Ripples: The Ongoing Effects of Going Grey

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Ripples. You know, like when you chuck a small stone into a pool of water, and the concentric circles spread and spread, away from the original spot where the stone landed? The effects of going grey have been like that for me. Lots of ripples. It’s not just about hair anymore, my friends.

I know I’ve been writing about this a lot. And maybe you’re sick of reading about going grey, tired of my navel gazing when it comes to my hair. But this whole hair thing has turned into so much more than I ever thought it would. I touched on this in a post I wrote about trying to change my make-up to go with my changing hair. I said that I wasn’t really looking for advice on how I might change up my make-up, or even whether I should let my hair go white or not. That I was mostly just recording the process, and at the same time processing it, so to speak.

As I said in that post: “My hair journey became a journey of self-acceptance for me. I’m sixty-four. And whether I have white hair or not white hair, and more colour in my face or not, I’ll still be sixty-four. And I’m good with that.”

This journey, of course, started long before the lockdown forced me to live for months with my widening swath of white roots. I first wrote a post about whether to go grey or not back in 2016. Back then I fussed, and fretted, and debated, and sought inspiration just like I did this year. Except back then I decided I wasn’t ready. But this year, it seems, I am.

My old friend Debbie and me back in 1969. In the photo booth at Zeller's in Fredericton.
Debbie and me, way back in 1969

I had a lovely long chat with my old friend Debbie on the phone yesterday. Took me right back to grade eight when we used to talk on the phone for hours. We can still talk the leg off an iron pot, that’s for sure. Hubby came in after an hour and asked if we were STILL talking. We were.

We talked about hair a lot. Debbie’s been transitioning to grey as well. And for her it’s been a longer process than for me. One she began a couple of years ago when the grey roots of her dark brown hair became so annoying that she went blonde all over. Until this winter when a savvy new stylist suggested she let her roots grow out, get a much shorter cut, ditch the warm blond, and start getting cool, platinum highlights instead. So much better, Deb told me. Because with her dark hair and pale skin, she’d always looked better in cool colours. She couldn’t believe the difference, and she loves it. Now her hair seems to go with her face, with her natural cool colouring, and she can wear the colours she always used to love.

Back in 1989, I brushed my hair back off my face. Here on the ferry to P.E.I.
Swept back hair in 1989.

Once Debbie and I had updated each other on our going grey progress we lapsed into more philosophical musing. How the effects of going grey have been like ripples in a pond for each of us. How going grey has affected how we wear make-up, of course. What we wear. And for me, what I want to wear. But also how we feel about being sixty-four. And having grey hair. Or in my case white.

Back in May, once my silver roots started showing, I liked them much better against my face than my faded blonde and brown colour. So I started sweeping my hair back off my face, to show the roots. How’s that for irony? All the time and money I’ve spent over the years hiding my roots and now I wanted to show them off. Ha. I wore my hair back off my face for years and years when I was much younger. My hair naturally goes that way. Then straightening irons and product allowed me to wear my hair brushed forward. Now, I’m kind of done with all that.

My brushed back hair now that I'm going grey, or white.
Swept back hair redux.

And as I told Debbie yesterday on the phone, now that a lot of my old colour has been cut off, and I am mostly white, I’ve been feeling a weird sort of shift. As if the ripples from the stone I chucked in that pond are lapping against my feet. I feel strangely different. Less worried about my hair and my outfit being perfect. Less worried about my appearance being… well… perfect.

I asked her, “Remember how I always had to have every hair in place? A tidy crease in my jeans? Everything kind of perfect?” There was no response. “Do you remember that, Deb? Debbie?” Then I heard her sputter, and gasp. She was laughing. I guess she knows me too well to even have to ask that question. I don’t mean to say that I ever did look perfect. Just that I was always kind of obsessed with neatness, and tidiness, and every hair in place.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve not given up trying to look good, or abandoned make-up and planning outfits. Not at all. Just that I seem to be leaning towards a more relaxed vibe. I feel drawn to a more louche, more easy, and edgy kind of chic. I know that this shift started when I retired, and I stopped wearing business wear. But this latest hair transition seems to have moved that process along a wee bit more. I’ve worn outfits these last couple of weeks that, in the past, I’ve tried on, cringed at my reflection, and taken off again. Why did they seem kind of cool to me now? I can’t explain it except to say that they suddenly looked “like me.” And that somehow I just feel more me. And more happy to be me, if that makes any sense.

I follow Linda Wright on Instagram, and I know lots of you probably do too. I love her chic, easy style. How she seems so comfortable in her clothes. So comfortable in her own skin. I adore the little videos she posts of her OOTD. Of her walking along some street in Paris, gently swinging her arms, or in some videos swinging her bag. Smiling at whoever is taking the video.

Have a look.

View this post on Instagram

Don’t you just love that first day of spring when the weather is warm enough to put on sandals? Well, today was that glorious day in Paris. There is just something worth celebrating when this day finally arrives each year. Perhaps this year more than others we are all waiting for signs that frees up our quarantined spirit. This little stroll down avenue George V was my way of documenting the moment for me. Please know my mask is in my pant pocket, and I took it off only for this video. My team and I are wearing them religiously in the shop all day long….no break…..even when we are amongst ourselves. Respect for one another and those clients who walk through our doors. I suppose this will be the new norm for a few more weeks. When walking to and from work, I wear mine as well. Obviously with my age being labeled as « At Risk », I adhere to all the safety procedures. I freed up my feet but not the ongoing fear of this damn virus. Aren’t you feeling the need for a little lighter lease on life? Let’s look for some relief even if it’s just in a simple pleasure. Too bad I can’t go barefoot or I would!!! Maybe you can? P.S. Details of my look starting from the top 1) sunglasses from @therow. 2) necklace from the magnificent @marie.lichtenberg. I lust after all her creations. Lusting is a good thing!!! 3) last year’s scarf from @ilovepero. 4) shirt from my shop but this color no longer exits so Sorry, Girls. 5) really old printed silk pant from @maisonvalentino. 6) brand new bag that just arrived in my shop from @guanabanahandmade. 7) my fave sandals in the whole wide world from @rondini_officiel.

A post shared by Linda Wright (@lindavwright) on

Now here’s my point. Linda’s walk epitomizes, for me, how I’ve been feeling since my haircut a couple of weeks ago. Easy, happy, comfortable in my own skin. Now, if only I could learn to walk like that. Ha.

So, I guess we’ll see how this whole hair thing plays out. When the ripples finally peter out. And what the eventual effect of going grey, or white, will be. On my psyche. And on my style. To be honest, I’m wondering if the visible effects, besides the hair itself that is, are so subtle that others won’t even notice. And maybe my style is not changing the way I feel it is. Maybe I’m imagining it.

And besides the obvious change to my hair, maybe all the other stuff is on the inside.

What about you my friends? Any outward changes lately that have altered your inner landscape?

P.S. You can follow Linda on Instagram here.

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42 thoughts on “Ripples: The Ongoing Effects of Going Grey”

  1. I’m growing out my gray as well and feel the same way – an easiness in my skin. I’m also feeling brave, which is new to me when it comes to my hair.

  2. Don’t think you are imagining it. It’s a transition. I’ve been going through a similar transition–not hair (turned silver a long time ago)–but weight loss; a fairly significant amount lost since February so that none of my clothes fit. Great. Finally dropped at least three sizes and I can’t even go shopping to try on clothes to figure out a size or what fits. (Wish I’d met up with Liz at the Book Party.) But here’s the similarity to your situation–I’m not sure how I view myself now. What is my style if I no longer feel the need to cover up the me who was heavier? How am I perceiving myself? What styles will fit me (in more ways than one)? Frankly, hardly anyone has seen me, so most don’t even know about the weight loss as I haven’t really talked about it with anyone. (Though I saw my doc today and she was delighted.) At any rate, your ongoing inner dialogue about the effects/impact of change resonates with me. And it isn’t simply about the visuals.

    1. It’s not that I think I’m imagining how I feel. But that anyone else will notice a difference in me beyond my hair. I guess I think that I’m wearing my heat on my sleeve, when maybe it’s all inside. What fun you will have when the stores open. A good shopping mentor like Liz is very valuable. But maybe you won’t need anything more but your own eye. The transition to seeing yourself differently is hard… but can be fun too.

  3. So glad that you are feeling so many positive effects from going gray. Sounds to me like it’s a matter of feeling comfortable in your own skin, including your age. I am several years older than you, and when people jokingly pretend that I’m younger, like on a birthday, my standard response is, “I’ve earned every one of these years.” You’ve earned your years, and you’ve earned your self-acceptance.

  4. Looking back, I can see that my transition to silver (12 years ago) was the beginning of embracing graceful aging. I was a petite, brunette with an energetic personality and honestly, I secretly felt like I might be “found out” to be a kid in a woman’s body. My husband, grown children, colleagues and friends thought I was “cute” and “perky”. I liked it. But the transition to grey/silver/white was an outward signal to myself and to others that something was also transitioning within. I think I was beginning to grow into mature wisdom?….grace?….in a non-linear, circuitous fashion.
    While you seem to have a real sense of your own style, Sue, I did not, so mine developed along with the changes that my “real” hair color forced. And truthfully the ripples have continued to expand to meet me all these years later. But I knew intuitively that it was time for this journey – of that, I was certain. Your ruminations about your hair are about……all the things! 🙂 And they serve to remind me of what is important in this world.

    1. So well said. I couldn’t agree more. I think I am going to let my hair go natural (whatever colour that is after all this time?) – and I reserve the right to change my mind! I love reading your ruminations and the comments – it truly is not just about the hair. I think/hope women of our age are refusing to be invisible – or as someone said “Whatever happened to all the old grannys?”.

      1. It is NOT just about the hair. But about how we want to be seen. I may decide that my hair doesn’t reflect me at all. I have no idea. And we should always reserve the right to change our minds… you are totally correct, Kristi.

  5. So much of this resonates, and it’s interesting to note that although I went through much of the curiosity and acceptance around my grey hair when I grew it out five years ago, there is something different happening now during the Staying Home dictated by Covid-19. I’d already been trying to buy fewer clothes these past years what with Slow Fashion, eco-concerns, etc., but now there’s very little desire that needs to be quenched. Not to say that I don’t care what I wear, but I’m finding it so much easier to be happy with what I already have (which is already ridiculously sufficient, by any reasonable standards excepting our Western consumerism, truly). I’ve simplified skin care and make-up significantly — I do miss the facials I’d intended to make a regular practice this year (although truly, more for help managing the upper lip and chin intruders than anything else). Similarly, I would love the toenail trimming and cuticle care of a good pedicure, but don’t especially mind doing without the nail colour (and need to maintain it). Not going to revert completely to my Inner Hippie, but I’m quite pleased to give her more room to saunter that easy walk. Something like Linda Wright’s. . 😉

    1. I’m the same. I don’t miss my facials or my pedicures much. Probably because I only went to either a couple of times a year. I do my own at home the rest of the time. I hold my hand up to buying quality ( aka expensive) skincare products though, so I can have that masque etc etc every week. I’m not where you are in not shopping though. Gosh… I miss shopping.

  6. Wendy in York

    Can I be honest . I don’t see this as a grey issue , certainly not for me . My hair is more than half grey now , not white , a very mixed grey . It may improve . The overdue cut next week might help but I’m still on that fence . I do admire women with perfect grey hair but I also see women with perfect , skillfully dyed hair & admire them too . Aside from that I am far more accepting of the aging process than I thought I would be – even the wrinkles . I have never been a high maintenance woman . Yes , I love expressing myself in my clothes & hope it always gives me pleasure but pedicures , manicures , massages & facials leave me cold . So many things I’m happier doing . I have to smile wryly at bloggers who espouse natural hair whilst going down the Botox & even facial surgery route – & the amount some of them spend on clothes etc is staggering to me . I haven’t totted up what Linda W spent on her simple , relaxed outfit ! It’s up to individual choice I know & it must be tricky to grow old in some circles but we are all so much more than our reflection in the mirror . So really I’m agreeing with you here . We should be more relaxed about the changes coming along & not fret about it .

    1. You can always be honest, Wendy. 🙂 I will admit that I have felt the pressure to go grey at times over the years. It seems to be the thing to do. And so I resisted. I hate being told what to do. No one was more surprised than me that I like my silver.

  7. The combination of grey hair, cut short means that I never really think about my hair at all after the daily brush and tidy and can just get on with my day. However, I do know exactly what you mean about moving differently; a good few years ago, post breast-reduction surgery, I simply went out and walked without worrying at all about how I looked/whether I fitted/whether people would comment. But it turned out that lots of people had never noted this aspect of me in the first place. Comfortable in my own head was the long-term result.

  8. I get it! It’s been a transition from thinking of myself as YOUNG to thinking of myself as OLDER and authentic and healthy. I don’t wear nearly as much makeup as I used to, as now it seems like painting an old barn–some help, but mostly just settling into the sags. Like you, my color preferences have changed too. By the way, I love your hair!!

  9. I almost never comment on blogger post – to each his own, take what you need and leave the rest. But your post here really struck a chord with me and I felt I had to share my thoughts. How terribly vain of me, right? As though the world was waiting for me to pull out the laptop and type away. Hah!
    I truly believe that this is not about how you, or anyone else, looks with gray hair or dyed hair or straight hair or curly. For the record, I am 62, have dyed brown hair with caramel highlights and it is a naturally curly mop. What I am reacting to is the idea that as women age, we become increasingly invisible to society and our appearance can enhance or even accelerate that process. We might wear less makeup, let our hair go white, take less care with what we wear, switch to sensible shoes, and suddenly we blend in to the walls with tone on tone beige t-shirt and capri pants with sneakers. I want women our age to be noticed and noticeable, proud of the wisdom and experience we have amassed over the years, ready to have society embrace us because we will not be overlooked, part of the backdrop, invisible. I don’t want comfort to be the only reason I dress or style my hair or do my face. I want to be a part of the conversation of my community and for that reason, I must not become invisible. Just saying, watch out for the slippery slope.

    1. I hear you. At 62 I too had blonde and brown hair with highlights and lowlights. Transitioning over the years to have more highlights to cover the white roots. But my roots had been bothering me for years. Carmen has tried numerous shades to disguise them on top. And after three weeks they always peeked through on my short sides and back. When the lockdown began I was adamant that I was going to get them covered up as soon as I could. And was surprised that I began to like the colour. But that doesn’t mean I plan to take less care with what I wear. I feel that I want to change up what I wear a little. Not everything, but some things. Still love sneakers and tee shirts (although NOT capri pants :)). I still want to be part of the conversation, too. But not everyone does. Sometimes I wonder if women who don’t care what they wear now that they are older, never much cared what they wore. For whatever reason.
      P.S. I still remember that you told me in a comment once about idolizing Peggy Lipton as a girl. Me too!

  10. I’ve been “going grey” since high school. My hair was originally nearly black. The grey hair didn’t show in photos until I was in my late 30s , but you could sure see it in person! I have never coloured it as it is a badge of honour in my family. We all grey early and each of us has a different shade from white to silver to pewter and salt/pepper. The texture of my hair changes as more grey arrives so I get an updated “do” from Mother Nature. I’ve always loved it , my husband does and so do my kids. sometimes, I call it Canadian Blonde . (vs. California Blonde).
    Enjoy your new colour !

    1. My friend Krista has long had a fabulous grey streak in her dark brown hair. And still only in her mid-forties, is now embracing even more grey streaks. Looks great on her.

  11. When I had to change my footwear (I miss my ballerina flats much more than heels and I’ve had such beautiful shoes),I’ve changed my style a lot.I first started to play with colours and textures of my ankle boots ,trainers and sandals (and as they lacked in ladylikeness,they were in all the colours – though black prevailed in ankle boots,to be honest-and variations two or three strap sandals could give :-)) and very rare,shoes. It led from fitted jackets,trousers and dresses to more casual style….luckily,the fashion followed my path, eventually (like ” ugly sandals”…)
    So,I can relate and understand,a lot of things in life are changing with something like hair colour decision. But,the change is good,after/if we connect with it deeply,than the real joy and play begins….. And lucky you with your gorgeous hair!
    I love Linda,too,she’s a gem
    Dottoressa

    1. I thought your footwear was so cool when we saw each other last fall. But forced change is never welcome, I can understand that. I hope those beautiful ballerina flats went to a good home. 🙂 xo

  12. As my roots grew out, I was actually quite disappointed to find out that my current natural color is very much salt-and-pepper, and not a nice version of that. My mom was pretty much completely silver by my age (62 – I can pin this because DH and I got married when she was 61 so I can just look back at wedding pix), and I was rather hoping to be closer to that, at which point I might have gone with some version of that (probably added platinum highlights ala your friend Debbie).

    But alas, I’m back to highlights and lowlights over a dark blonde base. I had my color done last Thursday (my hairdresser is a single woman shop and has good protocols, so I felt good about my visit), and on Monday they closed the hairdressers here in LA again, so I squeaked in under the wire!

    1. Carol,
      My natural hair color was light brown/dark blonde. Quite drab, actually, so I began highlighting it in my 20’s to give it some life. I’m in my 60’s now and it’s mainly gray – an unattractive, steely color that is jarring with my warm-toned skin. If it were silver or white, I’d gladly stop coloring and highlighting it, but after my long-awaited cut and color appointment, I knew I’d made the right decision for me. I totally understand your situation! Sue, I think your hair is gorgeous!

      1. Thanks, Elizabeth. That’s why I resorted to highlights in my twenties, my red tones had faded and my hair was a mousey light brown. I was lucky that I liked the natural colour of my grey/white. If I hadn’t I would have coloured it again at the drop of a hat.

      2. My base in my mid-20s was a nice-on-its-own medium brown, but it absolutely deadened my skintone. I’ve been with my same hairdresser (except for the two years we spent in Salem, MA) since then, and went to her because she had a great reputation for color. And then I discovered it was well-earned!

    2. Oh, you are lucky. My friend Debbie had her hair cut only a day or so before the shutdown back in the spring. I can imagine if we’d shut down again before I’d been able to get a cut I was going to have to resort to headbands and scrunchies to hold back my hair.

  13. Leslie in Oregon

    The you in the above photograph captioned “Swept back hair redux.” looks more like what I imagine to be you than any other photograph of you I have seen in five years of reading your posts. It’s not just your (beautiful) hair color or the fact that it is swept back; its everything about your face too. You look like a vibrant, intelligent, compassionate, adventurous-in-her-own-way, lovely person who is relishing her inner imp. 😉

  14. I believe that you look fresher and softer. The rosy colour of your lovely complexion is more noticeable. Changes are good! For me, the worse part of going gray, is that some people think it’s ok to call me dear or hon. Grrrr. Lol. I want to reply with ‘thanks sweetie’.

    1. Thanks, Lynn. I think it will take me a while to get used to being white haired. I haven’t been out and about much so I am interested to see if treatment from strangers is any different.

  15. I’ve followed your blog for several years. I’ve never commented but felt compelled to tell you that I love your grey hair. At first I thought you had dyed it platinum blonde. It’s such a pretty shade of grey. It looks fabulous on you!!

  16. I’m a little late to the party, but thanks for this analogy. I’m on the edge of retirement and dealing with some unexpected mood swings during the transition. Now I’m going to visualize them as ripples and know that it’s okay.

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