Melissa Coleman of The Faux Martha on going gray

Last year, I wrote about grey hair on a whim as it was connected to my confidence, mostly lack of confidence, around blogging and launching a book. Who knew a color change could draw out so many emotions? That post received a surprising number of comments and follow up questions about what I had decided, which tells me it’s on more minds than just mine. As more grey hairs have moved in over the last year, it’s forced my answer to the question—to grey or not to grey? I’ve invited two beautiful women, Zoë from Zoë Bakes and Cathy from The Grit and Polish, to share their grey hair experience with you, along with my own.

I want to preface this personal, public conversation with this—there is no right or wrong to this conversation, though you might assume that, as it’s a conversation compiled of similar experiences. As you read this, as you come to different or similar conclusions for yourself, know that. This is a tiny, one-sided, fraction of a larger conversation. This particular one might happen over drinks with 3 greying friends. Of course, it would sound entirely different with 3 non-greying friends. Both conversations are incredibly valuable and different. Let it be.

Melissa Coleman of The Faux Martha on going grey

Melissa Coleman

Author of this blog, thefauxmartha.com

When did you begin greying?

I noticed my first grey hairs in my early 20s. They looked like little inch-long intruders. I removed the intruders during my bathroom breaks at my old desk job. It became a game to look forward to: Find the hidden sprout of grey. (Now you know why I started my blog.) Last year, in my 33rd year of life, they really moved in.

Did you decide to go grey before or after your hair began changing colors?

Before, you know, when it’s easy to decide something. But once they started showing up very regularly, I started to question my decision. I’m in that awkward stage of greying, like the beginning of the second trimester, where people are probably mumbling under their breath, “Does she know she’s greying? Did she eat too much pizza last night?” I’ve embraced this decision, even though my hair color hasn’t yet fully.

It’s worth nothing, I think it’s funny that I paint my face every morning with makeup but have decided not to paint my hair. Heh.

Why did you decide to go grey?

For so many reasons.

1—I’m lazy when it comes to my hair. I get it cut 1-2 times a year and snip away at it in between. I just can’t be trusted to keep coloring up.

2—Cost. Adding a large line item to the budget every 6 weeks, which I hear is the magic number, would usurp the dating and babysitter budget. I like Kev too much.

3—I want to do my very best to own this aging process. I try to compartmentalize life into two categories: the things I can control and the thing I can’t control. To the things I can control, I work hard to handle them in the healthiest manner I can muster. And to the things I can’t control, I work hard to accept them in the healthiest manner I can muster. I’ve slotted natural aging into the things I can’t control category.

4—For the last 10 years, I’ve been paying more attention to the quality of food I put in my body, making changes as we can afford it and/or as we acquire more knowledge about the topic. And for the last 2 years, I’ve been paying more attention to what I put on my body—makeup, soap, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, face wash, etc. I’d like to take a pass on researching hair dye.

How did you feel about yourself when you started greying?

Like this was the beginning of my end. Which led me to ask myself questions like, why is aging so bad? Why am I finding value (or not finding value) in myself based on my age and my hair color? Am I placing that same value system on others, in turn, devaluing them?

Did your partner have any thoughts on this subject?

Kev has always been so good at loving me where I’m at—whether I’m in the middle of a work crisis (all of last year), wrestling with my belief system (the last 10 years), post-childbirth, or noticing the grey hairs popping up, or is it out? They’re known for being wiry hairs. He always reminds me, usually after I remind him about my newest age-related body change, that we’re going to get old together if we’re lucky enough. This has really helped me to reframe the internal conversation I’m having about my changing looks.

Did this color change stir up anything other emotions or issues in your life?

I swear the stress of launching a book last year while questioning everything I was doing for work, convinced the pigment to pack up permanently. I turned grey quite fast over the course of last year. Kev reminded me that we’re just growing old; it’s to be expected. But as my work confidence dipped, so did my confidence about my appearance. The two situations were mirroring each other. Once I figured that out, I had a more accurate peek into what was actually going on internally.

If I’m being really honest, I place value on my appearance. We do that for others, too. We involuntarily tell the person who lost weight, who updated their wardrobe, who traded in glasses for contacts, “You look so great!” with much excitement, as if they didn’t before. Greying naturally is an unpopular decision for women. It’s hard choosing not to meet the general appearance standards when I could make a different choice.

Your face (and therefore your hair) is attached to your work. What impact did that have on your decision, if any?

Over the last couple years, I’ve been wrestling with the idea that my decisions have influence on others. What is it they’re calling bloggers these days, influencers? I don’t like the responsibility or even the power of that. It’s too much. It’s not why I started blogging. But I’m coming around to the idea that I can influence things that matter. (We all have influence in our spheres of life.) And, as silly as it sounds, our hair color matters. It reflects bigger issues that are going on in our everyday lives. Issues that shape our lives. This conversation is more than a topic about hair color. And where ever you land on this personal decision is OK.

Has anyone treated you differently because of the color of your hair?

No, not yet. I’m in the early stages and, so far, most of my greys are the same texture as the rest of my hair, so they are blending in nicely (for now). The most common thing I hear when this conversation comes up is, “Grey hair makes women look old, but makes men look refined.” I’ve said those same words, too. Maybe it looks good on men because a large majority don’t color their hair. What if women had the same visual permission to grey? A lot of women in my neighborhood, who I see regularly around town, are going grey. It’s heavily impacted my decision to do the same. It’s given me permission to fit in.

We are herd people, a lot like farm animals. You can see it play out in the empty parking lot with one car. You pull in. Where do you park? Next to the other car. And the rest of the cars follow. Herds are cozy and affirming and warm. It’s really good to have a herd, a place to feel welcome, a place to fit in. If you want to give this grey hair thing a go, find a herd, a place to process through this awkward, ordinary conversation.

Do you have any advice for someone considering going grey?

I’m so early in this process, I don’t have a lot advice, so I’ll share some that was given to me. A very wise friend sent me an email after writing about this a year ago. She, too, was greying early, and it was impacting her confidence to the point of debilitating other areas of her life. She decided it was better to handle the grey hairs than to let them handle her, so she started using a semi-permanent dye. She also sent this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.”

I love her wisdom and perspective. It’s wise to understand what you can and cannot handle right now, to understand where you’re at in the process and that everything is a process, and to hold your decision light enough to make changes as needed. Because if I’ve learned anything, life is more grey than it is brown, blonde, red, or black and white.

Cathy Poshusta talks about going grey

Cathy Poshusta

Author of one of my favorite home design blogs, thegritandpolish.com

When did you begin greying?

I found my first grey hair around the age of 16, and I pulled it out. A few months later, I found more. I kept pulling them out until there were too many greys to keep up with. Then I moved on to dye.

Did you decide to go grey before or after your hair began changing colors?

After. I’ve been dying my hair for almost 20 years. That’s over half of my life already…eek! Last year I started feeling fed up with the whole dye process and eventually decided to embrace my greys. So now I’m smack dab in the middle of an awkward hair transition 😉

Why did you decide to go grey?

Last year I came to the realization that I hated my hair. I was having to dye it every 3-4 weeks to cover the grow out and it was costing me $100/month or more. And yet I still hated my hair. It was high-maintenance, un-healthy, and a constant annoyance in my life. So, I really didn’t have much to lose by growing out my greys. I figured even if I still hated my hair, at least I wouldn’t be spending $100/month on it.

Around that time my hair stylist went on maternity leave, so I skipped an appointment. And then another. I wore a lot of hats and liked how low-maintenance I felt. Inaction slowly became action.

Not surprisingly, growing out greys is an awkward process and I’ve had my share of second-guesses. What’s gotten me past those moments is the encouragement I’ve received from friends, family, and women on Instagram. One of my friends, a woman with the most enviable (natural) brown hair, told me that she was waiting, hoping, to find her first grey hair. She considered grey hair beautiful and an earned privilege in life. I loved that perspective.

How did you feel about yourself when you started greying?

I was so young when I found my first greys that I thought it was funny. But growing out my greys in my mid-30s has been a different experience. I’ve felt uncertain and wondered if I still look like myself. I’ve always been a brunette, and it’s hard to let go of that part of my identity. On the flip side, embracing my greys has made me feel free and unique. Covering greys can feel a bit like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the mountain and it’s been freeing to let that boulder go!

Did your partner have any thoughts on this subject?

My husband and I started dating at 18, a couple of years after I found my first greys. His hair was starting to recede at the same time, and we joked about what a bad ‘hair couple’ we were. Ha! Over the years he’s always encouraged me to embrace my greys, and while it took me a couple of decades to do so, I’m thankful for his constant support. It may have taken 20 years, but we’re finally becoming that bad ‘hair couple’!

Did this color change stir up anything other emotions or issues in your life?

I have an identical twin sister and we’ve been mistaken for each other our entire lives. She’s not ready to embrace her greys and is still a brunette. So, for the first time in 36 years, we won’t get mistaken for each other anymore. That’s been hard for both of us.

Your face (and therefore your hair) is attached to your work. What impact did that have on your decision, if any?

For the most part, my audience has been a positive force in my decision to make this change. When I first mentioned my discontent over dying on Instagram, I was inundated with encouragement from women going grey themselves, hairstylists with helpful tips, and general well-wishers. I doubt that I would be on this path without them.

Has anyone treated you differently because of the color of your hair?

Not yet. But the day is probably coming when someone mistakes me for my kids’ grandmother. Ha! For that reason, I’ve started taking my face moisturizer routine more seriously. 😉

Have you ever felt pressure to color your hair?

Goodness yes! I’ve had plenty of women tell me to keep dying my hair over the years. And of course, I’ve felt the constant pressure to look young and beautiful from social media, the workplace, our society, etc. It seems like women’s list of beauty expectations keeps getting longer and dying our hair into our 50s (60s…70s…?) is definitely part of that.

Do you have any advice for someone considering going grey?

If you’re not a big fan of change (🙋🏼‍), take it slow. Try adding highlights or doing a semi-permanent dye until you’re ready to embrace your greys. Baby steps are good. So are purple shampoos and hats. I also recommend surrounding yourself with encouragement. There’s a whole sisterhood of silver-haired women out there and their support is real (check out @grombre on IG)!

You can find Cathy on her blog: www.thegritandpolish.com and on Instagram: @thegritandpolish

Photographer credit: Garrett Poshusta

Zoë François

Author of the beautiful, doable baking blog zoebakes.com and co-author of Artisan Bread in Five.

When did you begin greying?

It started about 10 years ago, but no one else noticed until I developed a distinct streak of grey right in the front about 6 years ago.

Did you decide to go grey before or after your hair began changing colors?

I never colored my hair, so it was a pretty subtle slide into grey.

Why did you decide to go grey?

It never occurred to me to color my hair, until an acting coach suggested I darken it for a TV appearance. She told me the grey made me look washed out on camera and I would look younger with darker hair. She even set up an appointment with her hair coloring specialist, which I went to with trepidation, but was resolved to take her advice. When I sat in his chair to decide on a new color, he refused to color it. Flat out REFUSED. He told me the coach was wrong and I should never color my hair. I was gobsmacked, since she was so adamant and it was his business to color hair. I was also relieved, because deep down, I never wanted to color my hair. I am so grateful he refused my business, and I’ll never let someone talk me into changing my look to suit their personal idea of beauty.

How did you feel about yourself when you started greying?

On our honeymoon, my husband and I went to Paris. I was 23 and hadn’t seen much of the world yet. A woman I saw in a museum made a lasting impression on me (not the Mona Lisa, although she too is beautiful). She was a woman of a “certain age,” impossibly chic and had white-grey hair. I’d never seen a woman wear her age with such confidence. At that moment (in my early 20s) I hoped I’d age with as much grace and pride, not only that, I really looked forward to it. So, I’ve been waiting my whole adult life to become that woman, to be of a “certain age.” Now that I am that age, I understand the strength she exuded. I’ve certainly earned all the grey!

Did your partner have any thoughts on this subject?

He loves my grey hair. We’ve been together for 30 years, so he’s watched me earn every strand.

Your face (and therefore your hair) is attached to your work. What impact did that have on your decision, if any?

People have always complimented me on leaving my hair natural. Honestly, leaving my hair wildly curly has garnered more attention, until recently. I’ve had a few people comment about how “brave” I am for going grey, which strikes me as incredibly sad. It never occurred to me that I should have colored my hair, so I wasn’t being a rebel or brave, just myself. All of the women in my life have colored their hair, but because of the woman in Paris, it just wasn’t my definition of beauty or style.

Has anyone treated you differently because of the color of your hair?

Not that I’ve noticed, but maybe I just don’t pay attention to people who would be inclined to do so.

Do you have any advice for someone considering going grey?

I recently talked my mom into going grey and she looks gorgeous. I never knew what her natural hair looked like until last year. I actually think she looks younger with the grey hair. I think it’s a myth that grey hair ages you.

You can find Zoë on her blog: zoebakes.com and on Instagram: @zoebakes

Photographer credit: Sarah Kieffer

Personal grey stories, questions, thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below.

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