Friday, August 31, 2007

Silver threads . . .

I was interested in this story in the New York Times yesterday about how women feel about going gray as opposed to dyeing their hair. It is actually a review of a book called "Going Gray" by Anne Kreamer.

"At a time when more than half of American women ages 13 to 69 color their hair, Ms. Kreamer argues that hair dye is the great divide that separates those who are in denial about aging from those who embrace it. Dyed hair looks as artificial as a toupee, she concludes, whereas gray suggests candor."

Since I have been "going gray" for most of my life (my first gray hairs started appearing when I was 16) this is an issue I dealt with long ago and it was not hard to decide to let nature take its course and let it go gray. It seems that now that most of my babyboomer sisters are at that point in life it has become a hot subject. A month or so ago I answered a long questionaire about gray vs. dye for a Time magazine reporter. I have yet to see the story appear in the magazine, but it was obviously a topic worthy of some research.

I can't say I "embrace" aging, but my silver hair is less disturbing to me than many of the other symptoms of this maturity I have achieved. I get a lot of compliments on my hair—always have. Compliments are never a bad thing. But it was a little bit of a shock several years ago when I realized I was no longer "prematurely gray," but just plain old gray. Interestingly, I think of the current state of my hair as completely white. I was surprised to see this photo that June took of me several months ago when we went to a gallery show together. This is a view of myself I never see, so it was a surprise to realize that only the front view is white. (Thank goodness for that standup collar or you would see one of the symptoms of aging that does bother me.)

My gray hair is so much a part of who I am that I just have never considered dyeing it. I don't have a problem with anyone else dyeing their hair, but like Anne Kreamer points out, a lot of the time dyed hair looks very false and not very flattering. Friends say to me, "But you have good hair. It's thick and it is a nice silver-y color". Pshaw. I have seen beautiful white hair that is thin and wispy and makes the wearer look like a million bucks. It's in the cut and the style, not the color.

So here's to my sister Becky and my brother Steve and Jane Ann and Christine (who has already declared herself my "hair twin") and Meryl Streep as Amanda Priestly and Emmylou Harris and me and all you other gray-haired beauties. I think our time has come.

8 comments:

  1. I decided to go gray gracefully. The problem with dyeing is that eventually you have to stop and then you age suddenly. I prefer to go naturally. I think being fit and happy is more important to looking youthful than hair color. It helps that my husband went gray long before I did.

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  2. Oh I must bookmark this post and refer back to it often. I'm 37 and I have more gray hair than my mother -- which proves that theory about hair quality being transfered from the father more than the mother, I think. I am always debating about coloring or highlighting it. So far I've resisted. You are so right about getting a great cut! Of course, a youthful spirit makes a big difference too!

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  3. Thank goodness you feel the way you do. Your hair is almost exactly like mine-even the cut is the same. People always ask me where I get it done and I colored it once and my friends were horrified. They always tell me how great the gray looks. By the way-I have a bunch of those stand up collars for the same reason. It's hard to keep standing sideways of everyone though. I've learned to love the hair but I'd get rid of the chins in a minute gladly.

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  4. Meryl Streep! I've never been in the same sentence with Meryl Streep before. Yesterday, I went to get my hair cut and despite my pleas for something a little different I came out with the same old "helmet" hairdo.

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  5. Well, here is one old lady who will probably not go gray until they lock me up in a nursing home! If I had hair like yours, or Christine's, or my handsome husband, I would go gray in an instant. But I know my genes. I know what my parent's hair looked like. I remember my paternal grandmothers wispy no color hair as opposed to my maternal grandmothers fiery red hair that changed to that lovely unsaturated red as she aged. But, I don't have her hair, I have my father's hair. So, I make mine look as much like her hair as I can by visiting my stylist when needed. It gives my hair body and makes me feel good. I'm headed there right now - but just for a cut.

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  6. Jane Ann9:38 PM

    I started going gray early too. I tried to color it during the years it was beginning-to-turn-but-just-not-there yet. However, my hair won't take color. (My hairdresser made me the topic of a color-school seminar and was told it's impossible to get some heads to take the color.) I was wasting money, time, and didn't like the result anyway, so years ago on a long trip to Europe (where my alter ego takes over and I don't care what others think), I let it all go. I have more gray than 82-y-o Mom. I am often complimented and feel comfortable with my gray, but "embracing" aging would be a stretch. It IS the cut and style that makes the difference.

    Mine is darker in back too, which means Nature softens the hair around your face first because that's where age becomes visible first. All you hair-dyers out there? Nature's giving you a hint.

    Ironically, DD#2 has black, black hair and refuses to let one single gray hair show. I've told her she can get by with coloring now, but she's going to start looking hard in a few years. I think she's going to be one of those horrors with black hair at 90. Now where did I go wrong, to have a kid so anti-gray??

    And I loved Meryl Streep's look as "The Devil...".

    (Forgive the long comment, but it's a subject near to my heart.)

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  7. I've never considered dyeing my hair, though I might one of these days try a teal or magenta streak. Did I ever tell you the story about the woman who complimented me on my "mango green" hair? She had an accent (and a few missing teeth), and it took a couple of repeats for me to realize she'd actually said "mingled gray."

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  8. WHAT AN AMAZING CO-INCIDENCE! hERE i AM, ON THE SOUTHERN TIP OF aFRICA, BLISSFULLY UNAWARE OF ANY GLOBAL HAIR TRENDS, AND 3 WEEKS AGO i DECIDED OUT OF THE BLUE TO LET MY ROOTS GROW OUT AND SEE HOW GREY i AM, BECAUSE i HAVE DYED MY HAIR FOR SO MANY YEARS THAT i HAVE FORGOTTEN WHAT MY REAL COLOUR IS! (Ooops, drat that caps lock!) So I am also in the process of going grey, and loving it!

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