Curling up to Grey: Letting my Freak Flag Fly

Changing your hair can change your life.

A year ago, I made the bold decision to go grey. My hair hasn’t been cooperating, however, mixing grey with brown, tan and white, giving me more the appearance of my dog Lucky, a Yorkshire Terrier/Maltese mix, than the gracefully aging woman I’d envisioned.

That said, I’m far from unhappy. In fact, I’d embarked upon the color change as a kind of grand experiment. In brief, like an increasing number of women at midlife and beyond, I wanted to see what I “really” look like at my age. And, I have to admit, I was hoping somewhere down deep that this wouldn’t turn out to look exactly like my mother, who I didn’t particularly want to resemble.

My going grey was a symbol of not just my curiosity about my real hair color, but about what my real life could look like as I transited into my sixties. How would it be for me if I made my decisions from this point going forward not on the basis of either defying nor surrendering to age and other people’s opinions, but returning to my 1960’s roots—literally—by “letting my freak flag fly.”

I dreaded talking about this with my regular hairdresser, who had both a major investment in as well as judgment about my hair color. When it came time for my next visit to a salon, I followed my intuition into a pleasant enough shop with which I had no history. I relished the freedom of not needing to defend my decision to the young stylist who had a decidedly green strip down the middle of her hair. In fact, her only question to me had nothing to do with my hair color. “Have you thought about going curly?” she asked.


Curly? Not on your life. Not since curly hair had gone out of style some decades back (think Meg Ryan in the 1980’s). Since then, I’d taken extreme measures to ensure that my hair towed the line by going mostly straight, occasionally wavy but never curly. My hair obeyed, but reluctantly. Given the amount of work it endured over the years, pulled straight by rigid brushes beneath the punishing heat of hot irons and fried by chemicals that required rubber gloves, no wonder my compliant hair had finally gone dull and limp.

“Actually, I hadn’t,” I finally replied. “But why are you talking about my curls? Aren’t you, rather, supposed to be talking me out of going gray?”

“Why?” she responded. “Both your curls and your natural color are pretty. Look at how pleasant a shade your ashy roots are, and how nicely they blend into the dyed dark blond hair that is growing out. Your hair is begging us to let it be.”

“Let it be?”

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Carol Orsborn, Ph.D., Fierce with Age
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