Fifty Shades of Gray ….. but not What You are Thinking


It is nice that in these days and times people have more options when it comes to hairstyles. I would have loved to have had the blue or pink streaks added to my hair when I was young. Much to my family’s delight this idea was not invented until I was too old to do so, or at least, felt I was.  It is nice to see some women let their hair be their natural gray at earlier ages as well. It is nice that we have choices and I applaud choices. In the spring of 2013 I decided that I would let my hair go completely natural which for me would be several shades of gray. Not 50 shades of gray-just regular salt and pepper gray.

There were many reasons for the decision to go natural.  Over the years I started to develop an allergic reaction to the chemicals. Different stylist tried different methods that worked for awhile but I always seemed to become sensitive again. People have asked me if I decide to go gray because we are going cruising. I have heard and read that people find ways to continue hair treatments and haircuts while cruising so this did not worry me. I’m sure if I really wanted to continue coloring my hair I would find a way to do it. I guess in all honesty I simply felt that for me, it was time.

Anyone who knows me will attest that I research things before I leap. I found that salt and pepper are actually various shades of charcoal gray and gray to light gray and white. I read about the various ways to let your hair be natural and how best to get there. I was intrigued.

The most common recommendation is to cut your hair as short as you can stand it in order to cut the processed color out and have the natural gray grow.  I really do not look good with short hair and I prefer to put my hair up in the summer. Actually, it is almost a necessity due to heat and humidity. Rather than go the short hairccut route my plan was to gradually go lighter in color with each visit to the salon.  The idea was to have my hair go through a progression from dark brown to blond and then let the gray grow out and cut out the blond over time. That way there would not be a stark difference.  Yep, everything looks and sounds good on paper. Let’s see how fate and life tests the theory.

When I informed my former stylist of my plan she told me I would look washed out, old and would have stark white hair if I let my hair go natural. Note the word “former” in that sentence. This upset me because even I could see what she was saying was not true. I searched and found a stylist who said she understood what I wanted to do and was happy to help. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the salon the stylist with whom I had the appointment had left early unexpectedly. A different stylist was set up to see me instead. Unfortunately, her English was about as good as my Russian so somewhere along the way the communication became mixed up and the plan on paper went awry. Or, got shredded, however you want to look at it.

The foils were removed, the hair was washed and I was pointed toward the chair and the mirror. I am very familiar with the workings of a mirror but surely there was something wrong with this one. I could see someone sitting there but where was I? Oh, crap, that big blond blob is me. Crap.

The new, substitute stylist changed my very dark brunette hair to very blond. The best way to describe it was Barbie Doll Blond. Yeah, so much for the slow progression that no one will notice. More like gasps from friends and, “What the heck happened to your hair.”  Did I mention some started falling out? My well researched plan of not having to explain to everyone what I was doing was now the topic of most conversations. Customers did not recognize me, friends did not recognize me, and my friend’s dog who loves me ran the opposite direction. In the end it went like this, “Ok, when you look for me in the restaurant you will not recognize me. My hair is now very blond. Don’t ask.” …Ugh….

Besides having to go into a long, “Why my hair looks like a Barbie doll” and answer, “No, Mark did not change his name to Ken” explanations to friends, co-workers and customers, I had to decide what to do next. So maybe this was not the natural progression I had envisioned but there we were and time to make the best of it. So, like anything else in life, plan B was formed.

The new plan was to start letting the salt and pepper take over while cutting out the blond at each salon visit. Lots of layers were added to get there faster. Yeah, I counted those days and looked forward to those appointments like they were the ice cream sundae at the end of a long diet. On a positive note, no more coloring and highlights just haircuts. YEA! And no more 4 hour visits to the salon, just a quick wash, trim, blow dry and I was done. Not to mention the money I was saving. After 5 months my hair was its natural colors. An array of shades of grays from dark to light and some white as well.  I guess it goes along with all the other changes in life that come after 50. Just another one of the many life changes and decisions we make as we age.

So, long story short, for someone who claims to be low maintenance, this was a very long process (pun intended) but in the end I am happy with all my shades of gray and how much easier it is to care for. If any of this helps anyone else go through the process more successfully it will make me very happy.

PS: Mark said I needed to add a picture so I have added a chart of the different  shades of gray….I am pretty sure this is not what he meant.

Shades of Gray

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