Forty Shades of Grey

It all happened so quickly, I was not sure how to react. Shock, fear, tension, excitement; it was all there. I was not prepared.

The room was not red, it was done in earth-tones, and very dark. There was not a necktie to be seen. This was a casual affair.

They approached cautiously, but smiling. I had not seen most of them since my wedding, decades earlier. It was my father’s retirement party.

And then it started. One by one, they almost all made the same comment.

“You look so good, Van. We love your salt and pepper hair.” 

Salt and Pepper ???  What ? Me ?  I was forty-something. No way.

Having a love-hate relationship with hair my whole life, this was nothing new.

Coming in at just under 10 pounds, I was born covered with dark hair. My folks chuckled as they described me as a kind of “baby gorilla”. 65989-Baby-Gorilla No wonder there were no pictures of me until I was several months old and had shed a bit of that baby fur.

It didn’t end there. I battled with hair in places it was most unwelcome. There were 4 girls in my family, and we all shaved our legs in secret with Dad’s razor. When I took my turn, he had to change the blade. Every time.Morticia

The hair was very dark against my pale skin and thin face. Think…. Morticia Addams, but with bangs. I had to cover those heavy brows until Brooke Shields came to my rescue.

My first attempt at hair color came with a toothbrush and a bottle of peroxide. Activated by a bit of summer sun, it lightened up my teen years. It didn’t last.

A true brunette until my 30’s, I went back to the “bottle” when my children both came out blonde. I didn’t want to look like the nanny. I chose a soft brown, which morphed to orange in the chlorine of the community pool. I was done with hair dye. Or so I thought.

Dad’s party was an eye opener. With decades of photo albums, how did I not see the transition? The grey threads had started, but they were mostly underneath, and easy to ignore.

Salt and pepper. It was time to “desalinate”. I was about to re-enter the work world, and it made sense. Cruella

Until it no longer did.

Just last Spring, I wanted to see what was hiding under there.

And, it’s not what I thought. It’s not Cruella DeVille.

Stay tuned.

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27 Responses to Forty Shades of Grey

  1. Oh, my. I can so relate! About a year ago, I decided to embrace my gray. Not too “painful” a process, but a profound mental shift. In some ways it’s a relief too.

  2. LaVagabonde says:

    The women in my family go gray very late. My 90 year old grandma still isn’t totally gray. But if and when mine starts to change, I ain’t dying it…or maybe only purple. 😀

    • The women in my family often died before turning grey.(50’s and early 60’s). But my grandmother’s was pure white by 40; I assumed it was from a life of worry.

  3. I can SOOOOOOOOO relate – I can pull my hair up in a bride-of-Frankenstein-doo without using any color whatsoever…really dark-brown overall, but agressively silvering temples. It’s like my hair has decided to put as much contrast as possible between the natural colors on my head. If it were reversed, with the white down the center, I could double as a skunk…

    My great-grandmother’s hair was pure white in every recollection I have of her – which my mother reminds me of anytime I belly-ache about my own white hairs.

    I’m getting toward the point where I can no longer get people to believe I’m only 29 (and holding…) 😀

    • I was thinking “skunk” myself, Peg. The new growth is kind of silver, but only on top. The back and bottom, as dark as ever. I didn’t much like 29, 39 was so much better, so I stayed with that one ! Thanks. Van

  4. I love it Van! I started to grey in my 30’s. With 5 kids who wouldn’t? LOL. I dyed my hair for years. In my late 40’s I had trouble with my thyroid and my hair got thin… really thin. I retired in 2012 and said that is it. I was only 55, but I quit dying my hair. It is grey, silver, white, blond. brown… it is me. I let it go and you know what? I get more compliments on my hair now than I ever did before. It is thicker and healthier now too. Be who you want to be. ❤

  5. Hello Van. Yes, the decision to go gray can be fraught with emotion and unanticipated reactions from others. Who knew hair held such power? I wrote about it a bit here myself just a short time ago. I don’t normally plug my own posts, but thought you might get a kick out of this post as it ties in rather nicely with your own.
    https://silverinthebarn.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/going-gray/

    • I found the comment I made on this lovely post when Linda on Nutsrok re-posted it :
      “Wow…it was easy to get lost in the comments for that post..must have touched a nerve. I love the Clairol ad from 1944…losing friends over gray hair. I hear that lots of young girls are coloring their hair shades of gray or silver. Trends. Go Figure.”
      And by the way, props to you for responding to all 400 comments !! Van

      • Oh, sorry, didn’t realize you might have read it already!! I think it touch a nerve which is strange when you think about it. Men have been going gray for years with little or no notice. We decide to do it and still it causes an avalanche of notice. Sometimes I really am aware of just how little progress we women have made in some areas.

      • It’s so true. Even when I googled “salt and pepper hair”, mostly male images came up, and very pretty ones, like George Clooney ! ☺

  6. Ha ha ha. I just wanna see you embracing what you see in the mirror (however that happens).

  7. What a great post. I wish my hair would be all gray by now, but it isn’t. Seems to happen in patches..so I am back on the bottle for a few years 🙂

  8. haha thanks for the chuckle! ❤
    Diana xo

  9. writerinsoul says:

    Great post and excellent choice of pictures, Van! Now I’m curious…

  10. mandy smith says:

    So funny, Van! If you looked anything like that baby gorilla I would have taken a jillion pictures of you, lol! I quit worrying about the gray. My bangs turned completely at 35. I tried coloring once and they turned purple. Never again 🙂 I’ll stay tuned!

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