was 8 years old. And my recurrent stress easily evolved in an anxiety disorder and then a depression. I’ve been coping with my illness for a year now. The slightest controversy becomes a mountain to climb, especially when it’s your loved ones that question you, be it your hair, your weight or your life choices.
And yet I’m having such fun with the renaissance of my true hair. You might think that I’m superficial but transitioning to my natural hair color is helping me a lot with anxiety. Yes, I have doubts. I feel insecure. I overthink it, that’s a sign that I haven’t completed my road to recovery. My mom and sisters are unhappy about my gray hair. And I’m very vulnerable some days, those days when I spend a few minutes in front of the mirror inspecting my hair, checking for no reason what I already know to be irreversible. The decision is made, and now it’s written. My mom and sisters will get used to my new look or they won’t. But I think that from now on, I’ll pose the question in reverse: and why aren’t you growing your gray hair?