The Gray Treatment

“Don’t do it!” she warned, her face displaying a mixture of surprise and concern.   “People won’t treat you with respect if you do.”

My young friend’s perspective softened soon after, when she showed me a picture of a not-yet-twentysomething Kardashian sporting a head of long, gray locks. 
So maybe letting my hair revert to its natural—presumably some level of gray—color wouldn’t be as disastrous as she’d initially thought, she concluded.

It was a “transition” I’d been contemplating for several years, but only seriously since I’d passed the half-decade mark.  I’d discussed it with my hairstylist on and off for years, but she’d discouraged me from taking the plunge.  Not that she was a disinterested party to my decision: for years I’d paid her a good chunk of money every four weeks for her skill with scissors and chemical colorants.  But now I’d made my decision—not for any momentous reason—it just felt like the right time.

I called her from the car midway to my monthly date with “medium ash blonde” and said, “I’m on my way but don’t mix up my color. I’m going to LET IT GO.”  Of course, I didn’t say the words in an ominous tone, but saying them still felt significant.  She must have sensed my determination, as she didn’t even question my decision once I sat in her chair.  Together, we planned a shorter-than-normal cut for the much-feared “grow out” stage, then I was in and out of the salon in 20 minutes flat, with a still-damp head and much smaller dent in my checkbook.

Back home, I went straight to the bathroom mirror to check the result and was relieved to see that this first round wasn’t very noticeable.  Over time, as the gray overtook my head, I was initially relieved that people didn’t immediately notice.  Truth be told, once it became clear to me just how gray my hair now was, I was really liking it.  It somehow felt empowering to no longer worry if gray was peeking through.  I started to appreciate when people noticed the change.

And back to my young friend’s concern—has it become reality?  Do I have any sense that people treat me differently now?  Frankly, no—at least not that I’ve noticed.  But maybe the truth is they do, but because I’m happy with the gray, with myself, and with my life in general, it doesn’t matter.  Perhaps there’s real truth behind the old saying, “People will treat you how you let them treat you.”

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