The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-Girl.

Everybody Loves a Roan

A few years ago, I was relaxing in the bleachers at a rodeo, while a weirdo friend braided my hair.  “You’re going roan! I like it.”  Roan, the  sprinkle of white hairs, is such desirable coat pattern in horses.  Women. . .I’m not so sure.  “Whoa, whoa, whoa, timeout!” scream the glossy magazines and media.  Their not-so subtle subtext:  aging is shameful and grey hair is is to be covered.   Though everybody loves a roan, I began dying my hair shortly after the bleacher observation.   For frugality’s sake, I’ve declined to dye my hair for over a year, but my occasional discomfort with my current appearance has me questioning my cheap little heart.  To dye or not to dye?   Perhaps, I should just avoid mirrors and surround myself with other roans.

I was 17-years-old, when I spotted my first grey hair.  “Oh no, I’m becoming my mother!”  Horrified, I quickly plucked it from my head.  My mother wore her hair confidently in it’s natural salt-and-pepper state.   My  self-conscious, teenage insecurity took her appearance as a personal affront.  “Why would she choose to look so OLD?” whispered the little voice in the back of my head.  Apart from my mother, not many women were openly embracing the changes fueled by  stress, genetics, and time.  Aside from Mom’s personal, spiritual inspiration country singer Emmylou Harris, I was not aware of public figures embracing natural greying.

Fast forward a few years, I am nearly the age my mother was when my teenage-self believed her ancient.  As, my own dark hair is rapidly becoming sprinkled with grey, I admire my mother’s choice more.  Despite the mature appearance of the likeness in the mirror, I feel only slightly more adult than that girl who plucked that first alien hair so many years ago.  I’ve been under the mistaken impression that life would make more sense, as my appearance became more “dignified.”    How do you know when you are adult enough?  Grey hair clearly isn’t the answer  I’ve been looking for.  I can’t seem to find an “adultier” adult to soothe my anxiety.

Wiry greys sprout from my head like tiny alien antennas, defying the straight brown hair I’ve identified with for so long.  I used to scoff at women whose hairstyles never changed, snorting to myself, “My hair is not my identity, who I am is bigger than my appearance.”  Yet my own hair turns, and I am struggling with leaning into the discomfort of my changing appearance.  One thing is certain, I’d much rather surround myself with roan ponies, than have a roan ponytail.



  1. Ok, I’m a roan. I also do not (and have not in a quarter century) shaved. Anywhere. And I’d say this: might as well make peace with the grey hair because there are other things that are not easily camouflaged that are either there or coming soon. There is a photo of me where my neck is, hmmmm, my mother’s neck. My hair is thinning some, enough for me to notice even if husband does not — just like my grandmother talked about (“I used to have this THICK black hair”). This right here, this is beauty at 55 and I embrace it because to do otherwise seems a death to me somehow.

    A man commented on a fb status today that “You would not be as cute with a towel over your head.” He meant it as a bigoted comment against Muslims so that’s what I responded to but I’m sure he was entirely unaware of the misogyny inherent in his “cute” comment. As if I sit in the wings waiting for him, the husband of an incredibly cute and vivacious older friend, to think I’m cute? I think NOT! No, our cuteness, our beauty, is not defined outside being who we truly are

  2. Karen Stevenson

    February 3, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Ah, yes, that stage of life…should I or shouldn’t I…dye. We had a roany pony – a hopeful 4H horse – that most definitely had a mind of its own, particularly when it came to men. It would dump a man quick as a flash but behaved well for the female gender. From that one experience we determined that roan horses are rather particular and have an innate wisdom of sorts.
    I have learned to think of those wild corky gray hairs as ‘silver’. So, then, celebrate your wild sparkly self entering the age of wisdom.
    I loved your mother’s hair, by the way.

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