The word ‘stigma’ usually conjures up feelings of shame and embarrassment; well at least it does for me. A stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person. We hear about the stigma of mental illness, the stigma of obesity, divorce and other events in our lives. We think other people are judging us for the failure of our marriage or because we had to take anti depressants to get over the failure of our marriage. I have lived with a few stigmas, and they were mostly all in my head.
My latest stigma is on my head.
It’s my hair you see. I haven’t dyed it in exactly one year.
I know that many will think that making an issue out of going grey is frivolous and silly in this age where ISIS is making chaos in the world and Donald Trump is rampant (that’s all I’m going to say about Donald Trump).
But it’s a big thing for me and for anyone who has gone through this ‘transition’. These days many young people are dyeing their hair grey because it’s fashionable. Even my 18-year-old niece has beautiful grey locks that she has to take care of on a regular basis. So the young people become grey in a couple of hours, for me it will take a couple of years. They don’t live with the stigma of going grey, but I just might.
And then I look at photos of EmmyLou Harris whose grey hair is just stunning, and I know why I want to do this. Not that I aspire to look like EmmyLou Harris…
I have a 22 year history with the stigma of letting my hair go grey.
My 40th birthday came at a tumultuous time in my life…I was three months pregnant with my third child. An old friend said to me, “Chris, you’ve got to keep dyeing your hair because no one wants to see a grey haired pregnant woman.” Aside from the fact that I had only a few grey hairs at the time, I took her words to heart. Later on that same day I was in the mall and I saw a greeting card in the window of a shop. It said, “Come on, there are worse things than being 40.” I entered the shop to see what on earth could be worse than being 40. I opened the card and it said, “You could be pregnant!”
I took my dyed hair home and cried.
My 50th birthday saw me with the mahogany hair color that was prevalent in Quebec at the time. I had thought of stopping the dye then, and I don’t know why I didn’t; maybe subconsciously I knew it was the wrong time. When I turned 51 my 21-year marriage was falling apart and I figured that being a 51-year-old divorced woman with grey hair would not serve me well.
So I continued to die dye.
When I turned 60 I decided to stop the nonsense once and for all. I made the announcement at my 60th birthday dinner with my three grown sons present. My husband was not for it; the guys all said it would make me look old.
I answered, “I am old.” However they and everyone else convinced me to keep dyeing.
I really didn’t want to be putting dye into my hair for the rest of my life and so one year ago (another two years after the family declaration) I decided that it was time. I decided not to care what anyone else thought; what I wanted was more important.
So I joined a Facebook support group (what would we ever do without Facebook?) and I started the transition. Since then I’ve had people tell me that I would never be able to do it, that I’d cave when the roots got about two inches long. I’ve had people tell me that it looks good on me but they could never do it because it wouldn’t suit them. And I’ve had my hairdresser try to convince me to put grey highlights to soften the blow. I ignored them all.
It has now been one year since I have dyed my hair. I can honestly say that I love my natural color! Also, my hair is much healthier, shinier and suits me better than at any time when I dyed it. It’s not even all grown out yet and I get compliments on the color all the time! Going grey doesn’t feel so much like a stigma any more; its more like a badge of honor: I earned it.