I started coloring my hair when I was 14. It began with a bottle of Sun-In, a hair dryer, and my mortified mother on the other side of the locked bathroom door pleading with me: “Go easy! A little bit at a time!” I did not go easy. I’ve never been one to play small.
No, I went strong until I’d achieved a two-tone Easter dessert situation: orange fluff on top, chocolate nest underneath. My mother cried real tears.
From there I graduated to a more sophisticated Paul Mitchell magenta wash that was favored by the wavers at my small town middle school. I bought it at the fancy salon on our town’s main street (our town had one street), where the owner/stylist was from NYC. So it was definitely chic, very urban, totally cutting edge.
In high school and college I had the long henna’d waves of an alt country chanteuse. It was the late 80’s, early 90’s. I was intense, but also soft; Twin Peaks adjacent. My hair needed to play the part.
Eventually I got a good-ish job and learned about professional, dimensional color. I started having my dark hair foiled in copper by tattooed stylists in glassy high-ceilinged spaces, chatting about “product” and that great new Oaxacan bar. My hair looked like my life: well groomed, manageable, comely.
But there was trouble brewing. And by brewing I mean percolating up from the depths of my scalp. Little springy silver strands emerging, foiling the tidiness I presented to the world, my clients, my OkCupid dates.
It wasn’t long before my quarterly salon visits became monthly, and then, every three weeks. My hair would look great—silver roots kept brilliantly at bay—for 10 days max. Then there they’d be again. Those evil silver step sisters staring back at me from the mirror, taunting, making me feel old and unkempt.
This torturous cycle of keeping my grays under wraps went on for years, involving countless hours at the salon and an embarrassing amount of money. I told myself that one day I’d be ready to ditch the dye, but not yet….
I was a midlife mama after all—having had my first and only child at the age of 46— and I couldn’t bear the thought of going gray and people thinking I was his grandmother!
Well, I don’t know what happened, but shortly after I turned 50 earlier this year, I knew. The day I’d dreaded for so long had finally arrived. And it felt like an attestation: I would never cover my silver roots again. Ever.
I was done. Done with the glassy salons. Done with hours in the chair and away from my miraculous baby boy. Done with the thousands of dollars spent hiding who I am. Done with “going easy,” and “a little bit at a time.” Nope. I was ready to fully embrace my gray hair, my real hair, and to let my son see his mama as she really is. My power word for 2022 was “authenticity,” chosen before I’d even had this epiphanic moment, but perfectly apropos.
And so my #silversister journey began! It’s been a wild ride and I’m still deep in transit but it’s happening, seemingly with a will of its own now. There is no going back to brunette me and there is a kernel of sadness in that. I don’t quite feel like myself yet under this calico crown. But these silver roots are me, all me. For the first time in 36 years. Seeing myself emerge in this way is tender, humbling, curious, and nothing short of a revelation. How often in life do we get to meet ourselves all over again?
I’m so thankful for all the other silver sisters who inspire me on the daily. Together, we bloom!