Dare To Ditch The Dye

How Melissa McBride Inspired Me To Embrace The Gray

It all began when I was 16. My mother - my personal fashion guru - said:

“I wonder what you’d look like as a redhead.”

Once we found out, I was hooked.

One dye job and I was suddenly older, more mature and on the threshold of womanhood. I felt like a whole new me … and of course I needed a new outfit to match my newfound status in the world. Suddenly, shopping and fashion were my new best friends.

It hadn’t always been that way. Unlike most pre-teen girls, I was a tomboy — short hair and even shorter nails. No makeup. T-shirts, jeans and high-top running shoes. My only friends were boys (there was a noticeable lack of girls in my neighborhood).

When the elderly lady who lived next door started referring to me as “son,” (did I really look that much like a boy?) my mother decided I needed to look more like a lady. Until that point, I more closely resembled the tomboy sidekick in those teenage heartthrob movies.

I was more likely to identify with characters like Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful.

That first dye job transformed me. I underwent a metamorphosis from bristly caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. All thanks to Miss Clairol.

So many shades in convenient little do-it-yourself boxes. And all for the piddly little price of $14.99 plus tax (or less if it’s on sale!).

Why be plain old chestnut brown when there were so many other shades of excitement? I could be ash blonde. Or golden blonde. Or strawberry blonde. Or medium auburn. Or medium golden brown.

From Experiment To Necessity

At the ripe old age of 23, I discovered that my fascination for hair color was no longer a mere fashion choice. As I gazed over my month-old roots one morning, I discovered something unsettling. Those roots weren’t chestnut brown anymore. Instead, there was a very prominent streak of silver peeking back at me.

Yvonne DeCarlo as Lily Munster and Elsa Lanchester as The bride of Franksenstein

I had seriously been considering giving up the DIY dye. I had grown tired of the upkeep that fashion and beauty required, opting instead for a simpler, more natural appearance. I’ve never been one of those high maintenance types, and so dying my hair made me feel like I was living a lie. However, I realized that going natural now would result in a skunk stripe reminiscent of the Bride of Frankenstein or maybe Yvonne DeCarlo during her Lily Munster days.

The Big Decision

Fast forward 20-something years and I began noticing that my roots were taking on a more even distribution of silver. Those gray hairs were now the rule instead of the exception.

There was also a chemical component to my forthcoming decision to quit dying my hair. It started with complaints from my husband who recoiled at the smell of my freshly dyed do. It dawned on me that if the chemical smell was so strong, some of the chemicals soaking into my scalp might one day have an adverse affect on my health.

Suddenly the decision wasn’t so hard any more. I just needed a little encouragement to actually give up my tinting habit.

Irene Ryan as Granny

Like many, I believed that gray hair belonged on little old ladies who used canes and wore orthopedic shoes. I read articles declaring that gray hair makes you appear much older. Fashion magazines were desperate to convince me that I’d look like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies.

I was understandably nervous. Would I look like an old lady? Would there be a bluish tinge to those silver streaks? Would those telltale wrinkles suddenly seem more prominent? Would I suddenly add 10 years to my age?

Carol Peletier Kicks Dead Ass

Melissa McBride

Then I started watching The Walking Dead. The AMC channel TV show about survivors in a mostly zombie-populated world, featured a character named Carol Peletier. The actress who portrays this kick-ass zombie killer is Melissa McBride. She’s only three years older than me. Melissa’s naturally gray locks definitely don’t fit into your typical Hollywood glamour style.

And yet, Melissa McBride is one of the sexiest gray ladies I’ve ever seen. Do you know any other gray-haired women who became an action star at the age of 50? Her carefree hairstyle off screen, and her simmering-below-the-surface sex appeal on screen inspired me.

If Melissa McBride — Queen of the Zombie Killers can rock the super-short sexy gray hair style, why can’t I?

“Gosh, you know, it would be nice if I didn’t have such gray hair … But it’s too late now to do anything about it.” -Melissa McBride in Rolling Stone Magazine.

The Commitment

Well, I’m glad she didn’t do anything about it, because I finally committed to begin my gray-embracing journey. After hiding my head under hats all winter while I let my roots grow out, I decided it was finally time to remove what was left of the color-streaked portion of my tresses.

My roots had grown long enough that cutting off the color would get me safely past the G.I. Jane look. With summer coming so quickly, I didn’t want to continue hiding my two-tone do under straw hats and ball caps.

So I grabbed a photo of Melissa McBride off the internet and informed my hairdresser that, “This is what I’m going for.” I expected her to roll her eyes and say “Okayyyy …” But instead she sighed heavily and said, “Thank God! I was wondering how long you were gonna hold out.”

If I hadn’t witnessed just how sexy gray can be, I might have caved in to that L’Oreal Excellence sale. I’m glad I didn’t. I like my new style. I look and feel natural. No chemical dyes or chemical stripping. Just an old-fashioned grow-out.

I learned from Melissa McBride that gray can definitely be sexy. Sexy doesn’t have to mean touching up the roots every couple of weeks. And smelling like toxic waste run-off after a dye job most certainly isn’t sexy.

Women have always been taught that beauty is achieved through sacrifice — but maybe it’s our out-dated views on beauty that need to be placed on the sacrificial altar.

Why should we hide who we really are when natural is … well … more natural. I just want to be me — tom-boyish at times, perhaps committing the occasional un-ladylike social gaffe at others. I’m a “what you see is what you get” kinda woman.

In the end, I’d say it was definitely worth the wait.

Me, as Nature intended.