Monday 7 May 2018

Why I'm going grey

It was an ordinary Wednesday about 8 years ago. At work, after a busy morning, the afternoon lull had set in, and we were all hanging out around the centre island, cracking jokes and enjoying the downtime. My lashes were bugging me that day, one of them stubbornly poking me into my right eye, and I darted into the bathroom for the fifth time, trying to get it sorted out. Since I was wearing eye shadow and mascara I didn't dare rub my eye without looking in a mirror, for fear I might smear my make-up. For what felt like the thousandth time that day, I cursed having put make-up on.
But I always did, during those days. Not a lot, mind you; I've always been firmly in the 'less-is-more' camp when it comes to my beauty routine. But in those days, I was putting on BB cream, mascara, a touch of eye shadow and some lip gloss every day, just to feel polished enough for work. 

When I came out of the bathroom and rejoined my co-workers, I happened to look at the guy next to me. He was very tall, very pale, and very confident. I took in his pale lashes, receding and greying hairline, one small zit on his chin, and utmost ease with himself, and I had this thought: Guys never have to worry about their face. It's not fair.
But that thought was quickly followed by another, much more exhilarating one: Who says we have to worry about ours?
I was so taken aback by this sudden insight, that I went quiet and didn't rejoin the banter. All I could think about was this: would anything change if I didn't put make-up on tomorrow?
I had no idea - so I decided to give it a try.

Before I let you know how that went, let's backtrack a little. Let's go back in time to 14-year old insecure, hormone-flooded Miriam, who had the most common of teenage ailments, but still felt like she was the only one: acne.
Yup. Me at 14.

I developed acne under my bangs, which may have been mostly the bangs' fault. Also, hormones. And being a teenager. It is a truly awful time in a person's life. 

Anyway, I was very ashamed of my acne. So ashamed that I bought heavy foundation to cover my red and bumpy forehead - and hid the foundation behind the books in my room. I didn't want anyone - not even my family - to know that I "needed" foundation. It felt like I was failing in some important way, seeing that other teenagers managed to get through puberty with perfect, blemish-free skin. If I couldn't be one of them, I could at least pretend I was. 
In my teenage delusion, I thought that if I hid my "deformities" so skillfully that nobody even knew I was hiding my real face, I would be more worthy.

Thankfully, the forehead acne went away as I got older, and at 18, I chopped off all my hair in a moment of recklessness, effectively removing the shield to hide behind. 
It was amazing. I felt strong and liberated, and despite growing my hair back the year after, I would return to my pixie cut again and again over the next 14 years.

I loved it - once in a while, complete strangers would approach me and compliment me on my hair. I liked the ease of short hair, and I appreciated the fact that it made me stand out - but I was worried that if I didn't compensate with make-up and jewelery, it would look like I didn't care about my appearance.
And I cared, a lot. Those were my body-insecurity days, my dieting days, my I-hate-how-I-look days.

Earrings and make-up were a must, then, and the thought of not wearing any armour - no hair to hide behind, no protective layer of make-up to conceal my flaws - was frightening.

So there I was 8 years ago, contemplating to do the unthinkable - go bare-faced out into the world.
And you know what? The world didn't end, nobody said anything, and I'm fairly sure most people didn't even notice. I felt self-conscious at first, but soon, I didn't even think about it any more. Now I'm make-up free more often than not, and my skin has never looked better. I don't know if it's because it can breathe freely most days, but I'd like to think that has something to do with it  😉
I will still put on some mascara occasionally, but I don't need it to feel more confident. Bare face or not, I'm happy in my skin! It's incredibly freeing.

From there, the question whether I was going to continue dying my hair was a natural next step.
I started dying my hair at 14 (after the photo above, which, incidentally, was one of the reasons I started dying my hair in the first place - I was convinced I looked unbearably boring), and I did the box-dye religiously once a month for 8 years straight.
By the time I moved to Canada, the combined stress of turning my life upside down+at least 100 DIY-dye jobs took their toll: my hair started falling out. In the mornings I would wake up to a pillow covered in countless strands of my reddish-auburn hair, a sight that made me die inside a little every morning. Since I was losing my hair (which was shoulder-length at that time), I did what I always did: chop it all off. I also took a lengthy break from dying my hair, rediscovering my natural hair colour again and being pleasantly surprised: it wasn't that bad!

Just like with giving up make-up, I LOVED the new freedom. No more worrying about staining new towels! Not freaking out about being caught in the rain without an umbrella! Being able to get my hair wet when swimming without discolouring my halter bikini (I had a bad experience in 1999), or having to think about whether getting your hair wet was worth the new dye job it would need after. Instead of being spontaneous and carefree, I was always worrying about my hair in the back of my mind. Maybe that's just my type A personality spoiling all the fun, but that's how it was for me.

I enjoyed the hell out of it, because I knew that at some point, I would have to return to dying my hair. Why? Because of greys, of course! No woman this day and age just let her hair go grey naturally, did she? No, of course not. That would signal getting old and undesirable, not caring about one's appearance (and every successful woman should, right?), and the worst offense of all: admitting defeat.
Surely, we have to "fight aging" with everything we're worth? A little Botox here, a little tweak there, monthly salon-appointments (because no self-respecting woman will still use $10-box dyes), and regular rejuvenating facial treatments.

But the older I get, the more confident I grow. And the more rebellious. You want to tell me that grey hair isn't sexy as hell? Let me show you
I want to become this woman. Utterly comfortable in her own skin, her own style, doing her thing. There are SO many more things I want to do: write more books, take more photos, raise more puppies, help advancing Lyme Disease diagnosis and treatment, swim in lakes (wet hair and all!), welcome friends into our little home, read thousands of books, gaze at the stars, work in my sweet hospital I love so much.
There is no time for worrying about greying hair.
I will turn grey loud and proud, too busy with far more important stuff than what other people may think of my "lack of self-care".
I'm caring for myself in all the important ways.  

For so long, I thought that going grey means giving up. 
Now I know that it's the opposite: it means to finally live fearlessly.

That's why I'm going grey. 



  1. I too am embracing the grey! I am in my late forties and it's just starting to come in now. I have long hair and I am excited to see how it's going to look!
    Oh, and I finished your book yesterday. LOVED IT! :)

    1. Oh that makes me so happy! Thank you Phoenix!!
      I'm 38, and I'm starting to get a few greys, and I'm loving it more than I expected I would! They look like fancy highlights lol

  2. I love my gray! I have a nice stripe going on in the front which is what I always wanted as a little girl- LOL

    1. It's cool to see how we change over time, isn't it? I love it way more than I expected I would!

  3. Thanks for sharing this with us, Miriam! Now I feel that much closer to making the decision to let my gray be gray. I've been coloring my hair for the past 8 or 10 years, because I'm "too young to go gray". (I'm a grandma, for crying out loud. I'm not that young! ha ha) I've been forced to avoid coloring recently due to illness, and the grays have been bugging me...but at the same time, I'm thinking more and more about embracing them. Maybe I really CAN do it! :)


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