These two ladies had their first day of school in Germany yesterday. Back in September, I pointed out that given their age difference, this is the only year the two will attend the same school together. That remains true even here in Germany since the middle and elementary schools are in the same building. That won’t be the case next year when a new elementary building opens up, but for now, a little unexpected blessing allowing these two to face all of this change together. Continue reading →
[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]D[/dropcap]uring our farewell tour in Cincinnati last week, my boys and I paid a visit to Union Terminal. It opened in 1932, and was one of the busiest locations in the whole city as all the train transportation for this area passed through it. And as all superhero and comic book fans may recognize, it was also the inspiration for the “Hall of Justice.”
These days, it doesn’t receive nearly as much train traffic, and is known as the Cincinnati Museum Center since it houses three separate and distinct museums. The place is amazing, and while we were there in Cincinnati, voters in Hamilton County overwhelmingly supported an issue that will raise taxes to pay for the upkeep and preservation of the building.
We were so excited by that news! Not only did I work there in high school as a performer in the Natural History museum, but my Dad is now an official volunteer there, too.
That place feels like home.
So, Martin, Jaz, and I paid a visit while the girls spent time with Nona and Aunt Jill.
Once we got there, we went straight to Tower A, which wasn’t open to the public when I was younger. You can see all the train tracks from there, and they’ve restored a lot of it. The views are amazing, and Jaz loved the toy train sets set up there for visitors.
After hanging around there for a little bit, we connected with my Dad who invited us back down into the main hall. The whole building was constructed in the Art Deco style, and it’s half-dome is amazing. It’s bright yellow, and there are colorful stone murals depicting the early days and evolution of Cincinnati. The acoustics are spectacular, and every now and then, an organ plays music to echo in the halls.
As soon as Jaz walked into the room, the organ began to play “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss — also known as the theme to Space Odyessy: 2001.
Now, you may know that Jaz is a huge Superman fan and more often than not, he’s wearing his Superman (or some superhero) shirt. It happens so often, I don’t even realize it anymore. I swear to you, his shirt didn’t dawn on me until I bent down to take a photo of him in front of Union Terminal and remembered the “Hall of Justice” connection.
So to have that music play as he entered the hall?
Perfect. Just perfect.
After the song ended, my Dad gave us his official tour, which included a pass by the various miniature train sets set up in the Cincinnati History Museum. Having him as a guide was so amusing and we tried to trip him up, but he stuck to his guns and relayed a lot of information. I think you could wander those halls for years, and still learn something new each time.
One other thing we accomplished that day: our son’s first visit to a hair salon. We were getting family portraits taken and I wanted him and Martin to look their best. Normally, I cut my men’s hair in the kitchen with clippers, but I didn’t bring them with me to Ohio. So, we did a walk-in and it was also pretty amusing. Jaz was not interested in any of it, which surprised me. Normally, he’s pretty tolerant when I cut his hair. But I think a new environment (and a much-needed nap) overwhelmed him, and he just didn’t enjoy it all.
And it’s not that I like seeing my son distressed … but I found it pretty adorable. The hairdresser was super fast, and he was done in less than five minutes. He left there with a sucker and a balloon, and was fast asleep by the time we pulled out of the parking lot, looking dapper as always.
Last night, as I was running my fingers through Miss C’s hair, thinking to myself how fast she’s growing up, I said outloud, “Your hair is going to be sooo fun to style for prom.” This made her smile, and she asked if I would style it for her when the time came.
“Sure!” I said. “I used to style my friends’ hair for prom all the time.”
This weekend was so wonderful, I wore a dress. A short-sleeve, silk house dress with slippers. It’s been months since I wore a dress! I had all the windows in my house open and there was a constant breeze that lifted the curtains in the sunshine. I hung up laundry and blankets outside, and even dragged out the kids’ mattresses, too, and let them air out in the sun as well.
I admit, they have thin, Euro-style mattresses that can be rolled up, so this wasn’t nearly as crazy an endeavor as it sounds.
[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] I [/dropcap]t’s been eight months since I made the conscious decision not to dye my hair anymore, and more than three months since my last update. I intended to update about this sooner, but I blame the long winter. And this blog’s redesign. And the fact that I’ve been distracted by life in general lately and simply lost track of the time.
But whenever I check my blog analytics, I notice I get a decent amount of traffic nearly every day from my Pinterest post about growing out my gray hair, or search engine traffic from people searching for “growing out gray hair” on the Internet. And just the other day, I got a lovely email from a new blog reader, Sarah, from Wisconsin, who found me via that Pinterest post.
[quote type=”center”] Thank you for posting and following up about choosing to go gray gracefully. I’m a few months behind you, and in finding your blog, I’ve found a role model of sorts. Keep posting updates … you look great! – Sarah in WI [/quote]
When I started doing this, I genuinely had no idea that gray hair was such a conversation starter (either online, via Facebook/Pinterest, or in person). For one thing, it’s just my hair. I’ve never really been attached to any one hair style. When I was younger and in the military, I wore my hair short or medium. I’ve only worn it long a few times.
At the moment, it’s pretty standard fare: thin, medium length, brown … and a little silvery.
For something that I considered so flippant a decision at first, I’ve since learned that people — mostly women — definitely have something to say about gray hair and hair coloring. This has brought forth some pretty strong opinions both for and against the acceptance of gray hair.
It’s really made me think a bit more about things like aging, beauty and expression, American society’s expectations and youth obsession, and the way language and imagery is used to form those expectations.
Let me be clear: I’m not anti-coloring.
I love hair color. I love new, bold looks … and even new, subtle looks … and I can’t say for sure that I won’t wake up one day and decide I need some fire-engine red streaks in my hair again, like I had when I left the military.(At least, I probably won’t any time soon, but I kind of like the idea of being that grandmother with the red streaks and leopard print tights …)
What I am against, though, is the ridiculous notion that gray hair is something to be covered.
And women are reminded of that notion everywhere! It’s only when I stopped coloring that I realized just how often and how strongly that message is projected all.the.time in so many ways.
For example, these hair product commercials. Of course, this is marketing for a hair color product, it’s gonna come on strong here, but just consider what this man is saying … and implying.
And consider how often you see a commercial like this on television, on the Internet, in your Facebook sidebar, in your magazines, on the radio … you get the picture.
Et tu, Tina Fey!?! My spirit animal for all things feminist and empowering?!?!?!
Earlier this year, this list of the Top 10 Most Important Social Innovations of All Time popped up more than a few times on my Facebook home page and Twitter wall. It’s not exactly a compilation coming out of Harvard, but it was circulated across the Internets.
Hair dye made the list. So did a picture of a 90-year-old labeled as a 45-year-old.
A joke, of course.
But isn’t it funny how women are supposed to leap from 18 to 60 when it comes to their hair?
Or in the case of the commercials above, 5 years old to 60 …
Even Oprah herself jumps on the bandwagon against gray hair in her Gray Hair Bible, a beauty section that’s supposed to be championing gray hair. Yet, it’s funny to me that a woman [or a writer on her team] whose whole platform is about being one’s most authentic self can’t even get into the first paragraph about natural gray hair without painting a desperate picture.
[quote type=”center”] And when the gray starts coming in fast and furious: Do you dye, highlight, or throw up your hands and recklessly let it happen in a fit of gray abandon? … A growing number of women—courageous, rebellious, or just exhausted by the tedium of coloring—are going brazenly, vividly gray. – Oprah’s Gray Hair Bible [/quote]
I’m no mid-lifer.
But I’m here to tell you … it’s not really all that courageous, rebellious, reckless to let one’s hair go gray.
You just don’t dye it.
I doubt anyone is going to be inspired to change their way of thinking when they read that having gray hair is something so crazy, so challenging, so daring, and different. That’s a shame, because the seven gorgeous women they featured, and the advice they gave on how to highlight and enrich their silver strands, is all great information. I may use some of that advice later.
Again, I’m not against coloring or using product to enrich and change up one’s look, to use one’s hair as an expression.
What I’m against is the tradition of women feeling like they HAVE to cover or hide something about themselves. And the tradition that any evidence of aging and maturity in women is not attractive at all. And that overwhelming and overpowering sentiment that grayer, thinner hair is ugly, drab, and unacceptable, especially at my age.
And I just don’t think any of that is true.
I just can’t see the point of spending all that money on hair color — and hair products fixing the damage from hair color — just to keep my brown hair brown when it is naturally brown with a little bit of silver.
That silver isn’t hurting anybody.
And I don’t think I look washed-out or old because of it.
Because I’m not old. I’m 32. And I’m tired. But not washed out.
As you can see in the photos above, the gray is strong at my temples. I don’t have nearly as much on the top, although the strands are scattered throughout. I am majorly due for a hair cut, and will probably be getting it trimmed again in layers all around, similar to how I had it styled in January.
My friend Sarah — who just recently dyed her hair violet — met me for coffee last week , and recommended I go bold with my hair cut this time, removing all traces of my last color session and leaving nothing but my natural color.
The gray is becoming more obvious now, damn it. 🙂 #nofilter
Oh, I’m embracing it! I decided not to color my hair anymore a few months ago, partly to see what happens. And I get a kick out if it! Have u ever considered not coloring? For the record, I love my cobwebs. I was just having fun with my #nofilter hash tag. Heh. Heh.
No lie: my blog and Pinterest stats have spiked since I posted about being in my 30s and going gray. Those who have reached out to me have expressed interest, but worry of how they’d be perceived as old.
I took this picture while Martin was pumping gas into Amelia the Minivan during a stop on our roadtrip from Ohio over the weekend.
At first, the graying process seemed pretty slow going. As the color from my last dye job faded, I could see my natural lighter brown color, and also the gray, but nobody else could unless I pointed out the few strands here and there. Now? They’re becoming more obvious. As I mentioned in a preview post, my sister Jill kept glancing up at the top of my head as we talked this past weekend.
Egads! As I was sectioning my hair just now to take the first photos of my growing-out-the-gray process, I found a section on the side of my head that’s growing in straight-up white. Not some gray strands mixed in with my natural brown strands: these are coming in white!
I ran to Martin in a panic, yelling “Oh my god!!! I’m gonna have Julian Assange hair!!!”
And he was like, “It’s okay, Julie. All you have to do is hide it.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my gray hair.
But this is the first time I’ve made the conscious decision that I’m not going to color my hair for awhile. I’m letting the gray hair grow out.
I know. I know. Hardly groundbreaking stuff here.
But for me, this is a pretty big deal.
I’ve been coloring my hair since I was 14 years old. For the longest time, I was coloring my hair to experiment with new looks and styles. There was no need to cover any grays.
And even when grays did start appearing when I was 25, it wasn’t a big deal. I could pluck the onesies-twosies whenever they appeared. Mostly, I just wanted to cover the roots.
I would be partially bald if I plucked out the grays anymore.
And I just colored my hair a few weeks ago, yet the top of my head and my temples are already frostier than Martin’s.
I can’t keep up.
And to be honest, I really don’t want to keep up.
So, I’m not anymore. I’m going to leave my hair color untouched and see what happens.
Fortunately, I’m a genetic clone of my mother, so I do have some idea of what this is going to look like. While she often colors her hair, there’ve been times she didn’t, and I know her gray comes in scattered like Anne Bancroft and Jaime Lee Curtis.
It’s a little here and there, unlike those ladies who are completely gray like Emmy Lou Harris.
Of course, these celebrity examples are much older than me, but good luck trying to find a 30-something or younger celebrity with natural gray hair. (Sorry – Kelly Osbourne doesn’t count.)
I only know of two other ladies in my age range who keep their hair gray. (And they are gorgeous.)
And I did find there is a community of women online who write often about their gray hair HERE, but most of those ladies are at least 15 years older than me. The youngest I found is 37.
And I just adore this blogger How Bourgeois. I think she’s in her early 30s, like me.
So I’m definitely not the first to do this.
Though Martin isn’t one to make a fuss about these things, I did expect a little more hoopla when I made the announcement to him.
“See these?” I asked him earlier this evening, pulling my hair back from my ears. “See these grays? I’m not covering them up anymore. I’m going gray.”
Silence as he stared at the Nats game.
“Going gray,” I repeated. “No more hair dye.”
Still nothing. So I poked his arm.
“You don’t care that I’m not coloring my hair anymore?”
He finally looked over.
“If it mattered to me, I would say something,” he responded. “I don’t care if you have gray hair. I just like it long.”