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.