A Generation X Gray-haired Journey

031015_GenXGrayJourneyPeople tend to think I’m older than I am. Even some of my fellow Generation X friends tell me that they often forget that I’m in my early thirties. I’ve always been an old soul, but there are several other factors influencing my perceived age. First of all, I am married to a man who is almost 11 years older than I am and I have three stepchildren ages 11, 14, and 16. If I saw a similar family of five out at a restaurant, I would assume that both parents were in their forties. Especially if the woman was sporting a full head of naturally gray hair, like I do. Gray hair at 33? Yes. Gray hair at 33! But…

“You’re too young to go gray!”

“Aren’t you afraid of looking old?”

“Gray hair will age you!”

Those are just a few of the comments that I heard when I decided to stop dying my hair a few years ago. My answers to those quoted above? I am NOT too young to go gray, since my hair is naturally gray. No, I’m not at all afraid of looking old, nor do I feel that having gray hair will age me.

My motivation to quit the dye was no more than curiosity. I wondered what my hair would look like au naturale. In fact, I thought that my age would actually help me to pull off the look. I also knew that if I didn’t like it, I could race right back to my stylist and I’d be a brunette again within an hour.

Shortly after deciding to ditch the dye, I also had my chin-length bob cut into a very short pixie cut. My attitude was that the sooner I could see the results, the happier I would be. So, there I was…with short gray hair. I was scoffing at not one but two societal norms for women. Personally, I think that going against societal norms can be an act of bravery. So, feeling quite brave, I decided that I would treat my new look like a sociological experiment. How would the world react to me and treat me as a short-haired and gray-haired woman in my thirties?

The answer? Overwhelmingly Positive! The good news for anyone who is thinking of going gray is that strangers have never been rude to me about my gray hair. I’ve gotten job offers, made new friends, and I’ve even been hit on all while having gray hair. In my experience, the negative comments come from those closest to you, who fear the connotation that accompanies gray hair. My current piece of advice for those thinking of ditching the dye and embracing the gray is to just be confident and certain in your choice. I don’t think that my positive experience is atypical, but I have also come up with a great retort for anyone who feels the need to express negativity about my hair. I just say, in a very kind and sincere way, “Thank you for sharing your opinion about my hair,” and I leave it at that.

I’ve always gotten compliments on my hair, thanks to my amazing hair stylist, but almost immediately, I started receiving more compliments than I ever did before. It seemed like almost every chatty cashier had a positive comment for me. Hostesses and servers would say something to me at almost every restaurant I would dine in. Even fellow shoppers would make eye-contact with me across the clothing racks and say, “I love your hair!” or “Your highlights are really cool!” I quickly realized that people were not only complimentary, but also very curious. During prolonged conversations, like at my nail salon and at a friend’s baby shower, I would be asked if my hair color was natural or if I highlighted it with white streaks.

Of course, I had some interesting interactions too. The owner of a local liquor store said to me, “I’m not sure if I should check your ID or not. Your face says I should, but your hair says otherwise!” My favorite interaction by far was with a TSA agent at the airport. He looked at my driver’s license, looked up at me, looked back down, and then back up and said, “You dyed your hair!” My reply? “Nope! I un-dyed it!”

Yes, I’m an old-souled thirty-something and I absolutely love the things that make people think I’m older: my forty-something husband, my teenage stepchildren, and my head of gray hair. If people think I’m older than I am, that’s OK…but, I still appreciate the bouncers and the bartenders that ask to see my ID. I’m confident and proud, but it sure is nice to still get carded every once and awhile!

– Raychel Robbins