My first gray hairs appeared when I was in undergrad in my early 20s. I used to pluck them out, but stopped because of the old wives tale that plucking gray hairs makes them come back tenfold. Silly, I know.
People in my life pointed them out, made jokes, laughed. I was supposed to laugh along, I guess. I was also being taught that gray hair means you're old, and old is bad. Old is something you tease people with.
When I called off my wedding at age 26, I lost all my gray hairs completely for about six months. Physical manifestation of my extreme relief, perhaps.
Before I went to film school, I didn't have much gray hair at all, and I got my hair done regularly anyway. It was in film school, as the money ran out and I turned 30, that my gray hair saga truly began.
For a while, I dyed it with boxes from Target. A couple times I paid to get it done even though I couldn't afford it. And then at one point, sick of bad dye jobs or paying a lot of money, I decided to grow it out. In this picture, my hair is completely natural:
What you can't quite tell from the picture is that I have a shock of gray hair on my right side. You also can't tell that once I stopped dying it, my hair stopped falling out.
Because I have thin hair. When I dye it - myself or at the salon - it falls out and falls out and falls out.
So, there I was with a healthy head of hair, bits of which were noticeably gray. The other thing that happened was that it grew in a cool dark brown, which I liked, but then it lightened up. I also felt like it was dull, although gray hair is shiny, so perhaps that wasn't actually true. I probably could have tried a conditioning treatment.
As it was growing in, I found myself fascinated by it. No woman under like 60 and in the entertainment industry has gray hair in Los Angeles. One of my inspirations for growing it out was one woman I knew who had natural hair in her 50s. I was fascinated by seeing her boldly gray hair. I was fascinated by how my gray hair grew in.
I very much felt like I was doing something truly alternative and bold. I thought about so many of the tattooed and pierced people in L.A. who all look the same, think the same, and basically are as judgmental and holier than thou as a circle of ultra-conservatives, and I thought, I'm doing something more truly subversive than some of those posers will do in the next ten years. 30-something woman in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles unabashedly sporting her natural hair, complete with grays!
But really, I think it was more like this article from The Onion: Why Can't Anyone Tell I'm Wearing This Business Suit Ironically?
Because I ultimately decided that having gray hair in Los Angeles aged me at least ten years in the eyes of the average Angeleno. I felt that it was affecting how people related to me and regarded me - if they even saw me vs. their eyes passing over me like I was invisible.
Even now I wonder, if I had left my gray hair, would I have the job I have today? Would my boyfriend have called me after the first date? Age, looks, and perception matter in this town. And while I've got no problem being judged at 50 for being 50, I do have a problem being judged to be ten years older than I actually am. I do have a problem if people blow me off, or can't see the me the way I see myself.
I felt like people looked away like I didn't know how to take care of myself. Like I should be embarrassed that I needed to get my hair done.
But here I am today, and my hair is falling out. First I did boxes from Target again, which is messy and never comes out good, and then I decided that I simply had to suck it up, pay the bucks, and go to the salon. My roots show at six weeks, so that's like every other month.
Man, is that money I simply don't want to spend. It's certainly money that my male competition isn't spending. I hate that.
But it's been seven weeks, and there it is in the mirror. My gray hair.
And all over the floor and in my drains and on my counters and just everywhere.
In my mind I go back and forth about it. I'm thinking about growing it out again. Going natural. Going gray.
Which means going through having grown-out roots again. Waiting to cut off the dyed hair inch by inch, month after month. If there is something that looks worse than gray hair, it's gray roots.
But it's summer, and my hair grows insanely fast in the summer. So if I'm going to do it again, now's the time.
It won't be as dark as I like it. It will have gray. It won't be as attractive. I will look older than I am again.
But perhaps if I document it and write about it, I will feel empowered by it again. Empowered by the boldness of natural hair in the big city. Empowered by the money I'm not spending on something I wish I didn't have to do anyway.
Or who knows, maybe I'll change my mind and dye it again.
But for now: Here's where I stand at 7 weeks:
And the scary one: