a woman looks to the right, and the top of her head is in view. brown and grey hair is parted down the middle.

After almost three decades of using color to cover my gray hair, I am going dye free in 2022. 

I have done far more seemingly rebellious things in my life. In my teens I dropped out of school, ran off to Las Vegas, took drugs, and got tattoos. Now in my forties, risking judgment, I have published essays about the wisdom gained from those mistakes. Unless you google me though, you cannot guess my sordid past from my appearance or detect me in a lineup of suburban mothers.

Going gray means altering my typically pulled together exterior. Without my twice monthly visits to the salon to cover it, the gray is sprouting everywhere. I’m tired of fighting. It comes as a relief to stop trying to look a way I do not. When I proudly showed my one-month progress and one inch silver roots to my stylist at a recent haircut, he frowned. 

“You’re too young to stop dying your hair. People will think you’ve let yourself go.” 

His comments played on my fears, and were echoed by family and friends when I told them I was growing out my gray. And though it hurts to have my enthusiasm undermined, perhaps it is my fault for seeking approval. I have misplaced the freedom of my rebellious youth in my desire to blend in. The younger me would never have asked for permission to change her appearance.

In order to find support and inspiration for my gray hair transition, I have followed like-minded women on Instagram who call themselves #silversisters. Their ages range from twenty to sixty, but they all challenge the cultural norms of what beauty looks like with gray hair. Some have silver chunks or strands woven throughout their dark hair, and others sport pure white locks. I can’t wait to see what nature has bestowed upon me, what my silver pattern will look like, and how I will feel once it is grown out. Instead of escaping and altering my appearance to defy norms, as I did in my youth, I am allowing. I’m not giving up or letting myself go. I am making peace with what is and will be.

With this small act of rebellion, I begin the journey to the version of me I am yet to become – a silver haired woman who defies conventional beauty standards, no longer shackled by the expectations and approval of others. She is patiently waiting for me to permit her into existence. The vanity of worrying about her hair color will be something she has shed, as she celebrates all that she is.

The most rebellious thing I will do this year is to push aside the judgment of others. I will not undermine my transition by trying to explain it away. Growing to embrace my natural hue, perhaps I will empower women who also must find support outside of friends and family. Perhaps I will start an Instagram account about my journey. #grayhairdontcare

Sarah Leibov is a writer from Chicago, where she lives with her husband and sons. She is at work on a memoir about surviving her teenage rebellion and life in Las Vegas. You can find her on Twitter @LeibovSarah.

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Sarah Leibov

Sarah Leibov is a writer from Chicago, where she lives with her husband and sons. She is at work on a memoir about surviving her teenage rebellion and life in Las Vegas. You can find her on Twitter @LeibovSarah.