updates: going gray, I don’t want my boss to represent me at a meeting, and more

Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My phone number used to belong to a sex worker

Thanks so much for answering my question. I ultimately ended up changing my number, not because I was worried about a job search, but because I was tired of getting 3am calls from guys wanting friendly business.

It was wild rereading that letter; I’m in a totally different field then. I’m actually a recruiter and have been in what I’d consider close to my dream job for almost six months. Your blog principals are something I strive to incorporate in my recruiting – I always include pay in first listing or message, I try and review people’s backgrounds on Linkedin if I message them, and try and give feedback where you can. I saw another blog post about paying it forward and I volunteer on a Discord server giving job feedback to people on their resumes and the like. (I think I sent an email once saying I recommend your site quite often there, too – one person even told me It helped them land a job.)

Again, thanks so much. I know this is a long update to a short question but you’ve greatly influenced my life and I don’t know where I’d be without this colum. :)

2. Growing out gray hair at work (#3 at the link)

I wrote to you seeking advice for going gray professionally. Many commenters said to not do anything and just let it grow out so that’s exactly what I did.

No negative repercussions. In fact a lot of people comment on how good it looks. I’m surprised by how many women comment they wanna go natural too. Lots of positive comments like they wish their hair was this gray all over naturally, or how thick my hair is.

My profile pic at work is still an old professional photo that I got done when I did used to color so I thought newbies might comment on how different I look but no one has said anything. I also haven’t noticed any ageism or taking me more or less seriously.

3. I don’t want my boss to represent me at a meeting because he’ll mess it up (#2 at the link)

I appreciate you answering my question and all of the input from the commentariat. I think I knew the answer already, but confirmation that there isn’t much to be done is helpful; at least I know there isn’t a solution out there that I’ve been overlooking all along.

As it all turned out, I did a little of both — ask the committee if another date was possible and write up notes for my boss, just in case. This was not the type of meeting with PowerPoint presentations, as commentators suggested creating slides, and I could have sent notes directly to the VP’s assistant if necessary, but it might not get discussed if I wasn’t there to answer questions. I actually didn’t go into too much detail for my boss because that’s where he seems to get the most in trouble — picks a small detail and runs away with it; I don’t want to add fuel to the fire so to speak. So I bulleted 3 main points with a sentence of detail hoping that might keep it simple.

And then, the VP in charge of the meeting rescheduled (unrelated to me) and I was able to attend after all. It went well, I think, although the VP and rest of the committee rejected the main suggestion I had to improve the process — fewer people involved and fewer rounds of drafts — I knew that was going to be a long shot, but it was the point I most wanted to make without my boss getting…creative! The committee is mainly made up of folks much higher in title than I, but we’re a more egalitarian org so I felt delicately OK suggesting the committee is…too much. Philosophical difference — they think more eyes on the project equals the less chance for errors slipping through, and I think (and observe) that the more people involved, and more rounds of drafts, equals more introduced errors. There is a great diminish on return after about draft 7 (out of 13-14 usually). By then, they aren’t really reading it anymore and this is where stylistic differences, rather than facts and consistency, get “argued” back and forth between the members of the committee…every year. We did work out a compromise that the VP will provide a style/rules rubric and reject any edits that don’t conform. We’ll see how this goes in a year. Any improvement is still an improvement.

I did get a chuckle out of the comment thread started by Viette, and especially Dinwar’s comment about Boss’ motivation being “bardic tradition”. I don’t know why he does it…I don’t have any reason to think it’s malicious… and I think Marvin the Paranoid Android summed it up well, “All that to say, I doubt he is conscious of doing this. He’s delivering the emotional truth of how he perceives the events.” it’s just so Extra.

4. Friday good news (#3 at the link)

I’ve been permanent in this job for over a year now, and this is the best job in the best place I’ve worked. While, like every workplace, there are conflicts, they are handled maturely and well. I feel like I belong here.

My communication skills have improved, I’ve been challenged and not chided and I have taken on extra roles and responsibilities that I am enjoying.

Working in healthcare is super stressful, we’ve gone from heroes to being harassed on our way to work, but I love the people I work with and I finally feel like I’m working where I need to be and I’m living in a place I need to be.

Even if it’s expensive.

{ 66 comments… read them below }

    1. Generic Name*

      Agreed! I’m in my early 40s, and I’ve stopped coloring my hair. I do not want to deal with the “skunk stripe” (my non-grey hairs are dark) that happens when folks stop coloring very grey or white hair but have been dying it dark. I think it will help give me more gravitas in my role at work. I also have an old headshot, and I’ve been pondering if I should get it re-done, since it’s at least 5 years old, and I’ve changed my look since then (new glasses, no makeup). I think it’s up to you if you decide to get it re-done or not.

      1. Higher Ed*

        Adding to the compliments on your hair. I, too, decided to stop coloring my hair during the pandemic. Having a tech role, my workload had significantly increased, and I just didn’t need one more thing to do. It was easier for me because I was working mostly remote, and don’t have a public facing role to begin with. Mostly, I have other women telling me I’m “brave” and that they couldn’t do it, but I’m of an age where I’m beyond feeling self-conscious and was always pretty low-maintenance to begin with, never wearing makeup.

      2. A Becky*

        Leave the headshot if you’re still recognisable, I love playing “Rate the very old headshot”. Winner is ither Brian May (yes really, he’s a postdoc at a London Uni), who was “no background, just more hair” or a fabulous 80s mullet

      3. Butter Bonanza*

        I think gray hair is such a striking feature on younger people like you. It’s a visual contrast that’s rare and sort of special, you know? Smooth skin and and gray hair, blue-eyed brunettes, brown-eyed blondes, freckles on olive/dark skin, a beauty mark—maybe I just stare at people too much.

    2. Allornone*

      Agreed! Truly fabulous!

      After 30 years of dyeing her hair, my mom let herself go grey a few years ago. Turns out her gray is a beautiful dark silver that made her wish she had stopped dyeing years ago! At 40, I’m fortunately only now seeing my first grey hairs pop through. I’m not sure if I’ll hide behind dyes or not yet, but it’s good to know that society isn’t judging as much these days and I might not have to. Although, sadly, unlike my mother’s formerly dark locks, I’m blond and unlikely to get her silver grey.

      1. DarthVelma*

        My mom went gray twice. The first time is was a yellow-ish gray that she did not like. But the second gray is beautiful – very silvery. Between that and the stunning salt and pepper and then snow-white my dad went, I have high hopes. :-)

        1. Higher Ed*

          I recommend the blue or purple shampoos/conditioners for avoiding that yellow tone.

          1. Obfuscated Orangutan*

            I put 2 drops of Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing in my shampoo and conditioner, and that really helps without having to change products. It is shocking how little it takes!

          2. Mockingjay*

            Purple shampoo is good for temporary brightening, but doesn’t address the cause of yellow tone, which is minerals in the water. That yellow scum you scrub off the shower wall? That’s what’s coating your hair. (Not product build-up like commercials claim.) I use a shampoo/conditioner for hard water. About once a month I use a little purple shampoo to brighten, but the biggest help is removing the hard water build-up and keeping it off.

          3. Nina*

            My mum uses those (after years of her usually bright blue or purple haired daughter cajoling her to just try a washout purple) and yes, all her white streaks have turned into visibly pastel purple streaks.
            Caveat emptor, and get a good look under strong lighting or full daylight before you go out to decide if you like the color it actually is, is all.

    3. starfox*

      I really do wish my hair would go all-over gray! Currently, I have just a few stray gray hairs. My hair was super white-blonde as a kid, and now it is an ash brown color. I dye it blonde because I just feel like I’m blonde. I don’t feel “myself” when it’s brown, even though it is literally what grows out of my head. It’s part of my identity, as weird as that sounds!

      Anyway, I feel like gray is kind of close to platinum blonde, and I think I’d look better with gray hair than with brown…..

      I might be one of the few people who wants to go gray so I can STOP dying my hair, lol….

      1. Obfuscated Orangutan*

        Silver hair dye has become enough of a thing that I’m considering just doing that. My mousy brown hair looks awful with my complexion, so I dye it auburn.

        1. Not Australian*

          Yep, I’d love to go grey – and believe me I’m in the demographic for it – because it would give me more options for dyeing (I fancy green, or pink) but thanks to my genetic legacy I’m stuck with an awful sludgy-brown colour probably for another fifteen years or so. My solution is purple.

        2. starfox*

          Yep mine is that same mousy brown color. I dyed mine red for a bit, but it didn’t work with my skin tone.

      2. TrixM*

        Friend of mine with that mouse-brown colour has gone a beautiful silver-grey that looks fantastic with her skin tone, so here’s hoping it’ll be similar.

    4. Trawna*

      It certainly is gorgeous! I like my work headshot, so after I went natural, I just changed the photo to black and white. Voila!

    5. Yellow*

      Love it! Thank you for including a pic! I’m 41 and just starting to go grey (only a few so far), and have the hope of letting it go naturally. My mom is in her 70s and stuck in the cycle of dying it and it seems to annoying, time consuming and costly.

    6. Anon Supervisor*

      I’ve been letting mine go grey for a few years. I want EmmyLou Harris hair.

    7. inkheart*

      I agree, that is some fabulous hair. I am grey now but my ID photo is from the day I started, 15 years ago, when there was no grey. C’est la vie!

    8. Just Another Cog*

      Yes it is! I’m super envious that the grey is pretty evenly disbursed and of your hair’s luxurious thickness! I let mine go gray during Covid, as others have commented. It is not nearly as beautiful as yours, but it got to the point I was getting it dyed about every four weeks. Expensive and such a time commitment. Honestly, no one seems to have noticed.

    9. allathian*

      Yeah, your hair is absolutely gorgeous. Mine’s going the same way, it’s also thick and wavy, just like yours, but with a little less salt and more pepper. A few years from now it’ll probably look something like that.

  1. Rainy*


    First, your hair looks incredible. :)

    Second, about the photo–my office still had my old photo up on the website from when my hair was waist-length and my natural strawberry blonde for YEARS while my hair was: short and dip-dyed purple and bleached blonde, undercut and natural colour, undercut and purple, and then shoulder-length and blue. I gave a talk once and the organization, without asking, pulled the photo for the poster from the website showing me with waist-length curly gingery hair and when I got up to speak I had short blue hair. Literally no one has ever said anything about it to me.

  2. redflagday701*

    “[T]hey think more eyes on the project equals the less chance for errors slipping through, and I think (and observe) that the more people involved, and more rounds of drafts, equals more introduced errors.”

    Oh boy, I know who’s right here, and I feel your pain.

    1. Rainy*

      I’m on a committee currently drafting Large Thing and when we started talking about external reviewers I was like “let’s not send out a call for reviewers–instead, invite 1 or 2 people each to review the parts they have expertise in and submit suggestions” because I too have been responsible for projects when other people thought more eyes made less errors, and it is always a disaster.

    2. Lance*

      There’s a reason ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ is a common expression, for sure. Too many differences in opinion over one thing or another to the point that that draft, like OP worries, is just going to get diluted and things are going to get missed.

    3. Anonym*

      RIGHT? I’d prefer to cap at two reviewers max, preferably with the last one just there to catch any errors. Also, unless there are substantive changes you get exactly one round of input. (Am I working with someone senior who changes their mind and re-edits their own changes repeatedly at the eleventh hour, with a 50% rate of worsening the product? Perhaps.)

      Too many cooks, y’all. Not good.

    4. linger*

      There are pros and cons on both sides. For some kinds of content production and proofreading, it is correct that a wider range of viewpoints leads to a more robust product. However, it is also true that a free-for-all scrum over many iterations can lead to errors being introduced and the same decisions being continually relitigated. The key to solving the latter is that a much smaller number of people need to have responsibility for evaluating and acting on the feedback received.
      I was involved in a similar type of project (original content in annual product, with zero room for error) for 20 years. Part of the checking process was under committee-internal control, part was institutionally-mandated to be by the full committee (consisting of up to 20 members). The process I set up was to form specialist subcommittees to draft different parts of the project, and a small editing subcommittee (2-4 people, ideally with a representative from each specialist group, and including the committee chair, who was able to make executive decisions) who received and reviewed all material created by the larger committee, checked and revised it over 3-4 editing rounds, compiled it into a draft, and then sent that compiled draft out to all other members for extensive, independent, written feedback. The editing committee then acted on all comments received that seemed reasonable and internally-consistent to produce a revised draft — and also documented the comments received and the decisions made/actions taken in response. When the full committee met to discuss and proofread that draft (in 4 institutionally-mandated proofing rounds), they were also given the documentation to limit relitigation.

    5. JustaTech*

      There’s a time and a place for lots of editors, but the closer you get to the final product the fewer people should be involved. I’ve had reports cycle around the (painfully cumbersome) document system because two senior people could not agree on on some stylistic choice that did not matter (something less meaningful than the Oxford comma).

      Having a style guide helps a lot, but at the end of the day you also need a person with enough clout to say “Done” and make it stick.

  3. NotARacoonKeeper*

    Okay this is beside their point, but regarding LW3’s review cycle suggestion: I work at a public research university and am in the progress of applying for a 9-figure, multi-institutional federal grant (this is not my usual gig AT ALL) and OH THE REVIEW CYCLES. You don’t become the VP-Research of a large university by being dumb, but from my opinion you also do not get there by being agreeable *cries into keyboard*

    1. JustaTech*

      Recently I got a proposed contract from a science contract vendor and one of the clauses was that for every document revision cycle after the first two, you had to pay ~$1,000.

      What a brilliant way to get people to lay off the pointless nitpicking! (Or at least keep it internal to their own group/org.)
      I wish I could impose a similar fine within my company!

      (No, you don’t get to the top of a major research university by being agreeable, sadly for everything and everyone. Good luck with the grant!)

  4. beebis*

    I’m jealous of all my 30something friends that are getting gray. I hope it looks as good on me as it does on this LW!

    1. Lance*

      I’m even more jealous of the ones that have it come in with any degree of quicknes. It’s been creeping in ever so slowly for me since my early 20’s (not sure whether it’s genetics; neither of the parents have grey hair even now), and now it’s up to a point of having partly even, partly uneven patches.

      1. Anon Supervisor*

        Mine’s been taking years, while my husband is full on Anderson Cooper and he’s 3 years younger than me. I think it’s my Irish ancestry. They say it takes longer for people with a red or reddish base to their hair to go gray. My grandmother had auburn hair and it only went gray at the temples.

      2. Sorrischian*

        I’m in my mid-twenties and I have half a dozen silver hairs in just the right place that if they stay clustered as more come in I’ll end up with a Bride of Frankenstein style white streak (which I would very much enjoy) but if they don’t, it could end up looking very strange. Only time will tell.

  5. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    LW2, I cannot wait till I start to go grey, and your hair is an example of why! It’s absolutely gorgeous.

    I’ve downloaded apps that let you try on different hair styles and colors, and I always land on silver/gray as my favorite. As soon as I start going gray, I am planning on getting silver highlights and gray lowlights, and admiring my hair in every mirror and reflective surface I pass. I’m going to put hair gloss on the white/silvery pieces to make them stand out. It is going to be awesomely fun.

    1. Anonym*

      Right? It’s so lovely! I’m getting a cluster of grays near the hairline lately, and am hoping I get a streak. That would be awesome.

      1. Mischa*

        I found my first grey hair at 19 and started seriously greying at 28. I just turned 30 and now have a silver streak that looks so cool with my natural curls. I can confirm that silver streaks are indeed awesome.

    2. Anon Supervisor*

      I’m going gray and I love it. The only problem is the texture is kind of weird now and it’s getting a weird wave to it. It’s not as soft as it used to be, but leave in conditioner helps a lot.

  6. Twill*

    LW#4 – Just wanted to say I’m sorry that you are getting abuse on your way to work. That is just crazy to me! I cannot fathom what is going their minds. I appreciate you and everyone in the Healthcare industry. I worked in hospitals years ago as a clerk and an OR runner. Back when my kids were small. I have the utmost admiration for everyone involved involved in caring for people. It’s hard work

    1. TiredButHappy*

      Op4 here.

      It ramped up horribly in January when the convoy people were trying to get a foothold here (I’m not in Ottawa), but has mostly calmed down now.


      That being said, the first time I was told I was going to be hanged for my crimes against humanity was something else.

  7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #3 – oh boy, 13 rounds of revisions! We had a term for that at a previous company: “changing happy to glad”.

  8. HMS Cupcake*

    LW2, count me in as someone who wishes my hair was naturally gray all over like yours. Unfortunately I have gray at my hairline and a couple of random chunks on the top of my head. It’s not a good look. You however, look great!

  9. Stuffed Aardvaark*

    I stopped coloring my hair years ago and let it go gray. Once, while on public transit, someone tapped me on my shoulder to ask if they could take a picture of my hair! My hairstylist often remarks on my color and noted that they often have clients who try to color their hair to match what mine is naturally. I use quality shampoo/conditioner formulated for gray hair. On a side note, my (now deceased) mother often said that she’s proud of her gray strands; she earned every one of them.

    1. Kaye*

      I went from mostly dark to mostly grey between the ages of 30 and 35. My newer colleagues have been surprised to learn it’s natural!

    2. Long tooth*

      I would feel that it’s pretty intrusive to go up to strangers and ask them to take a picture of their hair.

  10. emmelemm*

    My mom was always totally paranoid about grey hair and making her look old and she dyed it faithfully for many years. But her hair was also thin and thinning with age.

    The pandemic hit and we went into a pretty tight lockdown in our state and she just decided, well, I guess I have to let it go grey. Turns out, she has a wonderful color of grey hair, very silvery, and bonus, it got much thicker! She’s pretty happy with it now.

    1. Myrin*

      I’ve also found numerous times that grey and/or white hair looks thicker (on white people, that is). I think it’s mostly because when thin hair is dyed dark, you can very often (like really! This is something I see a lot!) see the scalp incredibly prominently because it’s such a stark contrast, whereas white or silver hair blends together with a light scalp colour.

      1. emmelemm*

        I do think that is a factor! Also, her brown hair was pretty straight unless she curled it, but the grey hair has a lot of wave to it.

      2. AnonymousReader*

        I think the chemicals used for dying hair can also damage it and cause it to fall off, resulting in thinner hair than if the person had left it alone.

        1. Never Boring*

          I didn’t let my hair go gray during the pandemic, but I decided there was no time like the present to switch to dyeing it myself with henna and indigo rather than chemical dyes. And whaddaya know, once I figured out the right timing and proportions, it turns out my hair isn’t naturally a giant ball of frizz – that was the chemical dye! My hair hasn’t been this healthy in decades.

  11. OP 2*

    Thank you to all for your very kind comments. My hair started to go gray in my teens. I’m now 40 and have embraced it. If you are on the fence, do it! You can always color it back if you don’t like it.

    1. Anonym*

      Glad it’s been such a positive experience, OP2! It really looks fantastic. A friend of mine also started in her teens and stopped dyeing around 30, and also looks fabulous. Love it!

    2. Polly Sprocket*

      It looks SO great! I also started going gray in my teens, and now in my early 30s I have gray all over. Sometimes I wonder if I should dye it, but your picture makes me excited to see what happens as it continues to go grayer!

  12. All Het Up About It*

    Can I just say that I love the Friday Good News updates! It’s so nice to hear from people that their news truly was good news!

  13. AnonymousReader*

    I love the gray hair, LW#2! I’m not grey (yet) but I will let it happen when the time comes. Do what makes you happy but I think it looks off when people (men, not just women!) have faces full of wrinkles but their hair is obviously dyed. My MIL who is pushing 80 and wants us all to pretend she doesn’t have a single gray hair on her head and would be horrified if I were to turn gray tomorrow (like I give a damn! My hair, my choice!)

    Embrace the gray! I personally think the transitional period is the best because your hair is constantly growing and changing in color. My SO has been greying for the past 5 years and I love how the “look” changes from week to week.

  14. Deanna*

    LW#2, my younger brother, who is 28, currently has half dark brown hair and half pure white hair. It’s genetics because our Grandad’s hair went completely white by the time he was 21. On the flip side he never went bald despite his sons doing so and had a full head of hair when he died at 87. My bro has always embraced the white, especially as he’s a working actor and it makes him stand out. And it reassures him that he won’t go bald since he has our Grandad’s hair genes lol

    My hair is still naturally very dark but I will happily let it go grey (and occasionally dye it fun colours)

  15. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – my work often includes multiple drafts of things that get into ridiculous detail, culminating in back and forth over stylistic differences. I have been known to slip the original draft in at about round 7, just as the document has lost all cohesion and sense. It is amazing how often everyone says, “It’s perfect now!”, or makes only a minor change before we go with it.

    (And if they notice, I just claim I sent it in error – so many versions, a mistake was bound to happen.)

  16. freddy*

    LW1, congrats! If you’re reading the comments, would you be willing to share more about how you broke into recruiting? It’s a career pivot I’m seriously considering and it would be really helpful to hear how you acquired the needed skills, how you engage with the industry & your peers, what that Discord server is, etc. Anything you’re willing to share would be gratefully received!

  17. Coder von Frankenstein*

    “Philosophical difference — they think more eyes on the project equals the less chance for errors slipping through, and I think (and observe) that the more people involved, and more rounds of drafts, equals more introduced errors.”

    This isn’t really a philosophical difference. It’s a question of fact, which could be determined by counting the number of errors per draft. I’m fairly sure doing this would validate your position.

    But since they’re in charge and you’re not, calling it a “philosophical difference” is a nice way to de-escalate the issue without conceding it. :)

  18. chewingle*

    Oh, that salt and pepper hair is ENVIOUS! Grey/natural color is also very trendy right now (not that it matters), so I’m not surprised those commenters led you in the right direction. I love it! My grandmother also has that shade of grey and I look forward to growing it out as I age, as well.

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