Out of My Mind

The Musings of a Woman Who Thinks Too Much

Nelle Engoron

Nelle Engoron
Location
California,
Birthday
May 01
Bio
You can email me at "nengoron@gmaildotcom" & follow @NelleEngoron on Twitter. My archived radio shows on last season's Mad Men are available (for free!) at: www.blogtalkradio.com/madmentalk **My "Mad Men" commentary for Season 5 is on Salon rather than here -- go to http://www.salon.com/writer/ nelle_engoron/ to find all my Salon articles. **My book, "Mad Men Unmasked: Decoding Season 4," is available on Amazon in both e-book and print versions.** I'm a writer/editor/consultant who lives in the SF Bay Area. I write about all kinds of things, but am particularly intrigued by movies, relationships, gender issues, belief systems and "Mad Men." (Scroll down left sidebar for links to a selection of my blog posts.) I'm working on a novel and a memoir, neither of which is about Mad Men!

Nelle Engoron's Links

My radio show
My articles on other sites
Movies, movies, movies
Mad Men writing on OS
A sampling of other blog posts
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Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 14, 2011 11:51AM

My Hairstory: Why I’m Going Gray

Rate: 43 Flag

 

braid 

The color nature gave me (at age 20, in the French Alps) 

 today

How I look today, unplugged (early AM, no make up), 30+ years later 

 

In Nicole Holofcener’s recent film, Please Give, a middle-aged woman acidly characterizes her grandmother’s hair color as being “stuck in a shade of menopausal red.” As a woman on the verge of menopause whose hair has been getting redder by the year, I would have felt stung by this line – except that by the time I heard it, I’d already decided to make 2011 the year I finally go gray.

That scathing assessment underlined one more reason to go through with my Hairy New Year’s resolution. Just the week before I heard it, I’d looked in the mirror and seen a faint but uncomfortable echo of my mother’s face when she was my age, with her hair dyed a harsh reddish-brown that didn’t flatter the pale Irish skin that I’ve inherited from her. When my sister came to visit at Thanksgiving, her reaction to my decision suggested she was seeing the same thing, as she immediately recalled how much more attractive Mom had looked once she ditched the Clairol. 

Even my long-time colorist, who I’d dreaded breaking the news to, was warmly supportive, saying she thought that my real silver-gray color (which she and I glimpse each month before she covers it) would look “very pretty.” No small concession given she’s going to lose a significant monthly fee once she’s finished helping me through what I’m calling “my transition.”

No doubt some eavesdroppers will think that means I’m having a gender change, and frankly, it feels a bit like that. I worry that I will feel unsexed, unfeminine – OK, I admit it, just plain old -- once I’ve traded my falsely red-brown locks for a naturally silver-gray pelt. Part of the problem is that I have to make a leap of faith. I can hope that I’ll end up looking like Emmy Lou Harris, but the reality will in fact be far less stunning (especially since my resemblance to Emmy Lou was slight even when we were both young). Every time I’ve pondered making this change in the past decade, I’ve wished there were some magical device that could show what I’ll look like when the real me is revealed at last.

It’s strange not to know what you actually look like without cosmetic intervention. (Unlike make-up, you don’t take your hair color off at night.) I haven’t seen my real hair since it was a medium brown divided by a skunky streak of gray. Surveying the half-inch of roots that grows in each month, I’ve watched it slowly progress from that single streak to full-on salt and pepper to mostly silvery salt with pepper holding on for dear life in back. But I have no idea what I’ll look like with a full head of platinum.

And the answer to that question is still a ways off since, other than shaving your head, there is no quick and easy way to go gray. Even my fast-growing hair only manages six inches a year, and I don’t look good with a truly short cut, so I have about 18 months of slow transformation ahead. My colorist will start things off in a few weeks by shifting me from red-brown to a pseudo-salt and pepper look, with a dark brown base and slender blonde highlights. Then month-by-month, she’ll add and subtract with increasing restraint in order to let my natural color slowly take over. As skillful as she is, and as preferable as this approach is to the hideous two-tone method of growing gray out cold turkey, I know that at times this transformation will feel as awkward as going through puberty.

So why the heck am I putting myself through this, especially since my hair color fools people into thinking I’m several years younger than I really am?

That’s the question I’ve had from several women, who have visibly cringed at the idea of the coloring bottle being pulled away from anything other than their cold dead hands. But it’s precisely cold, dead hands that worry me. Yes, the research is mostly only suggestive that hair coloring products are bad for your health, but the fact is that they are full of nasty chemicals that I otherwise avoid putting into or onto my body. So how can I justify soaking my scalp with them every four weeks, year after year?

And those years do add up. I started going gray in my 20’s, and have been coloring my hair for a quarter of a century. I began with semi-permanent products, but eventually had to go hardcore because I have what colorists call “resistant gray hair” that fights being covered. (Perhaps I should have been listening to what my body was trying to tell me?) Going by one rule of thumb -- not to use permanent hair color for more than 10 years -- my crystal has already gone dark. Especially since dark is what I’ve been making myself – marinating my noggin in the shades that contain the most potentially harmful dyes.

And dying is what I don’t want to do any earlier than I have to, and so dyeing is what I’m going to give up. Still, despite the health concerns and the hassle and cost of monthly hair appointments, the decision to become what I can’t help but think of as a “grayhairedoldwoman” (as if it were all one thing) is not easy for someone whose tresses have always been her literal and not just her proverbial glory.

 

sixteen 

Age 16. I'm not sure what astounds me most about this picture -- how long my hair is, how thin I am, or the fact that I actually have a tan! 

 

Growing up, I had a horse’s tail of thick glossy hair and wore it all the way down to my waist in high school and college before going nutty with perms, layered cuts, mousse, gel and other nonsense as a young career woman in the 1980’s. Eventually I accepted that string-straight is what my hair wants to be, and simple is the style that I’m capable of maintaining. For the past 15 years, my hair has fluctuated between the long waterfall of my adolescence and the chin-length bob of my childhood, with only minor variations.

 

maid 

 In 1979, I chopped off my hair and got a perm, in the style of the times. The woman who cut off my hair nearly broke down and cried.

 

spike

 I was cross-addicted to mousse and hair spray in my late 20's (it took a load of product to get my hair to do this). People started calling me "Spike" (really).

 

When I was young, my hair got so much attention that I actually found it annoying. Even in the hair-glorious days of the 70’s when almost every girl – and many boys – had cascades flowing down their backs, mine was singled out for its length, thickness and gleaming brown beauty. Everyone wanted to touch it, and many people did so without asking, stroking me as if I were a cat with particularly silky fur. Even strangers who saw me in public felt they had the right to fondle it, making me wonder more than once if “hair molestation” was a crime.

 

xmas 

By my mid-30's, I'd recovered from my dependency on hair products and was heading back to a long thick straight mane. 

 glam

Going a little Veronica Lake in my late 30's.

 

As is the way of youth, I didn’t appreciate what I had, accepting the bounty that nature had awarded me as merely my due. When I began to go gray in my twenties, I had intimations of mortality, but coloring quickly covered up this uncomfortable reality, and I continued to take my still-luxurious locks for granted. It was only in my 40’s, when a hair stylist made a throwaway comment about the thinning at my temples, that I shook myself awake and realized that my crown wasn’t nearly as glorious as it once had been. While I’d been sleeping, age and hormones had been busy in the hidden places, reducing the follicular surplus I’d always taken for granted. I’d had hair to spare my entire life, but to my shock I realized that it had dwindled to just enough.

“Hormones,” stylists said when I asked them the cause, identifying as turncoat the previously sexy friend of my body. (An enemy that was about to wreak other havoc, as perimenopause set in.) It seemed incomprehensible that my once near-Olympian skill of growing scads of hair could have come to an end without my even being aware that my powers were fading.

And, horror of horrors, was it going to get worse? Was I going to end up one of those old women I’d always secretly pitied, desperately trying to coax thin strands into covering her scalp? For several years, I anxiously watched both my hairbrush and temples, but detected no further losses.

So, with my hirsute stores in a holding pattern, I’ve decided to end their chemical dependency before more damage might be done. Within a year and a half, I’ll be off the bottle – the coloring bottle, that is.

And if at some future date someone wants to stroke my lovely silver hair – well, I just might let’em.

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A very good article! And I'm with you all the way on this decision, Nelle! I myself have been through something similar. Believe me, it paid off. I still like to keep things simple (I have impossible hair), and I also get complimented often enough to keep me believing all coloring is just a useless exercise in avoidance.
Very Much Rated
Oh how I can relate! Although I never had a glorious mane of hair, and have almost always worn it short, I feel so betrayed by those gray strands. Well, it's not just strands anymore, it's a full-on invasion. I saw my mother go through the transition, and I am not looking forward to it myself.

( I think we all hope that we'll end up looking like Emmylou!)
Hoo Nelle, I just have to say I'm Firsties, and you've touched on a subject near and dear to my head, and I'm going back to enjoy a nice, relaxing read.
Well, obviously not Firsties. Poo. And you can go grey in one sitting. Just ask for the Emmy Lou look. It can be done.
This was a wonderful description of what many of us have gone thru. The photos, memories, plans and imaginings piled up to create the perfect piece on going grey. I can so relate to that long brown hair. If I had known then what I know now at almost 65 I never would have touched the color bottle to my locks. I never used the permanent and only played with the wash out color but it was a heady experience. When I was fifty I turned grey and it was a relief. But then I went back to the bottle for a few years after my divorce. Now with thinning grey hair I am grateful to have any hair at all. I call it platinum tho and I have heard that it is the new blonde. People stop me on the street to tell me how beautiful my hair is. My mother at 92 has sparkly white hair. I remember putting on thick brown hair color on her scalp with a toothbrush in the fifties. Some ladies her age still dye. Im proud of her for going white and Im proud of you too. It is the right thing to do.
I could have written this article myself but you did a much better job than I. Now my hair is in a short bob with bangs and about an inch of white growth above jet black. Gray might be okay but the transition now looks so slovenly.
I have never in my life colored my hair, lemon juice was as wile as I got. I have been silver grey now for crap I don't remember how long. I sometimes wonder if I would look younger but the price of up keep was too high so sister, I welcome you to the beautiful world of platinum blondes and age ain't got nothin to do with how our hair looks! WE are beautiful!
I love my silver hair. I love my friend's pewter hair. I'll bet you will like your silver hair as well. : )
But the word grey is depressing -- it ought to be banned in reference to hair.
I let myself go silver 7 years ago, and I have never regretted it. I have never gotten so many compliments on my hair. My moment of truth was my mom's death. We had to ask the undertaker to touch up her roots, because we knew you would have never wanted family and friends viewing her open casket to think she was old:) My brothers were making tasteless comments about how hair grows after death and the hair salons six feet under are awful.
This is a subject I can definitely relate to. Good luck with the transition!

I started coloring my hair when gray showed up 10 years ago, before I turned 40. I've been using a color that's close to my natural shade and works well with my skin color - doing it myself at home with good results. When the gray comes in, it's still patchy, not far enough along to look good if I let it go natural. I see at least a few more years of hair coloring in my future. When it's time for me to make the transition, I suspect that I'll need some professional help to keep it from looking scary.
I completely relate to Everything you said. I started coloring my hair in my mid 20's.

Loved your pics! Particularly the V.Lake pic! Sassy!
I am often tempted, but then resist. I, too, was known for my tresses an still try to match the natural auburn shade I was blessed with. Perhaps after you go through this and come out the other side a happy lady, I might try again. This time the tresses would be silver, I think.
I've just begun to see a strand of gray here and there. Not sure how I feel yet.
What a great pictorial timeline! I quit highlighting my hair (I'm a blonde) about six years ago and have never looked back. What's the difference between white gray or blonde highlights anyhow? All I can say is that my hair has never looked healthier or been shinier, and best of all, I don't have to sell my soul to the hair salon or feel like I'm not being true to my age and stage of life.....um, you do know I'm only 29, right? I married young.....as an infant:)
So many of us are right there with you. My compromise has been to use only natural hair color - henna based, mostly - in recent years. My gray is the here-and-there type. It's going to be a while before I'm comfortably all the way in the silver camp. But I'm definitely no longer naturally in the auburn brown camp either....
Joining the "let it go silver" chorus. I got my first grey hair in high school and colored until I was 30 (20 years ago), and then gave up. My dad was totally grey at 30 and his mother at 25, so I assumed I'd be platinum by now, but no... still salt with some pepper. But I love it and it must suit me, as I'm back in the dating world and I'm hearing compliments from the opposite sex. Even up here in the hippie-ish Pacific Northwest where the stereotype is to let nature do it's thing, it's not that common to see silver-haired women. Welcome to the club!
Absolutely fascinating! You look beautiful "sans fards" and I think grey hair will suit you. Plus, it's very in right now - even Lady Gaga sometimes has her hair gray. In France, it's considered chic to have a well-groomed head of grey hair. I think it's a very interesting change. I often wonder what I'll do when my hair goes more grey - I wonder if I'll dye it like my grandmother did (for years I thought that was her natural color and that only other grandmas had gray hair. She dyed it until she passed away at age 84) or if I'll go au natural. Kudos to you for making a bold yet natural choice. R!
I think I'm starting to go bald.
Yeh, go grey. And wear it well. I get more compliments on my hair -- the silver streaks in front, that I've just let go ...(get a little help from your hairdresser and "low-lighting" -- adding darker streaks to blend.

fun article, by the way.
Great idea! I think women look wonderful with their natural silver hair. One of the sexiest women I ever met was in her late twenties with grey hair and she looked terrific! Go for it. I bet you like it.
A life in hair. Knowing you for so long, I enjoyed seeing a changing face to go with the words and stories. Much of what you describe is universal. Sometimes I look at the few women in my mom's nursing facility who have stubbornly kept their long hair, now so thin and wispy, and wonder if someone will tell me when it's time to get the old lady haircut.

You will like your gray self I suspect. The face that looks back in the mirror is authentic. Women, and men too, seem to get a decade or so where coloring enhances and looks good, then at some point, the color begins to look too harsh for the face. I always thought Christo's wife Jeanne Claude looked fabulous in her cherry red hair, but her aim seemed to be an artistic statement.

I always thought of it as color or length. If I stayed gray, I could keep the extreme length, or if I went short, I could have outrageous color. I'm glad I went with long and gray, so of course, I think you're gong to look gorgeous!
You're also —going—to look gorgeous. Sheesh.
I think it's just great! A woman should do as she wishes with her hair always...xox
I love seeing all the different you's. And the new you will be great too! I know what you mean about worrying about dy(e)ing. I read somewhere once that highlighting is better than going dark. I think of that with consolation even as I know I'm probably rationalizing my choices. I will join you one day soon, of that I am sure.
Funny, from your avatar I kinda pictured your hair gray there in the lighter tones in the front. I had thick totally lustrous hair and have watched it gather over the last few years -- in my hairbrush. A friend and I were joking about aging recently. How ten or fifteen years ago we moaned about changes in our body then. If we had only known what was ahead ... we'd be telling ourselves how glorious we were!
LOVE your hair herstory!!! It very much parallels mine. My mom and her sisters (one was a hairdresser who specialized in blue perms) always colored and permed their hair -- and it always looked dried out and phony (brassy blonde, pinkish brown and black). Then they all experienced some form of dementia, totally forgot about their hair -- and each one grew in soft salt and cinnamon with natural waves. So for the last few years of each of their lives, their hair ended up being truly their best feature. So after doing the frosting-to-even-things-up for several years, I let go -- had short hair for a LONG time, but now I have long, silver hair that I LOVE -- as does my husband, my kids and my friends. It is so me. My dad went gray early and everyone loved his beautiful wavy silver hair -- and him. Enjoy -- you will love the new -- and real -- you!!!
Nelle, I am also with you all the way on your decision to go "au natural." I just don't have the courage to do it yet. I am 61 and I am still coloring my wiry gray hair. I am naturally mousy dark brown. I color my hair a light brown. I have done this for years. Maybe when I turn 65 I'll opt for gray hair. Kudos to you, Nelle! Keep us all posted on the progress of those grays! :-) PS: You have gorgeous hair!
Me too. http://open.salon.com/blog/maureenow/2010/04/17/my_grey_hair

You will feel like a goddess, trust me. It's so awesome. I love my hair. I grew it out in a big unorganized mess. I just didn't cut or dye for nearly a year. Everyone important to me in my life (husband, children, students) love it.

I have nothing against dyed hair. I don't even particularly think old women with dyed hair look bad. I think it's sort of festive, actually. But it wasn't for me, and this was the best beauty decision I ever made. My hair is silver and white, but my face is youthful. I look like a faerie tale creature. (I need to change my profile pic, don't I?) You are so gorgeous right now. With your real hair, you'll be surprised at how cool it is. You'll like it, I bet.

Great writing, too. Thank you!
I totally get this. I keep wondering if I'll know when It's Time, both to cut my long hair and to allow Mother Nature to be my colorant. I'm not ready yet, although your story is awfully inspiring. Through the transition and once it's fully gray, you will still be beautiful. That's for sure.
I think you will look beautiful Nelle. Thank you for sharing your transformation and the process it took for you to get there.
Thanks, all! Have had a very busy day so haven't had time to respond to comments - hope to do so tomorrow.
I loved reading this. It reminds me of so much of what I think about when I think about aging and hair and how, just like I don't want to be nipped and tucked, I also want my hair to (reasonably) reflect my age. (I mean, I'm not going to tease it into a gigantic bouffant like my mother did in the 60s...)

Even though I'm nearly 51, I'm somehow not that gray. I'm using Just For Men rinse because I think it's very suspicious that men's rinses take 5 minutes but women's take hours! I'd like to think one day I'll embrace all of me, even the gray side of me, and give that up!
Nicely written Nelle. It seems the choice we have is growing old(er) gracefully or not. A a blond I have to remind folks that it's not gray. I'm just going platinum.
I use henna, which adds color rather than removing it. The result is my gray becomes natural highlights and when I fail to re-dye before my roots show, it's not that noticeable, since the pattern of darker and lighter in the roots exactly matches the dyed portion. Plus, I think henna fades somewhat, reducing the roots effect.

Henna is much more natural than regular dye. It doesn't smell or make my scalp sting. It's a pain to use.

I don't want to go gray. I know I'll look older. When my mother was still dying her hair and my father was gray (they both went gray young, giving me lousy genes) they took my grandmother out for mother's day. The waiter assumed the couple was the man and woman with white hair. I don't think he got much of a tip.

I never want to be mistaken for my husband's mother.
I would go gray if I had any idea what my real hair color was anymore. This is a great blog. Thank you
I'm 30. I've had more and more gray hairs since I was about 15 or so. There's enough now that they're definitely noticeable and not just a scattering, enough to shock the hairdresser at Supercuts and make her ask, "How old ARE you?" They make my mother upset--"I'm too young to have a daughter that's going gray!"

I'm of course still enough of a pissant teenager to refuse to dye my hair on account of not only is it a pain but that I love making my mother feel really old:).

Rated.
it's a choice colored (!!) by so many variables - long/short, dark natural hair or light, dying to an artistic statement or as close as possible to feathery reality. what matters is that you like it when you look in a mirror. i bleached and dyed and streaked forever until a few years ago even my colorist had a funny look on her face. so i let it grow a couple inches, then cut it off. it looks just like my avatar and it finally looks like me. you'll know if it's right. great writing, nelle, as always.
Every woman should go a little Veronica Lake in her 30's. As the once proud possessor of a glossy, wavy, blue-black shining mane who followed a similar hairstyle-lifestyle pattern to yours, I salute your bravery now. I hope you show us more photos along your journey... maybe a new avatar every few months?
Sally, I'm hoping the same thing - that Nelle will share photos of the transition!
I think you look fabulous at any age! I'm with you though - I'm not touching my hair. Gray strands have been creeping in - but most of the time I can't even see them unless I put on my glasses and catch the light just right. In any event, I'm not coloring my hair. I used to get perms, but I stopped that too...for the same reasons that you won't use dye...afraid of the cobweb effect on the scalp...no, sir, not for me - no thank you very much. Great post...enjoyed very much!
rated
I love naturally gray or white hair. I don't have much yet, but my partner does, and it's beautiful.
Love your post. Like youo I was getting redder by the year, but after skin cancer in 2007, I started to use only natural colors that lasted... 8 days.
So in 2010, I grew out my colored hair and in December 2010, I had it cut. Now I am "natural", with gray temples, gray neck and gray filaments throughout.
My daughter (15), says: "Cool! Mom, you're rocking the gray."
I am learning to love myself in silver.
I, like many of the women here can relate to this. I am in the midst of deciding to color my ongoing gray hair, pluck it, or just go with the flow and see what Mother Nature has planned for my head of hair. I am in my upper 40's and will see what the nature look will turn out to be!
I loved being bright red in my late twenties (courtesy of the bottle) but dreaded the thought of being 'menopausal red' in my 50's (I'm 52). I was letting the grey grow in through my natural very dark hair until a woman in her thirties said to me "I bet you looked just like that girl in Point Break before you were old". My hair was menopausal red by the end of the day. That was eight weeks ago. Today I had all the red cut out and am sporting a new gamine crop. My only wish is that the gray I have would make more of a committment - right now I've schmears at the temples. My goal is a whole head of silver. By the way - we ALL look like Emmylou Harris when we embrace the silver!
I liked this post simply because I can relate. Plus, it was written so well. I do hope you give us a follow up when the transition is complete. The other thing I noticed was the fact that hardly any men commented. I can't help but wonder what that means.
Interesting, well-written article. The photos were really good, too. Thanks for including them.

Unlike my mother who dyed her hair a fake orange-red until she got cancer in her mid-sixties, I, at 48, am currently in the "transition"stage but am not doing it with a hairdresser. A friend of mine in Germany, where women don't usually go through all the nonsense with their hair as they do here in North America, has beautiful, soft white hair, which she keeps in a simple just above-the-shoulder style. She is 51 years old, tall and fit, and looks gorgeous. Unfortunately for me, I am short and becoming dumpy now that I have been in full menopause for over a year.

I was blond as a child, and then a kind of red/strawberry blond in my teens and twenties, until I started to get blond highlights. In my late twenties I was told that I had too much grey and would thus have to dye my hair if I wanted it blondish. I highlighted and then dyed my hair blond for years, but after only a few weeks it would have that false bleached blond look and make me look washed out. So, a few months ago, I decided enough was enough, and I started growing it out. My hair is very white in front, so in photos I look ghastly old. I'm thinking of going the formal, hairdresser-assisted transition route and doing the "low-lighting" thing, whatever that is. I, too, would love to look like Emmie Lou Harris when I'm done. Sigh...

Thanks for writing about this. I'm so glad to know there will be many of us going the natural route! I think it looks so much better than the look of our mothers' generation and that of women now in the sixties. ~R
You hair is wonderful, then and now.
I don't know what I'll do, but I applaud your honesty and the photographs. I started to go white a few years ago but as a blonde, it doesn't show much. I would like to think my hair would gracefully revert to the platinum of my childhood, but in the meantime, I highlight it every few months. My hairdresser tells me that I will be using fewer and fewer highlights as my hair lightens with age. I hope he's right.
Loved seeing you over the ages. With so much changing so quickly no wonder we all are turning grey faster than usual.
I'm jealous that you've made THE DECISION. I've been thinking about it but just don't have the guts. I too, am sick of coloring. You are going to look gorgeous. Can't wait until you can post a phot of you with long silver tresses.
A few years ago, when my "distinguished" gray temples were the only hint of mortality in my coal-dark locks, I dated a girl who was half my age.
Things went swimmingly until she happened to say " you know, if you died your temples you'd look a lot younger"!
As my patience with all youthful arrogance took its final breath I replied " Sweetie, I was born with the face, I earned my hair!"

I politely took her straight home, missed her parted lips 6 inches north and planting her goodnight kiss (which I assure you on my part was well on its way to becoming legendary) on her forehead, said good night, and never ever called her.
I'd just like to have my hair back. Don't care the color. When I look in the mirror I see blond, but in photos it's unmistakably gray. Which to believe? The one constant is the disappearingness.
I enjoyed seeing these pictures of you through the years. Silver is good. Trust me. HB
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back here! After posting this, I had 2 really busy days (first work and then home life). I was checking in and reading comments when I had a few minues, but didn't have enough time to respond to them in detail as I usually do. So many people have commented now that I think I have to respond generally, for the most part, so here goes:

First, thanks SO much for being kind and supportive! It means a lot, especially when posting something this personal and exposing. And I'm flattered by the many kind things that have been said about my appearance in these photos. I actually hate pictures of myself, so it was nervewracking to post these and felt (as some of you surmised) very exposing to do so. So thank you for all the compliments!

Thanks, too, for all the encouragement to go gray! It was interesting that many of you who haven't even done so yet yourselves were telling me, "You go (gray), girl!" I also loved hearing from those who have gone gray (or never colored your hair at all) and are happy. I'm sure I'll need to re-read these comments when I get into this process! You will help keep my motivation up to make this big change.

I also loved hearing all your individual hairstories! Hair is such a huge part of our appearance, and we're all attached to ours (and hope it remains attached to us). A friend predicted I would get a lot of responses to this piece for that reason, and because almost all women struggle with the question of whether to color their hair at some point in their lives.

finally, I was pleased that I got some comments from men. While some men now color their hair, for them it is more a matter of dealing with hair loss -- an issue that's discussed a lot in relation to men's appearance. What's not much talked about that almost all women have hair loss as they age, too, which is why I decided to write about that, too. I think it's a shock for many women, as it was for me, that we might have to deal with hair loss, too -- as well as all the other signs of aging -- having grown up thinking that's only something men deal with.
You seem very happy in your teenage pics, very full of life...
I think all your permutations are lovely...I'm not sure I'd be honest or comfortable in doing the same post about myself mainly because of the difference to the current rode hard and hung up wet appearance. Still, though, happy to be alive and for all the good things in my life. It's nice you appreciate the good things too.
Welcome to the club, Nelle! My daughter (10 yrs) keeps saying I'd "look younger if you dye your hair darker", but I'm just grateful to have a full bounty, unlike many of my contemporaries. Everything will be alright. You go, girl!

Peace n' love,
Robert Dugan :)
Oh, and I forgot to mention that swell UCSB t-shirt in your first pic! and the dangling ponytail, well-remembered.
I'm looking forward to seeing the beautiful "grayhairedoldwoman" when you finish your transition
You can't win a war against time. Graying requires an unconditional surrender if we are to age with dignity.
Get ready, Nelle, because the long haul on this decision can be rough at times. I applaud you for making the leap. I stopped coloring my hair about four years ago, for exactly the same reasons. When all the gray came in that first time, I was shocked. I looked in the mirror and saw my mother, and I was taken aback. But I didn't back down.

Next I went through that awful phase women experience when they first admit to being gray--not giving my hair proper care, not using good products on it, sort of punishing it (and myself) for being this way. Then I realized that a lot of older women have hair that is no longer lustrous simply because they neglect it, as I did. I started treating my hair as though I loved it as much as I did when it was pretty much the color yours used to be. Now my hair is longer, it has body and shine and it is silver and gray with a few white streaks. And I love it. I have earned it, and I love it. My friends love it.

Be aware that the rest of the world won't be as enlightened. Many people will treat you like a person who is twenty years older than your real age. Clerks will stop calling you that dreaded name--ma'am--and start calling you an even worse one: Dear. People will try to help you with suitcases and groceries. Don't be daunted by this. Our culture will only outgrow our collective freakish fear of age when millions of us simply stop worrying about it.

Own it. Wear it proudly. Good for you!
You look like the female version of me.
Excellent. I salute you for your courage (I'm not yet there) and your writing skill.

Rated.
Through silver mist
sparkling on green hills
she appears at dawn
sun gleaming on her hair.
a shade of menopausal red - I've taken to calling my color post-menopausal red - and I thought I was so original!

I identify with so much of this, Nelle. Very interesting.
and p.s. what gorgeous hair! Well, before the '80's, that is, but damn, did everyone go hair crazy in the the '80's?
Thanks! Yes, we had bad clothes in the 70's and bad hair in the 80's.....

I think of the 1940's as a decade when both hair and clothing styles were attractive at the same time.