I am “embracing my gray” for about the 10th time. That’s what the beauty magazines call the decision not to color the gray in your hair. To embrace your gray. To look your age, or maybe much older.

It is a major demarcation in a woman’s life, deciding to “go gray.” Some women discover they have beautiful salt-and-pepper gray; others have a lemon yellowish. You never really know until you go. It’s a little like buying a “mystery bag” at the fall carnival. As Forrest Gump said, “You never know what you’re going to get.”

Here is my personal pattern: I embrace it for a while, get nearly there, then look in a mirror and see the colors of the Earth’s layers and run to the salon.

The second time I began the going-gray process was about 7 years ago, when there was not nearly so much gray to embrace. Whenever I got color on my dark hair, I came out looking like Roy Orbison or a carnival barker. I would simply give up dye and go natural.

Then I went to France and did another daring thing: I got a haircut. The French stylist gave me a wonderful new style, and began leading me upstairs to the “color room,” where, she said, there was a cask of wine and a vat of dye.

“Oh, no,” I protested. “I am embracing my gray.” I tried to evoke Emmylou Harris with a French accent.

“Non! You have plenty of time to go gray,” she insisted. Then she painted color on my hair that looked natural, or as natural as any hair color does. And if only I could have flown to Paris every six weeks to get my hair done, I’d still be a full brunette.

Instead, once again, against the advice of my stylist and friends, I’m embracing. But I have refined my technique: I avoid mirrors.

I’ve read all the articles about how to take the plunge without falling off the map. You’re supposed to be extra careful with your makeup and clothes. In other words, don’t put rouge on your eyelids or wear your mother’s pantsuit.

It’s best to lose a lot of weight at the same time you embrace gray so that the mirror can’t deal you a double whammy. It also is a good idea to avoid high-school reunions, all kinfolk who can’t resist telling the truth, your husband’s former girlfriends and all other catty women.

If you look for the definition of “gray,” you find: 1. the color of ash or lead; 2. dismal or gloomy. So don’t look for the definition.

Play mind games. Try to imagine what Marilyn Monroe would have looked like if she’d lived long enough to go gray and made that decision. Pick out attractive gray-haired women at the airport or among your friends. Buy a new — or old — Emmylou album.

My friend Prudence is a natural-born leader and a former ambassador. When she visited recently, she told me that women are at the zenith of their power in their 60s. Even men start to listen to them.

When men stop looking at you, they start listening. Isn’t that a kick in the gray head?

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s email address is rhetagrimsley@aol.com.