Show Your Gray

So I learned in a certain magazine aimed at people of a certain age, that there is a highly popular Instagram account known as Grombre. I used to think that because I didn’t subscribe to Instagram, if that’s the appropriate verb for such an action, Facebook wouldn’t learn even more stuff about me. Which is probably moot because they, and Google, already know everything about me.

Giving up on what is by now a fruitless effort to protect my privacy, I logged into Instagram using my Facebook password. FB, you have become a part of my DNA. And I used said Google to find out more about Martha Truslow Smith, who started the account.

First I found out the derivation of “Grombre”. There is—maybe was or still is, as it’s never easy to know whether the craze that started a few years ago is still a thing—a hair-dying style called ombréFrench for “shading”. It still appears to be popular because lots of women blend of colored strands of hair. So you get it now: “gray” coupled with ombré becomes Grombre. Kinda hip, right?

I like this empowering movement. I only wish it had happened for me when I started getting gray at 27, which began decades ago. I cycled through many colors in the ’80s and ’90s; I loved being a redhead. And blond, of course. I settled on blond for a long time; I attempted to grow my hair, but it’s not the kind of hair that can successfully get very long. Genetics, I believe.

During my short-lived long-hair phases, I let it be its streaky salt and pepper, more salt than pepper. Then, giving up hoping for the mane was was never to be, I went back to very short, and it was cheaper to use color. So, red, then blond, because as a gray, I didn’t have to worry about roots.

The main thing that made me start dying my hair, me, who was Ms Natural all through the 70’s when women stopped shaving and wearing make-up, was that men much older than me, also gray, started giving me the Eye. Although maybe they always were doing that but I never noticed before. So, red, then blond.

On the Grombre Instagram site, photos span the spectrum of gray-haired women, young and old. The photos posted—accepted for posting, because one must submit the photo vial email for approval—are universally staged to be one’s best. Mostly I noted eyebrows. Snowy mounds of streaked hair with dark eyebrows. That is a fine look. There is something undoubtedly alluring about brown or black eyebrows and the spark of bright, white hair. Red lipstick doesn’t hurt, either. The majority of the women look strikingly beautiful, but there are also portraits of the rest of us, ordinary, young or old,showing many of the flaws that obsess us.

Of course one wants to look one’s best in a photo. Lighting and angle minimize our failures and enhance the features we think are the best. If you’re rocking gray hair it has to be right. Haircut and style demand attention. You have a broader choice of color for your clothing and even your glasses, if you wear them.

Also, we need a better description of this than “going gray”. Maybe I am not “embracing” the Grombre movement enough, but “gray” is such a, well, “gray” word. The range of grays I see on the site move from slate to silver, and everything in between. My own hair currently wears a haze of blue, from the black malva rinse I use for this purpose. (I went “blue” after a certain extremely disappointing election result in 2016.) So I would suppose my hair currently is more of a pearl or opal shade.

Anyway, I am submitting a photo to the site. May as well join my sisters in flouting our silver hipness, at any age.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Show Your Gray — 7 Comments

  1. I was glad when my gray hair started to come in, as it meant I could stop with the coupe-soleil blonde streaks to bring back some light into my hair, which went from blonde to dull mouse-brown as I grew older.
    My mum had a lovely silver frame around her face for ages, while the rest of her darker brown hair took much longer to get salty amid the pepper, but after years of mostly gray at the temples, mine is getting more evenly sprinkled with salt.

    I think it’s much easier to let it slowly go salt-and-pepper, or gray, or silver, or white, if you haven’t been painting it – it looks less graceful if you have to let the fully gray color grow out from the roots when the rest of your long hair is tinted dark.

    So good for all those women showing their pretty natural gray hair!

    But I really don’t like the name they chose, it sounds like a combination of growl and somber, not the happy confident sort of name I’d want for a group of people confidently showing their natural age.

    • Now that you say that about “grombre”, I have to agree. “Ombre” is cool, but what about “silver” or “salt and pepper”, or better yet “pepper and salt” — in French, of course!

  2. I have been growing out the color in my hair (I had been waiting until I had sufficient gray to make it look like a deliberate choice rather than laziness or untidiness). Right now I’m sitting at around 50% gray; given my genes, I suspect it will stay that way for a while. When the color is all grown out, however, the red and blue streaks on the left side will go right back in. I would feel naked without them.

  3. My sisters – they of the thick black curls – started going grey in their 20’s. My hair was more of a honey-brown, an, didn’t change through my 30’s, my 40’s…. until around 48, when a chunk of hair at my temple went silver-white in what one friend referred to as “Rogue chic.” It’s pretty cool, actually.

    There are silvering strands everywhere now, but the effect of honey-brown hair is that they just look like interesting highlights…