When you’re the face of your business, changing your appearance matters. For experienced, executive women, when that change means moving to silver locks, get ready.
For starters, people who’ve known me for years ask all the time if I’m still the “Red” in “Red & Rugged” now that I have a silver hair. Yes, is the short answer. The “red” still applies to my “spicey” personality (my husband’s nickname for me), not the hair color. That said, of the many decisions I’ve made in my career, it’s amazing how compelling this decision became, to let my hair turn to natural silver.
To quote Beyonce, one day I woke up like this. I was just ready to embrace it - my experience, future opportunities, and my age - which all seemed like what turning silver meant. For me, it seemed like the color of my hair was hiding things, or keeping things a secret, and I didn’t care what other people said. Or so I thought.
In addition to the attitude shift, the salon situation included spending two hours, every two and a half weeks, and upwards of $200 each salon visit. You do the math. The time commitment became too much, it just didn’t make sense to me anymore, and pouring chemicals on my head that often wasn’t thrilling either. I had spent years getting my hair to a consistent level of red, and one night I told my husband I was done. It was time to own my age and my hair color, and move on. There were more important things in life to spend my time and money on. He was surprised, but he didn’t argue. Smart man.
At first, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I was so over the time commitment that I didn’t care. Then it became clear how publicly obvious it was going to be to get my hair from years of chemicals to silver. The first attempt consisted of 4+ hours in the salon chair, before my trusted stylist and I both gave up. The red didn’t want to leave and thus an “interesting” blondish/yellow was as good as it was going to get. We were both stressed. The second try was about the same. The easy transition was out the window, so I told my stylist to cut it shorter, the torture would be quicker. On St Patty’s Day, I put a styling product in my hair that accidentally, and slowly, turned pieces of my hair green. I heard one young lady at a business event that night say, “See, if she can do her hair that color, I should be able to do purple!” Not exactly what I was going for. My hair had been so colorful to the business community that they all thought it was intentional.
In the end, the full transition took about a year. I share this with those of you considering this move, as a point of consideration, not to say to avoid it. I will add, it feels like more of a significant decision, at times. For example, unusual business interactions began to happen that made it apparent I’d made this change. I was on an appointment with a co-worker (a white male) and our contact came down to greet us. He said his admin had told him his appointment was here with his wife. Wait, what?! I guess since my co-worker had gray hair, and now I did, I was married to him? Suddenly, it didn’t occur to people I was a senior executive? Wow. Seriously. That was not the only time this type of thing happened either, and it had never happened before. (I’m also willing to bet that comment never happens in reverse.)
This transition also triggers a new internal dialogue. As confident and not caring as I typically am, there are days when I feel the change more than others. People do look at you differently now that you’re of a certain age. Before, they wondered or guessed, but now my age range is pretty obvious. Or that’s the story I tell myself sometimes, before I auto-correct and get a grip. I have no idea what they’re thinking. Or what they used to think. They might have always looked at me that way! I also catch myself thinking at networking events, “Good grief, this room is full of gray hair, we need some younger folks,” and then I chuckle when I remember I’m one of the gray ones.
In the end, it was a great decision for me. I’m still the red and “spicey” one, the one with the passionate attitude. And in spite of the challenges, having moved to a natural color feels like a blast of freedom. I never worry when the wind blows! (Some of you know exactly what I mean!) I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m out there and ready to keep rocking it, and excited to leverage my wisdom and experience in this business.
My advice, as you consider this for yourself one day… if you don’t have thick skin for the inevitable comments, and the idea of months of color transition feels like death-by-a-thousand-cuts, then you may want to hold off. But, if you’re ready to cut loose of the time commitment and be comfortable with all you bring to the table, then let the change begin!