Going Grey is Okay

Earlier today, as I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I happened to land on a blogger’s page that I had seen a few times before. It was name recognition that led me to click on her account, but it was her hair that made me stay. In every single picture, her dark brown locks were interrupted by a group of grey front and center strands on either side of her face. At first, I thought that she had hopped on a recent stick-it-to-the-patriarchy-esque trend and that her older photos would show her hair restored to its former glory. She’s only thirty after all. Yet, no matter how far I scrolled, there she was, bright and beaming with those little bits of grey...untouched and unmentioned.    

Ever since I was little, my mom would come home from work once every month or so with silky soft hair that was freshly trimmed and a slightly different color than when she had left that morning. After complimenting her new do, I would ask, without fail, why the color was different. Every time my mom would give me the same answer: she had to cover up the greys, of course. The story was one I had heard time and time again. Mom started going grey her freshman year of college, and ever since, she had made sure to keep that little fact as quiet as possible, never letting her silver roots show for longer than necessary. My mom isn’t a vain woman, but even she’s susceptible to the stubborn will of society’s standards.

Considering that my dad didn’t start going grey until his late forties, I spent my teen years praying that I inherited his genes and had a few decades to go until my beloved chestnut brown hair started down the same path as my moms. I religiously avoided heat products whenever possible and abstained from even contemplating any form of dye, as I thought it would catalyze the inevitable. There are few genes that I didn’t inherit from my dad, but just in case my mom got this one through, I wanted to be proactive. Unfortunately, that is just not how genetics work. One beautiful summer day I went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and shrieked at the top of my lungs until my two best friends came running, thinking I was being murdered because of the sheer volume I was producing. It wasn’t a murderer, though. It was my first grey hair. I was 18.  

It has been three months since that fateful day, and I now have three grey hairs in total. They certainly aren’t prominent, but if my hair catches the light in just the right way, well, there they are. A wave of momentary panic usually ensues, followed by twenty minutes of pondering how I could have possibly evaded this entirely unavoidable situation. All that money my mom spends on her hair...all that time, I think, will now be my future as well. 

 Yet, today when I saw @carly ’s Instagram account I thought, maybe this isn’t so bad. Maybe this isn’t something I should worry about. It’s unorthodox to display the grey in today’s picture-perfect online world of Photoshop and retouching, but it’s natural. After a bit of digging, I found a blog post that Carly wrote about her decision to let her greys be. Her decision wasn't a symbolic middle finger to the patriarchy or a complaint against the chemical composition of dyes, but rather an acceptance of what is natural and even more shocking, a decision to see it as beautiful. After years of hearing my mom complain about the never-ending struggle of keeping the greys away, I felt a wave of relief as I realized it doesn’t have to be a struggle: it can be whatever I make of it. 

With this reassurance, I can solemnly swear that I have absolutely no idea whether I am going to dye my hair or not. I don’t know how fast the greys are going to come in, and I don’t know how I’ll feel when they do come en masse. What I do know is that I can do whatever the hell I want when it happens, because grey might not be normal but going grey is.