|Now, that is gutsy — gray and long.|
Ed. Note:My great pal, D.A. is back today with another one of her beautifully written and intelligently examined posts on that nagging question hovering in the back of many of our minds: Do I dare to go gray?
When I was doing the interviews for my book, I asked some of the star hairstylists in Paris what position they took on the delicate subject. One said gray is an “intellectual decision” another said, “it takes guts.” Both agreed they liked it, but understood it’s not an easy call.
Please visit D.A. often here and she is now writing regularly for the site Purple Clover. Please visit her there as well. I look at her writing and her brilliant mind as a sort of intellectual vitamin.
|Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF).|
My kids started teasing me about it years ago, when they saw a few silver strands, giggled over my age, and thought I ought to let my hair go gray.
At the time, I laughed along with them. The paint job, thanks to very nice people in an equally friendly neighborhood salon, had seen me through short hair, long hair, permed hair, wedding hair, mother hair, striped hair, divorce hair, and yes – periodic touch-ups as a bit of the non-brunette strands began to creep in.
My mother’s salt and pepper look began in her mid thirties. Me? I was in my forties when I noticed a few outliers cropping up, so I figured I was ahead of the game.
To my dismay, there were (proud?) proclamations of my age made by my sons to their friends by the time I hit 42 or 43. You know, of the “can you believe my mom is 43 years old?” variety – offered exuberantly in part to tease me and also, I suspect, because their friends were generally surprised. We tend to look younger in my family, and it’s a matter of genetics. Like most of us on that score, I try to capitalize on the good points and accept the more challenging ones.
I didn’t have to do much in the female maintenance department, more by choice than anything else, but there was the visit to my Hair Specialist Extraordinaire for the occasional paint job. And the teasing picked up when my boys were teens, as they began to wonder how I’d look with silver hair, and many of the parents of their buddies were graying.
My response was always this: I’ll stop painting the gray when my eyebrows go silver.
I admit, I’m a proponent of aging gracefully, or rather, dismissing the importance of the aging (or anti-aging) preoccupations we tend to have as women in a youth-obsessed culture.
I’m no different than any other woman who wishes to remain attractive and comfortable in her own skin; I simply think we have more to give and more to be concerned about than making ourselves crazy over the inevitable signs of our time on this earth, for which we ought to be grateful.
Having recently found a single soft, feathery silver hair in my dark brown brows, may I say that I’m inclined to move the bar? I will add that I’m not ready to gray, that discrimination (and invisibility) as we grow older is real, and that in my case – petite, already hard to see in a crowd, and still slugging it out making a living and not in a “secure” situation – well, a mop of gray hair would not be advisable.
I read a marvelous piece in the Fashion & Style section of The New York Times, “She’s Done With Washing It Away,” as Leah Rozen describes the freedom of going gray – with both its pros and cons.
|Our beloved Helen Mirren.|
Among the cons, that invisibility factor is problematic, as well as being treated as though she were “old” when she isn’t. And for that matter, shouldn’t we stop considering old is something dreadful, warranting dismissive treatment? Also on the cons list is cost – and I certainly get that one!
Clearly the pros include being treated her age (or younger), rather than like a little old lady, which seems to equate to “less than” in our culture.
I must say, I love the defiance and acceptance in her sentiments. However, she also admits to the following as she writes:
“WHY GO GRAY in my mid-50s? Because I can. I am in the fortunate position that I am not looking for another full-time job. I don’t have to appear youthful or try to disguise my age to compete with recent Justin Bieber fans for employment.”
Not only is it a matter of ageism when looking for work – and keeping it – there’s also the dating aspect. In my own experience, if the online dating world brought me men 10 and 15 years my senior when I was divorced and dating in my 40s, do I really want the Carmen look without the “full” Carmen look – if you know what I mean? Wouldn’t I then be attracting men 15+ years older than I am?
While I’m in a relationship – eh oui, he’s even French! – I don’t have a need to think about online dating just now. (Insert immense sigh of relief.)
|Jamie Lee Curtis.|
But there’s another factor.
With this hair, here and now, brown and shoulder length, I feel like myself. And that’s the real issue. Feeling comfortable with oneself, “bien dans sa peau” as the expression goes. And for me, my hair remains a source of confidence, a reminder of who I am.
Would I feel like myself if I were gray?
Not right now. For that matter, I wouldn’t feel like myself with very short hair either, though I loved my short cut when I had it – which was for many years and exactly the right option at that time in my life.
With all the changes we each choose to undertake – those that come whether we want them or not, and those we explicitly act on – hair feels important to some of us. Part of our identity. Part of our femininity – however we define it. Yet I know my femininity (and identity) are not wrapped up in any one feature or facet of my persona, and that good health is ultimately the goal so we may live fully.
|The gorgeous Carnen Dell’Orefice, perhaps the world’s most famous gray-haired model.|
Clearly, as we all face certain changes with time, I will adjust as I need to – as we all will. I will focus on the genetic pros and cons, and the many good things in my relationships and my life, and try to graciously “let go” of what is a natural process of saying goodbye.
And in so doing, I will say hello to the growing wisdom we all possess with the years, to the focus on essential values and pleasures that is also ours to attain, and I will find new ways to feel like myself.
I’m curious what you hang onto as being part of who you are, how you recognize yourself – hair, body, skin, one particularly nice feature you’ve been known for, or something more important still – who you are, inside.
As for yours truly and that pesky gray, despite the continued teasing from my sons?
I’m not ready to be a silver fox, or in my case… a silver wolf, not just yet.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a new mantra: I’ll stop washing away the gray when my brows have turned white.