Sunday, September 23, 2012

About Gray Hair

Looking at the photo of my recent 50th high school reunion, I noticed that what hair there was on the men's heads was uniformly gray. On the other hand, while all the women had plenty of hair, only three had gray hair.  The rest smiled brightly from under hair that ranged from  raven's-wing black through chestnut and strawberry to palest blond.  Whatever the shade, though, my classmates' hair glistened with an even more youthful shine than it had in our graduation pictures long ago.

Of course not all my classmates attended the reunion, and it is possible that the women who stayed home all had gray hair, but I doubt it.  My former high school is in Alabama, and the Land of Dixie does not abound in gray-haired women.  The species is more common in Vermont, but even here it is becoming rarer.  "Everyone I know colors her hair," a fifty-something neighbor told me recently.

Odd to think that my generation, which dispensed at least temporarily with bras and razors, cannot now dispense with hair dye.  But breasts and legs do not announce themselves as instantly as the stuff that covers our skulls and frames our faces.  The color of our hair tells the world at a glance whether we are cool and collected (blond), fiery and unpredictable (redhead), smouldering and sensuous (brunette), or just old.

Looking at those shiny heads in the reunion picture, I have to admit that hair color does do something for a person--makes her look soignee, optimistic, younger. "The women looked a lot better than the men," a friend who attended the reunion wrote me.  And no wonder, with all that colorful hair.  But what about the dignity of age, and the hard-won wisdom and serenity that gray hair is supposed to convey? 

Ah, who cares about those when your bright hair can momentarily blind the observer to the wrinkles on your face!

Despite my advanced years, I do not color my hair.  Unfortunately, people assume that I do, since most of my gray hair is around my temples and is thus covered by the longer hair of my crown, which is still mostly brown.  This, I feel, unfairly robs me of the credit due me for my heroic refusal to color.

To be honest, this refusal owes more to practical reasons than to anything else.  For one thing, my hair grows quickly, and I don't like the idea of monthly trips to the colorist to eliminate the dreaded "roots."  For another, what if I were to break a leg or be struck by a sudden illness that would cause me to miss my salon appointments?  My friends and family would think that I had suddenly aged a couple of decades, and be alarmed.

I am of course aging even as I write, and my hair will someday--probably sooner rather than later--be completely gray.  But I would rather the people around me had a chance to get used to it gradually.

For the moment, looking at that reunion photo, I like to think that my hitherto virgin hair would not have looked out of place among my classmates' not-so-virgin do's. 

But that, like that other long-ago virginity, is something best pondered in solitude.


11 comments :

  1. For me, no coloring is time and money. Plus I like the texture and color of my gray/silver hair. It's the best color I've ever had!

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    1. Dear mrb, if everyone's hair turned the color of yours, hair dye companies would soon go out of business. It's lovely.

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  2. Can I suggest that you also do not colour your hair because you are very lucky not to be going very grey yet? (Certainly not by your photograph) I envy you! I'm not yet 50, and - if I dispensed with the regular salon visits and the touch-ups in my bathroom in between - I would be quite grey. I got my first grey hairs before I was 30.

    I was contemplating the other day when I might be prepared to let the grey come in. I didn't come up with an answer other than "not yet!"

    Men generally look far better (more acceptable?) grey than women. George Clooney is an example. My husband is another.

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    1. Mali, you're so right, and I may throw in the towel yet. But as to why men look better grey than women, I cannot help feeling that the reason has more to do with sociology than aesthetics.

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    2. You're probably quite right.

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  3. I started dying my hair about a year ago and I have to say I love doing it! It gives me a lift and a sense of fun about my looks -- I can play with the color and make it darker or lighter; to my infinite surprise and delight that turns out to be fun! And Lali, Cherie , it is hard to give you much credit for your decision. I am a decade behind you and if my locks were as raven as yours I wouldn't dye my hair either.

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  4. Ever the painter, Elizabeth! God knows we could all use a sense of fun about our looks. And I think your hair looks terrific.

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  5. Thanks for the reminder. I need to get my roots touched up...

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  6. I am holding out as long as I can. I truly don't know what I will do when the gray becomes more obvious than it is now. (And with me, it's the texture of my hair that's more obviously different.) But it's time, money, maintenance...scary things in my world. A few years ago, when I posted a Facebook note to my friends: "Let gray happen or color hair?," I was shocked by both the number of responses I got and how passionately people felt about the subject.

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  7. I remember that FB post, and the ensuing brouhaha.

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