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I’m done with outdated beauty standards — bring on the grey hair

Carrie Willard is a writer, reader, barefoot walker and beginner Francophone. She writes about homeschooling, being a mom of 7 kids, and frugality at http://www.CarrieWillard.com

I've decided to love my gray hair in my 40s

I started coloring my hair almost 15 years ago, in my 20s, because gray hair began popping up. I blame genetics (my dad was totally silver in his 30s — awesome on him, not so good on a twenty-something me) and maybe stress (sleep deprivation from babies every couple of years, divorce and other stress).

Several months ago, I created a Pinterest board with attractive, middle-aged-and-up ladies who've embraced their natural hair color. It was inspiring. It is entirely possible to be la femme d'un certain âge and stay stylish and even (Dare I say this in a culture that worships the god of youth?) sexy.

More: Now we know what causes some to go gray earlier than others

One of the reasons I was sick of my hair was I looked like a skunk when my roots began to grow. It's one thing if your hair is lighter, but when it's naturally very dark brown/almost black, you look like a witch. Primarily, I just got tired of the whole coloring routine. It's messy, stinky and time-consuming, and who am I really fooling anyway? I'm fighting a losing battle. I'm 41 and happy with that. It's stupid to waste energy denying reality. It just is. Why fight it?

We expect women to look 20 forever, yet judge women who have cosmetic surgery or are vain. What the what? And that's all I have to say about that.

We don't put this pressure to look young forever on men. A man with a little grey at his temples is distinguished. I would never, ever ask my husband to color his hair just because he's going gray. (And indeed, don't people look down on that poor sap who dyes his hair? What a hypocritical double standard.)

More: Women rock premature gray hair — and we love it

Recently I had a conversation with a woman I see on a regular basis because she works at the grocery store where I shop. She's an attractive, middle-aged woman with large, dark eyes and great cheekbones. She had a foxy short 'do that I admired. We talked one day about the hassle of covering up gray. I told her that when and if I chopped my hair short, I would stop coloring it.

And that's what I did.

Sometimes I look in the mirror (typically, only when the room is lit by fluorescent lights) and think, Hmm. Yuck. But everybody thinks this from time to time. I had plenty of "yuck" days when I had longer hair and when I was still coloring it too.

But most of the time, I'm OK with my gray.

After I cut it, I got more compliments on my hair than I have in years, from both men and women. And not that it matters to me since I only care about the opinion of one man, but men do notice women with short hair. I believe this is because short hair is unusual and speaks to a certain confidence, which is attractive. Short hair says, "This is my face. I'm not afraid to show it."

Short hair means I spend all of 30 seconds each morning on my 'do. I can be out the door, dressed with makeup on, in 10 minutes. I like it best that way. It means I can spend more time doing what I really love. (This is different from being low-maintenance because you don't value yourself.) I like the way I look more now, not less.

When I was 15, I went with my mom to Colorado to visit relatives. We stayed with her second cousin, whose wife, although at the time was in her 30s, was gray-haired. Her husband was a guitar-picking troubadour and sang us a song he wrote about her. It was called "Silver Strands in the Moonlight." I'll never forget that day, or the love that was in his eyes as he sang about her silver hair reflecting the moon's light. I remember her talking about how her hairdresser pressured her to color her hair. She said she had no interest in looking like she was in her 20s.

Now I understand why.

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