Gray Matters: Is it Time to Dye?

I’m only 32, but I’m going gray. Well, white, if we’re splitting hairs.

It isn’t a new development; after suffering a minor head laceration in a car wreck when I was seventeen, my hair grew back white in just that one spot. I was self-conscious about it, stealthily plucking the offenders with tweezers in the hopes that no one else would notice. In this way I kept my embarrassing secret under wraps for several years.

But something happened when I had children. I could blame the change in my body’s hormones, or the marked increase in my stress level – whatever the cause, the white hair would no longer be confined to one inconspicuous patch. It was spreading, making itself known at my temples and sticking up crazily along my part. I was teaching seventh-grade at the time, an age group that, while delightful in many ways, is lacking in certain social niceties. The first time a student jabbed a finger at my head and said, You got a white hair, Ms. Pray!, I laughed it off with an excessively sarcastic response. It hurt, though. On top of feeling exhausted by the demands placed on me as a full-time working mom of a small baby, now I felt old and unattractive.

The next time I saw my hairstylist, I asked if she thought I needed to start coloring my hair. She assured me that the white was really not that noticeable, that it wasn’t worth the cost and maintenance of dyeing it. That was over four years ago. Since then, I have had two more children and become convinced that President Obama’s notable graying over the course of his presidency has nothing to do with the difficulty of the job and everything to do with raising daughters. I’m coming to terms with the hard fact that I cannot tame the gray. My options are to live with it or to begin a decades-long process of covering it up. So where do I go from here?

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I get it, Alex. That’s how I feel about my hair, too.

It’s not that I’m morally opposed to hair dye. Over the years I’ve used drug store box dyes to kick up my color by a shade or two, just for the fun of trying something different. I’ve just never done, you know, the hard stuff. A box of Nice n’ Easy is seven bucks. A full-on dye job at the salon every six weeks or so is a big-time commitment of both time and money. It’s also a statement, on my part, that I am more willing to spend my time and money than I am to sport white hair.

It bothers me how much these white hairs bother me. I want to be above petty vanity. I want to teach my daughters that it’s not their face or hair, but their character that counts most. I want to look around me and see other women boldly making the choice to let nature run its course.  And I know, I know. It’s not such a big deal. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. There are worse vices I could have, and aren’t I being just a little overdramatic by using the word “vice” in the context of coloring my hair? Calm down, Jenny.

It’s just, I think of my daughters’ imperfections. They have birthmarks, exczema, cowlicks. One of them has a patch of hair on her back that may never go away. My wish is that they will be able to embrace these flaws which are not really flaws at all. God made them the way he made them. God gave me daughters and white hair.

And yet I can’t deny it: I want to feel pretty. So I’m bowing to our culture’s ideal of beauty. I already made the appointment. I’m still young, with a lot of life ahead of me, and because I’d like to look that way, it seems that the only thing to do is dye.

Authors Note: Please, reader, forgive the puns. In addition to all of my other weaknesses, I cannot resist a clever (even if annoying) play on words.

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