Where Have All the Gray-Haired Ladies Gone?

Embracing age in a youth-obsessed culture
Where Have All the Gray-Haired Ladies Gone?
Image: ANUKA M/FLICKR

I was 39 when my daughter started kindergarten. Elise’s enthusiasm for her new friends led me to volunteer as a chaperone for the pumpkin patch field trip. I chatted with other parents as the children scurried through the classroom putting toys away and grabbing jackets from wall hooks.

Then it happened. The question.

“It's so great you can help,” the young mom started. “Is Elise your granddaughter?”

A sledgehammer would have been a softer blow.

“No, she is my daughter.” I smiled but felt every gray-haired root dig deeper into my scalp.

The woman winced. I squirmed. It was grossly uncomfortable. I had failed the age-defiance goal of our culture.

The Choice

Years before when silver began to sparkle among my sable browns, I made a conscious choice: I would not color my hair. At the time, I served as a church youth director. My constant mantra to our teens was how precious and perfectly-made they were. In his own sovereign and all-knowing ways, God chose their body shape, freckles, eye color, and yes, hair color. As I considered my own graying hair, it felt hypocritical to laud the divine design in each teen while trying to negate God’s choice for me.

A few more years passed. I don't know when the grays began to outnumber the browns on my head, but I do recall when the message and mantra of God's creative design started to really feel personal. It was the day my daughter was born. I wanted my daughter to deeply grasp her own beauty and perfection in the eyes of God. Whether shopping from the girls' plus-size clothing racks or taming her fizzy curls, I felt it was critical for my daughter to be comfortable with her body. And instead of mimicking a single ideal, I wanted my daughter to embrace the uniqueness in every person she encountered. I began to realize how important it was for me to embody and exemplify the truth that my body, graying hair included, is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Why I’ve Gone Gray

I'm now 54 years old. I do not know if any sable browns remain on my head. But when I am with a group of women my age and older, I have noticed a puzzling trend: blonde, brunette, and ginger colors crown the heads of most of my peers. Typically, there are only one or two other silver-haired women present in a room. Where have all the gray-haired ladies gone?

Hair color frequently surfaces as a topic of conversation. Other women wistfully and sincerely compliment my graying tresses. Then, alas, they explain how the color “does not work” for them. They lament the time and expense of hair dye, but resign themselves to its continued place in their life.

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May 25

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