So, I was social distance walking (SDWing) with my friend Tina in our subdivision the other day. We’d just reached the halfway mark when a perky SUV slowed down beside us. I quickly recognized it was my extremely friendly neighbor, the same one who brings me fresh rhubarb every summer, the same one who shoots down mistletoe for me so I can use it as decoration for New Year’s Eve.
So, I was all smiles when he pulled up.
“Hey, Tara, you getting ready to sign up for Social Security?”
Confused, I social distance leaned in (SDLI).
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Are you getting ready to sign up for Social Security?”
Then he rubbed his hair with his hand.
And then, aghast, I realized he was joking. Joking about my head full of grey hair.
Tina started laughing. My neighbor was all toothy grin.
“Oh god!” I said and started to laugh too. As he drove away, I immediately turned to Tina.
“Can you really tell that much?” I said. “I thought that because I had it pulled back, you couldn’t really tell.”
“Umm, you can tell,” Tina said.
During happy hour that night, I told my husband William the story, and he stared at me for a long minute.
“So, let me get this straight,” he said. “You thought that, because you had your hair in a bun, no one could see your head? Did you think that made it invisible?”
“I mean, I thought, because you couldn’t see the stark contrast in colors as much, no one would really notice.”
“But it’s grey.”
“Yeah, but it’s tied back. And I’ve been walking past people pretty quickly during the pandemic, so I didn’t think it was registering.”
He shook his supersmart doctor head.
“Be honest with me,” he said. “Did you get fooled when Clark Kent put on his glasses? Did you forget that he was really Superman?”
I started laughing.
“You have grey hair and, lately, you have this orangish-brownish bun that sits on top of it. Just so you know.”
So there you have it, dear readers. My secret is out: I am a 43-year-old, grey-haired woman. The pandemic made me do it.
First, let’s just applaud the fact that I am surrounded by people who tell me the truth. I’ve found, in my 43 years of life, that not much useful comes from sugarcoating and I’ll take straightforward over sweet every time. So, cheers to that.
I was not so quick to toast to the fact, however, that I have grey hair at all. It’s a process that started when I was 18 — I remember exactly where I was when I saw my first grey: washing my hands in the washroom at The Hudson’s Bay Company in Polo Park Mall — and one I’ve been fighting ever since.
Luckily, I have a masterful hairdresser, Kathy, who has hidden my secret for years. Yes, I had to go in for The Big Paint every five weeks or so to keep up the charade, but it was something I was handily able to do.
Until, of course, we were struck by a global pandemic. Back in January, Kathy had started a complicated process of lightening my hair, with the ultimate goal of me eventually being golden blond. I was absolutely in love with the result, even though it took nearly two hours.
Well, after the pandemic hit, William and I decided we would mitigate our risk by staying home as much as possible. Which included sitting in a salon chair for two hours. I politely had to tell Kathy I wouldn’t be able to see her for who knows how long. I then pleaded with her not to break up with me.
(By the way, no judgement if you’re still going to the salon! It’s just not right for me right now.)
So, since I have absolutely no skill in dyeing my own hair — and am certainly not going down the road of asking my husband to do it for me — my option was to just let the grey go and wear ballcaps as much as possible.
For the past seven months, I’ve made sure not to take any photos of myself because I didn’t want to “commit” to having grey hair. As if grey hair hadn’t already committed to me.
Over time, I realized that, for the entirety of my life, I’ve been told that once you go grey, you can’t go back; once the secret is out, it’s out. Except, interestingly, I was already attempting to go for a blond look, which I have never had, so I was already asking people to believe that I was suddenly honey-headed. Same goes for when people dye their hair red or even blue for a while. None of us believes the person has suddenly started sprouting blue hair and we don’t fault them when they go back to their natural color.
So, why is grey the point of no return? I suppose it’s because we associate grey hair with being old and once people think you’re old, you can no longer be young. Except. I don’t consider myself old — or at least geriatric. I simply have prematurely grey hair.
I’m here to admit that I do have grey hair. I may stick with it. I may pursue the Blondes Have More Fun Project when I can get back to the salon. But so far, dear, sweet neighbor, I have not applied for Social Security.