10 Steps to Accepting Achromotrichia

The Infamous Gray Hare

Where there's one...there will soon be more.
Where there's one...there will soon be more.

Change…it’s inevitable. Like death, taxes and even shit…it happens…and nobody is completely exempt. One day, you are a relatively happy individual and the next…well, everything has been rearranged without your prior consent.

Lucky for us, there are steps. If you don’t believe me…just do a quick web search on the simple phrase “ten steps" and you'll be inundated with information on everything from how to breastfeed to how to overcome an addiction to porn. Occasionally, your problem can be sorted out in as few as five, six or even seven steps…but the vast majority seems to agree that ten is a nice even number of steps toward general acceptance of any life-changing experience.

Pretty much anyone can dispense this advice. You don’t need a psychology degree…just a been there, done that attitude along with a propensity for believing that what worked for you might work for somebody else. With that in mind, I feel perfectly qualified to dispense advice on how to reconcile yourself to the inevitablility of achromotrichia.

Like most conditions, achromotrichia can strike suddenly. Although more prevalent in people over the age of forty, I was diagnosed with this insidious usurper at the rather tender age of sixteen…by my hairdresser.

 

Step One - Denial

“Oh my god!” Vicky exclaimed as she dried my naturally frizzy, dark hair, “Laurie…you have a gray hair!”

“I do NOT!”

Step Two – Emotional Numbness/Uncertainty

It’s hard to deny what is staring you right in the face (or mirror..in my case). 

“Maybe it’s a blonde hair?” I suggested hopefully. After all, my siblings were all blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Perhaps I was just a late-bloomer.

“No,” said Vicky sadly, “I’m positive it is gray.”

Step Three – Fear/Apprehension/Panic

“Pluck it!” I yelled to Vicky above the jet engine scream of the blow dryer.

With the threat removed, I was able to live in complete and ignorant bliss until the next hair appointment. That one hair had obviously been a fluke.

(NOTE: In most step progressions, it is completely natural to revert to an earlier stage...such as denial).

Step Four – Frustration/Loss of Control

As time went on, I continued to pluck hairs…note the use of the plural form. One strand begat two which begat three…etc, etc, ad nauseum. This culminated in…

Lily Munster

Halloween costumes were never an issue...I could always go as Lily.
Halloween costumes were never an issue...I could always go as Lily.

Step Five – Anger/Resentment

Anger? Resentment? I was sixteen years old, what do YOU think?

I had visions of attending the prom looking like my mother. All my life I had to endure living in the middle of my own familial Aryan Nation and now I would become its hag. Wonderful!

Step Six – Attempt to Resolve/Desire for a Quick Resolution

Then again...it was the eighties and the punk look was in. People thought the silvery skunk stripe centered over my right temple was rather cool looking and that I’d done it on purpose. I stopped plucking.

Step Seven – Disappointment/Depression

Unfortunately, along with leg-warmers and slap bracelets, my punk hair eventually became a fashion faux pas...

Miss Clairol Ad

Early brainwashing campaign to convince women that gray here is BAD!
Early brainwashing campaign to convince women that gray here is BAD!

Miss Clairol Ad

If I had seen this ad...perhaps I wouldn't be divorced...twice.
If I had seen this ad...perhaps I wouldn't be divorced...twice.

Step Eight – Re-evaluation

Something obviously had to be done. I could not survive my twenties or even thirties watching my natural hair color depart without a fight.

I consulted Miss Clairol and spent the next three decades living one colorful lie after another. Jet Black, Butterscotch Boom, Zip Zoom Macaroon, Mochalotive, Full Tilt Toffee, Cinnamon Red Hot (and yes...these are all actual names for hair colors)…nothing was too glamorous or taboo. I was free! For six weeks…at least…until the traitorous roots gave away our dirty little secret.

Occasionally I would splurge and have my hair colored professionally. It was a real treat. On one particular occasion, I was having highlights added to deflect attention from the slivery-white strands. To accomplish this, the hairdresser had snapped a rubber bathing cap on my head with strategic holes placed in it. Then, she commenced to pluck strands of hair through the cap with an instrument of torture that resembled a crochet hook. By the time she was done…and while she went to mix the chemicals…I had the opportunity to admire the effect.

I looked like the victim of a nuclear accident.

Thirty years…for THIRTY YEARS…I lived my life from bottle to bottle, cycling relentlessly every month or so through stages one through eight over and over again. And in those thirty years, those colorless strands never ceased their own quest for complete scalpular domination.

Kristen McMenamy

Simulated visual representation of how the Home Depot woman appeared to me at the time.
Simulated visual representation of how the Home Depot woman appeared to me at the time.

The Home Depot Prophecy Chicken

I think this was some sort of sign that I was destined to "do the right thing."
I think this was some sort of sign that I was destined to "do the right thing."

Step Nine – Recognition of the Situation

Just like a recovering alcoholic can tell you the exact moment he or she decided it was time to attempt sobriety, I can vividly recall the moment when I had my own epiphany. It was at a Home Depot.

I only saw her for about fifteen seconds…twenty at the most. My intention that day was to purchase a few plants for the house, but as I picked over the selection a flash of light distracted me and I looked up.

It was a casual hair flip…but the effect it had on me was galvanizing, for the thick, shiny mane that was confidently tossed back was a stunning shade of silvery-white. The owner of this magnificent collection of hair, marched past me regally, shoulders square in a natty blazer and form hugging faded blue jeans. Her youthful looking countenance preoccupied with important business, conveyed an air of complete competence.

I was awestruck…envy and admiration oozing out of every pore.

“I wish I had hair like THAT!” I muttered to myself.

And that’s when the moment happened…my recognition of the situation.

“But you do!” said the little voice inside me that I often ignore because it’s wielded by an annoying know-it-all. “You just have to stop coloring it!”

Back to Step Two….Fear.

 

Lady Gaga

Although not a person I would turn to normally for fashion advice, I have to admit she does look hot with silvery tresses.
Although not a person I would turn to normally for fashion advice, I have to admit she does look hot with silvery tresses.

Pink

White is the new Pink?
White is the new Pink?

Short of shaving yourself bald and starting from scratch, there is no easy way back to your natural hair color. Nowadays, it's rather fashion trendy to be seen with chemically produced silver hair...but at the time of my first attempts, no such crutch existed.

I endured the beginnings of a silver beanie, even going so far as to attain a nearly perfect three to four inches of growth that ended in an abrupt line of demarcation encircling my skull before continuing on in a completely different color. Inevitably I would weaken and run back to the comforting arms and rubber gloves of Miss Clairol.

It was really just plain luck that finally led me to a place where I could safely shed the lie I had been living for so long…and that place was Arizona.

Arizona, with its unforgiving sunshine, that bleached the chemically produced color from my hair within days of application, insisting that I’d be much happier as an ashe-blonde. Arizona, with its large population of retirees (especially in the winter months when the population swells with snowbirds), camouflaged my transformation. I was just one more semi-silver head of hair amongst thousands.

Source

Step Ten – Acceptance

I cut ties with my old hairdresser…she had been an accessory to my habit, even going so far as to suggest that it was time to color before I was ready to do so. It would be like an alcoholic asking for help from his bartender.

“So what were you thinking of doing today?” Misty, my new hairdresser, asked by rote.

I looked into the reflection of her eyes in the mirror…this was a serious moment and needed to be treated as such.

“I want to grow my hair out to its natural color,” I stated firmly and then watched closely to gauge her reaction..

Misty pursed her mouth and thoughtfully combed through the roots of my hair. I admired her for realizing the amount of commitment this would take from both of us.

“Are you sure?” she finally replied.

I nodded…and because I knew how weak I can be, I added, “Don’t let me color it…no matter what I say…don’t let me do it.”

To Misty’s credit…when that moment came several months later…she didn’t budge. I pleaded, I wheedled, I begged…even telling her that surely temporary hair color wouldn’t set us back much…but she didn’t buy any of it.

Each month or so, she would issue a report from the back of my head. Things like “only seven inches left!” or “the silver really looks good with your coloring!” I doubt I would have stuck to my goal without her encouragement and hair-cutting talent.

 

Two Silver Backs

Silverback Gorilla.  Not to be confused with...
Silverback Gorilla. Not to be confused with...
Silverback Girl.
Silverback Girl. | Source

It took a year…

Today, a gentleman walked up to me and shyly asked if I minded very much if he asked me a question. I told him no…

“Is that your natural hair color?” he asked hesitantly.

I smiled at him and said that indeed it was.

“Pardon me for saying so, if it sounds offensive” the gentleman continued, “but I find a mature woman who is confident enough to keep her natural hair color to be incredibly sexy.”

I was flattered...but when he asked if he could touch it...well, that was rather creepy.

So there you have it…ten basic steps for acceptance of achromotricha, better known as gray, silver or white hair, from somebody who has been there, done that and has the locks to prove it. While it may be an inevitable change for most, it is definitely not as detrimental to your self-image as Miss Clairol would like you to think.

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Comments 21 comments

Melani 21 months ago

Wonderful blog you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any mgsasee boards that cover the same topics talked about in this article?I'd really love to be a part of online community where I can get comments from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Bless you!


JoshuaDR profile image

JoshuaDR 4 years ago from Charleston, SC

I enjoyed hub and I can definitely relate. I think I am currently on step 4. For some reason I enjoy finding the gray hairs and plucking them. I feel the anger and resentment staging coming on though. I am starting to find the hairs in the front and tp instead of the normal temple area. I believe I am fighting a losing battle! =)


spryte profile image

spryte 5 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

Gwendy:

*hugs* :)

Sorry it has taken so long to respond to your comment...I'm a bad, bad hubber friend.

I've heard that red is the hardest color to maintain because it fades so quickly...but for me, I could live with fade...the roots were what was driving me nuts. If I had streaks of gray, I might have just done a highlight job so that the grays blended in...hmm...have you thought of doing that?

Still...if you've only JUST started dyeing...it should be easier to quit! *cheeky grin*

I'm so glad I made the choice. My ego gets a big boost whenever a complete stranger comes up and makes a comment about my hair color. I realize it's because it's more of a curiosity than anything else...but I like the color too. I'm a true "platinum" blonde. :) LOL!


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 5 years ago from Oklahoma

Loved it. I have recently decided to start dying my hair because of the graying ( excuse me as I wipe a tear from my eye) and it is driving me crazy. It starts out dark red then changes to a dark brown and then towards the end of the six weeks it a dirty brown with streaks of gray. I would love to quit dying it but really I'm too much of a weanie.


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

Only good ones I hope Monarch :)


Monarch.Starcrack profile image

Monarch.Starcrack 6 years ago from Florida

That picture of Lilly brings back memories.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

It would be safe to assume that, yes.


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

Yes - I'm officially being stalked by a man with a hair fetish. Now THAT is massively creepy, isn't it? Luckily I work with a bunch of tough guys who protect me like an older sister figure and they told him to please not call again for any hairstyling tips. LOL! I don't think he's getting the job either.

Is it safe to assume that last statement was meant for our dear brain cartoon and not the fae? Heheheh!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

LOL. He called? What a riot! A disturbing one, yeah, BUT A RIOT! I knew some smart ass was going to come along with an asinine comment about my mother, I just didn't know it would be Shadesbreath, who, apparently, is stalking me. It was that experience that lead me to becoming the brain surgeon I am today...unofficially, of course. I assure you, I can use my Dremel, remove your brain, put it under glass and give it back to you. Then you can stare at it in a kind of stupor and admire it even more devoutly more than you admire it now.


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

Update: The creepy old man (who had interviewed for a job at my office) called this morning before my arrival to ask what hair conditioner I used. LOL!


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

LOL! My day has now been made...

Chris, of course you would be allowed to run your obviously trained fingers through my silvery tresses!

I've heard that traumatic experiences can turn hair gray (just look at that poor mama on Poltergeist!) but never the other way around. Still...if you tell me that's what happened, I will believe you because you are my friend and you would never, ever lie to me...ever. :)

Please feel free to defend your honor with our follically challenged friend...


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

Damn, that last thing really explains so much, Reilly.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis

Hey, I love your hair! I my be a creepy old man, but I'm not a stranger so surely I can touch it? My gray started when I was in my mid-twenties. All the males in my family were noted "silver foxes," so it was only the age part that was surprising, but none of them ever went bald (sorry Shades). Eventually, it was gray as gray could be, but then recently, during my near death experience, it reversed itself, went back to it's original color, and I now only have gray at the temples. A miracle! (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

I had to laugh: My mother used to frost her own hair at home, and I was always enlisted to use the crochet hook thingy to pull strands through the cap.


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

Yep...that's really me in the Patriot's jersey at the bottom of the hub. The only thing that isn't accurate in that shot is the straightness of my hair. Misty gets bored because I usually leave with my hair wet and let it dry naturally into curls...and so whenever she has the opportunity she goes a bit nuts and breaks out the flat iron. I have no hope of replicating this on my own since I'm foo-foo challenged.

And LOL about the description of the lecherous old geezer! *shudder*

Well :P back at you too...my gray might be on display, but the gray stuff you have crammed into your skull cannot be discounted and I'm still envious of it at times. Hah! (the first time I tried to write that statement I sounded like a brain-eating zombie...so I had to rewrite it).


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

November 2nd...not that long after Halloween at all :) Is Cecilia excited about having a little sister?

I remember seeing pictures of the organ grinder monkey costume and thinking Wow! Does your Mom make constumes for big kids...like oh...I dunno...in their 40's? :) The closest thing I have to a costume at the moment is my Renn Faire dress...which I've only been able to wear once but dammit...this next one, I'm getting dressed up again!


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

If that's really you, that looks fantastic. That's great you had the cajones (which, unlike gray hair, do NOT look good on a woman, btw) to do it. Seems to have turned out well, even if does mean you have to let creepy old guys with drool whitening at the corners of their mouths stuff their gnarled fingers into it. I say, Well Done! :P

I lol'ed at "quest for complete scalpular domination" as you know I enjoy a fine turn of phrase. But I would like to point out that your whole article is about the trauma of going gray, a perfectly American type of thing wherein someone whines that they don't like what they have in the face of those who have less, or, ahem, none to complain about at all. So, I stick my tongue out at you and your nice silver mane. :P

(bout time you wrote another hub)


rowanelayna profile image

rowanelayna 6 years ago from York, PA

I'm due November 2nd, but I'm ready NOW. :) Matt and I will celebrate 10 years of togetherness October 18th so I'm keeping my fingers crossed she'll make her appearance then. What a cool anniversary gift!

Mom always made our Halloween costumes and I'm so terrible at sewing. As long as I give her plenty of notice she makes Cecilia's. She made her this amazing Organ Grinder Monkey costume her first Halloween and last year she was Annie. She also knits and cooks the best food ever. She's the ultimate awesome Mom.

Thanks for the mental hug. My stomach sticks out so far these days you probably wouldn't be able to give me a full hug even if we didn't live on opposite sides of the country.


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

I definitely agree with you regarding Matt's head of hair and I think he'd look dashing with the gray sprinkled through it. Why do hair stylist's push color so much anyway? Oh wait...duh...more money. :)

How are you holding up by the way? Love Cecilia's Halloween costume. Your mom is so talented! Will your latest little pumpkin arrive before or after the holiday? Y'know, I saw this picture once of a woman that painted her belly like a basketball for Halloween....

Thanks for the compliments...if you were here'd I'd give you a big hug. Consider yourself squished long distance and keep me posted on the baby. Love ya!


rowanelayna profile image

rowanelayna 6 years ago from York, PA

I've always loved gray hair. My paternal grandmother had the most lovely gray hair (which eventually turned into perfectly white hair). Sadly I'll probably end up with my maternal grandmother's hair (she referred to the color as dirty dishwater. Awesome).

Over the last few years Matt hair has sprouted more and more gray. He's worried about it and every time his hair is cut the stylist tries to talk him into dying it but I would be devastated. I think the salt and pepper look on a man is so sexy.

Your hair looks wonderful...I really am jealous. Glad you were able to get through your 10 steps so the world could enjoy it. :)


spryte profile image

spryte 6 years ago from Arizona, USA Author

Hi G-Ma! Always a pleasure to have you visit! My mother was the same way about hers...colored it after my parents divorce, but then decided she didn't really want another man after all and so allowed us kids to convince her to go au natural. I always thought her hair was so beautiful and perhaps that is where my confidence comes from! :) Big hugs back atcha!

(And thank you, Mom!)


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 6 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Ha Ha ...I had a friend that also had grey hair in her twenties, back when salt and pepper was in style...she had beautiful hair. I can see why you colored yours being so young, but as glad you made through and it looks absolutely beautiful.

I didn't start to color my hair till my ex exited and now wonder if I should go back to my natural color, which by now is grey...it makes me look younger , they say being dyed, but hasn't helped catch a man so why bother???

You are adorable...:O) Hugs G-Ma

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