Rose Mary is an Air Force veteran and an Occupational Therapist. She enjoys researching and writing on a variety of topics.
This is the story of why I have gray hair, actually the gray hair that I asked for. Surprising perhaps for someone known for dramatic long dark hair for the greater part of my life. I had long straight hair all through junior high, high school and junior college. It was my trademark.
I had a few short hair years in my early 20s, with a “poodle perm” like Barbara Streisand’s in A Star is Born. By my mid-20s it was long and straight again. I returned to curly with a long dramatic spiral perm just before I turned 30. I had to wear my long hair pinned up because of the military. It felt old and ugly, like a “granny bun”. What woman needs that?! After about 8 years in the Air Force, I finally went short for good in my late 30s.
Around 2001, when I was about 42, a phlebotomist drawing my blood in the lab at Wilford Hall Medical Center (Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio Texas) said, “Are you going to leave your hair like that?” This young man spoke very good English, but heavily accented. It took a few seconds for what he had said to sink in.
My first thought was, “Oh my gosh, I forgot to comb my hair!” In quick succession, my next thought was “Is my hair over my collar?” But he was a civilian, and probably wouldn’t be thinking about military regulations regarding women’s hair. I timidly asked “What do you mean?”
“Your hair,” he said, “Are you going to leave the gray?”
In a funny way relieved, I said “Well actually, yes. That’s my plan. I got the hair I asked for.” It would be bad Karma to mess with that.
Not knowing what to expect, I was a bit surprised when he said “Good. I like it.”
Funny how relieved you can be at a stranger’s approval. So we’re bonding over my hair. I decided to share my “hair story” with him, but a shorter version than what I share with you here.
I always looked like my dad, and surely got my dark hair from him. But this didn’t “count”. He has guy hair, and very little hair I might add. My mom has baby fine light brown hair, to this day with very little gray. Two of her sisters, my Aunt Blanche and Aunt Ola Belle (how are those for Southern names?) both have dark hair, and like Mom, very little gray. My Aunt Totsie had the darkest hair, like mine.
Aunt Totsie’s actual name was Mary Christine. I was named after her, Rose Mary. My sister was named after her, Christy Gaye. My grandmother dubbed her Totsie because she was a petite baby, just a wee tot. Aunt Totsie gave me my first bath when I came home from the hospital. She also gave my sister her first bath.
I lived with Aunt Totsie and Uncle Jack for a year as I was preparing to go back to college. She spoiled me some would say. She would gently call and nudge me to get up each morning for work. I was always a night owl, which she verified to be the case even when I was a toddler. She would turn on my hot curlers to be ready when I finally got up. She’s see me off to work each day. We’d go shopping together. When I took an EMT class, she would have my dinner waiting in the oven when I got home late.
This was when I was in my early 20s. Aunt Totsie’s hair was making the transition to gray, and I thought it was simply beautiful. It had nice texture and thickness. She had it in a really nice wedge-like hairstyle that I really liked. I remember being in her dining room with some of our other family members, as we often congregated. I declared that if my hair started to gray as evenly, naturally and age appropriately as Aunt Totsie’s, I would never dye it.
Remember, this was when I was in my early 20s. Some would have said, “Oh you’ll change your mind.” You certainly can’t hide gray when you have dark hair. But I never did change my mind. I have always had a good attitude about my gray hair. I have always liked it. I love the heavier texture. I think it is graying in evenly, naturally and age appropriately. Just like Aunt Totsie’s. Just like I asked for. And that’s a beautiful thing.
I had a breast cancer client who had beautiful dark hair. On a follow-up visit, she told me she had not only made peace with losing her hair to chemo, but she had been inspired by my gray hair. She had decided to let her new hair come in natural. Quite a compliment, and further testament to Aunt Totsie, a breast cancer survivor.
Gray Hair Poll
DJ Anderson on February 10, 2013:
I used to pay big bucks to have highlights put into my hair.
I now call my gray hair, "Natural Highlights", and its FREE!!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on April 02, 2011:
Thanks so much for the visit and comment crysyolite.
Emma from Houston TX on March 19, 2011:
Excellent article,well descriptive and articulated.Interesting story which i enjoyed reading.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on August 29, 2010:
I agree xres55. When did it become a crime to look your age?!
xres55rummerxr on August 28, 2010:
I have gray hair and plan to keep it! Glad that my vote in that poll put us back on top of the polls. Nothing really wrong with this, man or woman gray hair is fine.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on March 09, 2010:
Good for you LPogue! I blamed my gray on things like Anatomy & Physiology classes. Now I can definitely add Air Force to the list.
LPogue from Missouri on March 06, 2010:
I quit dying my hair several years ago. My grown son told me then that it was embarrassing to him. My response? I told him that it should embarrass him, since each one had his name on it. LOL! I have often received compliments on the silver in my hair, and plan to never dye it again.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on February 25, 2010:
I hear ya mel. I know a couple young guys who said " I hope I have a head FULL of gray hair when I get older."
mel22 from , on February 25, 2010:
Unfortunately, I stated severely balding in my mid 20's so any hair regardless if grey would be good 4 me !
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on February 23, 2010:
Thanks for the visit agaglia. I understand about being attached to your hair color. For me, the risks with dark hair dye are definitely not worth it. Google something like "bladder cancer" and "hair dye". You should get a number of hits that elaborate on your risks. Best of luck.
Annette Gagliardi from Minneapolis on February 22, 2010:
I know I have some gray hair, but I prefer to keep the browns and reds going for awhile longer. Eventually, I'll let the natural color come out form hiding.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on January 17, 2010:
Thanks Zizish. If I understand you correctly, I surprised you in a good way, which is 'yeah me!' Yes, please stay tuned for Poodle Me!
Zizish on January 17, 2010:
Great story! Not what I expected at all from the title, either. Good tips and inspiring reminder that we could all do with a bit of liking ourselves just the way we are! I'm subscribing to your hub, so I won't miss the poodle perm!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on January 15, 2010:
Thanks Rope. Still meaning to post a picture of the "poodle perm" a la Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. I haven't had any bad comments yet, at least not to my face! I agree, we earned them!
The Rope from SE US on January 13, 2010:
What wonderful pics! You are amazing! My gray has been creaping in for several years now and I'm getting comments both good and bad, ah well...I don't plan to change, it's mine and I earned these wisps. Thanks for the validation!!!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on January 06, 2010:
What a nice compliment 2patricias. You make a great point. Not all gray is "created equal". Gray hair doesn't "get lost" in dark hair like it might in lighter colored hair. Gray is pretty obvious in dark hair, lots of contrast. I just think of it like getting highlights, but without the chemicals or cost.
2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on January 05, 2010:
Such a sweet story Pat is blonde and her hair is gradually turning snow white. This makes her look even more pale! Not sure if this is a good thing.
Tricia also blonde, but hair turning more grey. hmm. Not sure about this either.
thanks for sharing.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on December 26, 2009:
Carmen thanks for reading. I too think your hair is beautiful. Current research shows you're probably saving yourself bladder cancer as well.
Carmen Borthwick from Maple Ridge, B.C. on December 24, 2009:
Good for you! I let my hair go silver a year ago and love it! I can't remember any time in my life that so many people have told me how much they like my hair, I should have done it years ago I could have saved a ton of money LOL
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on December 14, 2009:
Thanks for commenting Christine. As you can see, you and Christy are the only 2 family members to do so. Sadly I can't remember who told me the story, Granny Bobb or Aunt Totsie, though I am reasonably certain it was one of them.
Nitrogen Girl from Southeastern United States on December 14, 2009:
I'd never known the story behind the nickname "Totsie." Thanks for sharing that and making me look forward to perhaps greying like she did one day. I always joke with mom that I take after grandma and not her.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 28, 2009:
Thanks Green Lotus. What an incredibly nice thing to say.
Hillary from Atlanta, GA on October 28, 2009:
I loved your story mcrayne. You are so beautiful inside and out.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 14, 2009:
Thank you and thanks for reading and commenting mayhmong.
mayhmong from North Carolina on October 13, 2009:
You must of looked good all the time with it!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 13, 2009:
Thanks for reading and commenting Mayhmong. Maybe the guy was lucky. I really was worried I had not combed my hair that morning. A couple weeks before I had gone to the gym in the hospital at the end of the work day, thinking I would go straight home. I changed my mind and decided make a quick stop at the grocery store. Later that night I looked in the mirror and realized I had buffed my short hair dry with a towel after my workout, and it was all over the place. I had gone to the grocery store like that!
mayhmong from North Carolina on October 12, 2009:
That's one brave guy to ask you about your hair! That was a sweet story. :)
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 06, 2009:
Thanks for reading and commenting magdielqr.
magdielqr on October 06, 2009:
Great story. Thank you
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 05, 2009:
Amy, multiple good points. I've heard lots of guys say they didn't care what color hair they had, so long as they have hair! I had always said I earned my gray hairs, with chemistry, physics, gross anatomy, etc. That was before the Air Force! It's a wonder I'm not completely white by now.
Aqua, I'm really glad you and others liked the pictures. I was a little concerned I went overboard. Now I'm thinking about adding 1 "poodle hair" picture.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 05, 2009:
Wendi thanks for sharing your story, and thanks for the compliment!
Aqua on October 05, 2009:
Great story and I loved seeing all the pictures!
atomswifey from Michigan on October 05, 2009:
I like it :) I think the grey makes people looked distinguished and we do earn every one of them! lol I carry mine with pride. Actually my grey hairs are white. And I mean white-white! lol
But I look at them as a sign that I have done a good job working hard and as long as I don't go bald, I am happy :lol:
Wendi M on October 05, 2009:
I really liked your story. I once had natural aurburn colored hair...the color people paid to have. My mother told me, all of my life, never to touch the color of my hair. Well I did...about 2 years ago, and ever since I've, miserably, been trying to get it back to normal. I wish I had just done what you did and chosen the humble and natural route. By the way, you do have very pretty hair.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 05, 2009:
Catherine, Lily, Christy, lynne, lyrics and myownworld thanks so much ladies for reading and appreciating my personal story and photos. For all of us, a big “You go girl!” Embrace gray!
Catherine some of my perms used to lighten my hair, so I experienced somewhat the dye/roots thing. Enough to know I probably wouldn’t like dealing with it as you said. I understand where you’re coming from though. We have a family friend who had completely white hair in her 30s and never dyed it. It’s beautiful, but she’s always looked older than her husband.
Lily I have had so many breast cancer patients report this dramatic change in hair texture, including curly hair! I’ll want to link to one or more of your hubs. Which one is the best for hair changes after chemo?
Christy, one of my biggest fans. I especially appreciate you signing in to read the final product after having to listen to multiple drafts at home!
lynne, I love the texture that the gray gives my hair. So much easier for me to pull off a short hairstyle with the gray texture.
Kimberly, no hair dye, one less toxin in your body. Think “Aunt Totsie!” like a battle cry, like “Tawanda!” from Fried Green Tomatoes.
myownworld glad you enjoyed!
myownworld from uk on October 05, 2009:
What a unique hub! Personal stories always carry a charm of their own (even if they are just about one's hair!)...so thanks for sharing it...x
lyricsingray on October 05, 2009:
What a great Hub and you really have inspired me to throw away those drug store annoying hair dye kits and with lots of grey, be who I am. Most the women in my family were completely grey by 30. I am going grey girl! Thanks and you gotta love Aunt Totsie! Thanks for the inspiration - girl power! Kimberly
lynnechandler on October 05, 2009:
Great inspiration here. I decided not to do the all over color again and am letting mine go grey, lol. It is coming in curly instead of straight which is a bit different and it is a bit coarse too. Unusual as mine has always been baby fine.
Christy8914 on October 05, 2009:
I agree with the ladies, it looks good on you Rose Mary. I too wear my natural grey and I like it, but I do sometimes think if I colored it, I might be thought to be a tiny bit younger than I am. I do not like being "less younger" than I used to be...Thanks for a great story.
Lily Rose from A Coast on October 05, 2009:
I had a few greys before losing my hair with chemo. Now that it's growing back I have a lot more and I'm not too concerned about it, really - I'm still trying figure out how to deal with the curls I've never had before!
Great huba and great pictures, Rose Mary!
Catherine R from Melbourne, Australia on October 05, 2009:
Good for you. Your greying hair looks just great. There is a lot to be said for looking natural and it is very boring to have to keep coloring the roots every few weeks. I have quite a lot of grey hair which I color because it started going grey when I was quite young. I am only 43 now and have been wondering if it will age me if I just let it grow out but I think maybe I should cut it. Lovely to look at all your pictures of various ages!