Why Growing Gray Was Empowering For Me

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Guest Blogger: Kim Friedman Landau

I can’t remember how old I was when I spotted my first gray hair. Probably in my early 30’s and I do remember pulling out the early ones in a futile attempt to stop the inevitable. Both my parents went gray at younger ages and wore their silver proudly their whole lives.  We don’t count that one Saturday afternoon’s blunder with them hiding from us kids in the bathroom dying their heads black together and immediately regretting it! That must have had quite the impact on us three kids, as all of us comfortably sport heads of silver today. More likely we saw two people who were beautiful, vital, and successful, eschewing the black dye, and we all followed suit.

Growing up my hair was a rich chestnut brown color with some natural auburn highlights. I wore it long and straight, as did most of us back in the 60’s and 70’s. I always hated everything about my hair, except for the color. It felt thin and droopy and seemed to need lots of attention. I had no patience for it.  By my late 20’s, I started getting “perms” and I loved the ease and bounce of the curls. Once I became pregnant, the chemicals in the perms were ill advised, and I had to go back to my boring hair. A funny thing was happening though; the grays were becoming more abundant and with them came other changes. The browns were more dull and the texture of the grays made everything feel fuller. All the while, I was busy cutting my hair shorter, then growing it longer, and on and on like that for years searching for something – I wasn’t even sure what! It was during a period with longer hair and my growing frustration with how it was behaving, that I threw down the hair dryer and allowed my hair to follow its own path. Little did I know how liberating that would be for both me and my hair. I was shocked by the big curly results! 

The next visit to my hairdresser Josh was transformative for me and my tresses. “Cut it to make it work with the natural curl”, I told him.

He did and we both loved what we saw.  Those pesky grays were advantageously textured, adding depth and character to my previous boring crown. As the years went on, the silver and gray strands continued to assert themselves and Josh and I followed their lead. I can’t really claim that embracing my hair’s metamorphosis was a catalyst for my larger personal journey of change and becoming a more authentic self, but our paths do seem to have intertwined. 

   By the time I turned age 56, my hair was a big mop of mostly gray curls, AND I had made the decision to leave my marriage of over 30 years. Whoosh! I was loving my hair and my newfound freedom, and it must have shown – everywhere I went strangers came up to me in the streets to tell me how beautiful my hair was. I wasn’t seeking that, but it was a delightful surprise every single time, and  it felt empowering.  When I started dating, I had only one thought about my grays – if a man wasn’t interested because of them, he wasn’t the right man for me. Plenty of men noted my beautiful hair and what they perceived it to relay to them about my personality. 

My love and partner David drew me and my grays to a new home in Boston. How tickled was I to see that in my new city natural hair is actually the cultural norm? I no longer stand out as the woman with the beautiful curly gray crown – heads like mine are all over the place and I love it!  The compliments still come, but not as frequently, and that is just fine with me.  Women often tell me that if their hair looked like mine gray, they would stop dying it. I only smile and respond that they will never know unless they try it.

Hair, like everything else about our bodies, is very personal. For me, embracing my grays and what that part of the aging process has meant for me has been a joyful and liberating endeavor.

For someone else it could feel unfathomable. I am perpetually self-consciousness about the belly menopause has brought me, and my cellulite rippled thighs, always making sure to cover-up on the beach. Admiration and envy for my midlife sisters who don’t share such feelings and freely frolic in bathing suits, fills my soul. Each of our journeys should be about finding our own truths, our own versions of happiness, our own internal and external places we can call home  I am graced to have found mine and my curly grays are one piece of that.    

 

About the author:

Kim Friedman Landau is a 63 year old retired medical social worker who lives in Boston.  She is an avid bicyclist, walker, crafter, cook, volunteer, partner, mother, sister, friend and now writer. After having cancer at age 51, Kim decided that life was a journey to be treated as an ongoing series of adventures. She is having a blast trying new things and exploring new ways to grow as a person. Blogging about what she is always learning is her latest joy.

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