To Gray or Not to Gray

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gray hair - Boston Moms Blog
Photo courtesy Tobias Maier.

As all you loyal readers know (hi, Mom!), I’m 40. And so far, 40’s not so bad. Do I forget my computer password on a daily basis? Sure I do. Do I occasionally wake up without being able to move my neck? Of course. But otherwise, 40 is great.

When you’re 40, you can wear sweatpants and a defiant smile that says, “I’ve earned these.” You care less about a few extra pounds on the scale and more about the continual beating of your heart. And you can reminisce about your 30s with the wisdom that comes from a few months of age: “Oy, I used to wear low-cut jeans in my 30s. Before I rediscovered my sweatpants.”

But one thing that’s not so great about 40 is gray hair. Unless you’re blessed with fantastic genes or beautiful blonde hair (where a gray might just politely disappear into the shiny yellow), you may also find yourself in this situation one day. I, too, was once a blonde (ahem, when I was 3) but my hair has grown progressively darker over the years so that it’s close to black today. And boy, do grays show up in close-to-black hair. My hairline is suddenly a serious “50 shades of gray” situation, and not the sexy kind.

So what’s a girl of 40 to do?

Fight back? I can start coloring my hair and buy some time. I can highlight, balayage, or all-over dye at the salon. Or I can highlight at home or use a DIY root-touch-up kit. All these options have their own risks and rewards, and they all require some commitment on my part. 

I think on the maintenance scale, I come in pretty low. I pluck my own stray eyebrow hairs, trim my own fingernails, and only splurge on pedicures in the summer. Sure, I do get frequent haircuts, but sometimes I skip the dry. And the last time I experienced a blowout was when my kids were in diapers.

So my other option is to do nothing. I can let nature take over and see what happens. Who knows, I might end up looking like one of those fabulous silver-haired ladies — a more mature, more chic version of myself. 

gray hair - Boston Moms BlogI have a friend going this route, and man, is she chic. Sonya was cool with black hair, and if possible, she’s even more so as her hair grows out into a glossy light gray. (See photo.) I asked her about going gray, and she said the hardest part was how other women felt about it. “Friends and strangers alike would ask me why I wanted to look old — and tell me I was making a huge mistake.”

Luckily Sonya is a strong, confident woman who was able to realize that these women had issues with her gray hair that had nothing to do with her. So she kept going, and as her real hair has taken over she gets more positive comments and fewer negative ones. She still gets asked why she’s going natural (like it’s the strangest thing in the world!), and she sums it up with three little words:

“Because it’s easy.”

This really resonates with me. Sonya isn’t trying to make a statement, she’s just letting nature take its course. If anything, she’s letting her hair do the talking, and you know what her fabulous gray hair is saying?

That it’s OK to be real.


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A Maine native, Jessie migrated down the coast to Boston after college, and it’s been home ever since. In this great city, Jessie met her husband, graduated law school, played in numerous basketball leagues, worked as a marketing writer, ran the marathon, lived through several home renovations, and wrote many beginnings of many books. But of all these great adventures, she most loves the one she’s on now: on-the-go-mom to three energetic and hilarious daughters. Jessie, her husband, and their trio of little ladies live in Brookline.