My friend Jana has spent the past year growing out her dyed black hair. I’ve watched as her white roots have spread wider and wider, as she’s gone through funny phases of skunk and Cruella De Vil. Now, with just a couple of inches of black left here and there on the tips, we can see what the final look will be.
And, oh my gosh, it is gorgeous. In her mid-40s, she has a full head of vibrant white and silver hair that would be the envy of all the celebrities who’ve decided gray is “in.” It’s seriously some of the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen.
I’ve spent the past few years examining my own strands of gray hair, trying to decide how I feel about them. I just have a few streaks, right where my hair parts. They glint in the sun, standing out against the chestnut backdrop of the rest of my hair. They don’t make nearly the statement that Jana’s hair makes.
But I’ve decided to love them anyway.
When my first gray strands came in, all straggly and wiry, I didn’t feel this way. Those first grays announced themselves with gusto, standing straight up off of my head like a soldier in salute. “Calm the frick down,” I told them under my breath as I plucked them with tweezers. “Crimony, you are pushy little buggers.”
More came after that, of course, and I routinely pulled any of them that refused to lie flat. But eventually, they started easing their way in among my other strands. Perhaps they had witnessed the fate of their predecessors, or perhaps those early strands were just trying to work out how to do this aging thing. Either way, as my gray started commingling peacefully with the rest of my hair, I stopped trying to remove them.
My husband started noticing them, and would reach up his hand and stroke my part amusingly. It’s funny to grow older with someone, to witness the changing of their physical being as your own goes through its own process. He’s a year older than me and has no gray, of course, except for an occasional white hair amongst his blond beard. He really likes my gray hair, though. He says he thinks my silver streak is sexy. That it makes me look like a superhero.
He’s totally right.
In those strands of silver on my head, I see everything I’ve made of my life. I see my relationship with my husband of 18 years and all that we’ve been through together. I see our three babies, the oldest of whom is starting to drive. I see our family’s many travels and moving adventures. I see the struggles and the blessings of raising children. I see the beautiful family I’ve helped create.
In that streak, I see how I’ve grown as a woman over the years. I see the finding of my voice, the solidification of my faith, the evolution of my career. I see the questions I’ve asked and the answers I’ve sought. I see the battles I’ve fought and won, and the lessons I’ve learned in the battles I’ve lost.
In those strands of gray, I see the wit and wisdom that come along with age. I see the purpose of painful experiences and learning to let go. I see the full and fascinating life I am living and look forward to continuing.
In that shining glint, I see myself. Changing. Learning. Improving.
For years, I considered covering my gray hairs, dyeing them to blend in with the rest of my hair. But now I love the way they stand out, announcing to the world not only that I am growing older, but that I have grown. Those silver strands tell the story of my life back to me every time I look in the mirror and remind me to continue living a life worth retelling.
So I won’t be dyeing my grays. I won’t be wishing them away. I’ve decided to embrace them for the symbols that they are — not merely of getting older, but of getting better with age.