Grey Expectations

Grey Expectations

Some of my best friends dye their hair. Correction. Most of my best friends do. And there but for the grey of God go I. You might say it’s a natural consequence of being female and over fifty – to which I would answer, Say what?

It doesn’t seem like so long ago, I could estimate the average age of a crowd by counting the grey heads. Now I can only gauge age by counting grey-haired males. Counting grey-haired females gives me a tally of my allies.

When did going grey gracefully become the exception? And why didn’t I get the memo? Okay. Maybe I did get the memo, but chose to ignore it.

The first time must have been twenty years ago, when the very nice woman who used to cut my hair randomly asked, “Been painting?” She’d discovered my first white hair. She sputtered an apology. I laughed it off.

And I continued to laugh it off as the white hairs increased and the hairdressers’ comments became more frequent, and less oblique.

“We can take care of those pretty easily.”

“No thanks.”

Meanwhile, more and more of my peers were going the opposite route. Some said they did it because their boyfriends or their jobs demanded it. Others felt it was necessary for acquiring a boyfriend or a job. Most simply preferred their hair not to be grey, and saw no point in not looking the way they wanted.

None of this reasoning applies to me. I am happily married to someone who likes my hair the way it was, and where it’s going. I don’t have to worry about my job, because no one cares what writers look like. These are lucky facts, because I could never deal with the fuss dyed hair would require. I’ve seen how much time and money it takes to maintain. I have never worn make-up or had a manicure. And I figured out a long time ago how to keep my hair so it doesn’t require any brushing or combing or blow-drying, or whatever the hell it is real women do.

Of course, the personal is also political. Is there really anyone out there who doesn’t think there’s something wrong with a culture in which men who show their age are considered wise and distinguished, while women feel compelled to look perpetually young? Raise your hand if you think the Academy of Motion Pictures would have handed an Oscar to an eighty-something-year-old woman for her role as a newly out lesbian. No one?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with people dying their hair if they want to. What pisses me off is the societal pressure that makes so many women want to look younger than they are.

The upshot, for me, is that my greying hair now makes me the exception, rather than the rule. When I see a woman who wears her hair grey, I’m grateful. When I see one who does it beautifully, I think of the lining that makes a storm cloud not so bad, the forks and knives that mark a special occasion, settings for turquoise in the Southwest, classic photography, the newspaper of record before it caved in to color. And I’m riveted.

I find it hard to believe I’m the only one.

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11 Responses to “Grey Expectations”

  1. Linda P. Epstein Says:

    See but you’re lucky though. You have lovely gray hair! Or grey hair. I didn’t dye my hair for years because I didn’t mind the accumulating grays. I have just enough now for my formerly very dark hair to just look washed out and dingy but not enough for it to actually look gray or salt and pepper. But I haven’t reached the tipping point where it’s gray and pretty. And so: I pay through the nose to look absolutely Be-you-tee-full! And I like manicures. Except for when I cook a lot or paint my house or work in the garden. Then I don’t give a shit. I try not to buy into the pressure. Except for when I do.

  2. pomandbeanie Says:

    Is it wrong that at 29 yrs old I died my hair grey?

    As a hair lover (I’ve been every colour and every cut) I’d like to say that I like changing my hair simply because it’s fun and I can’t say I feel any pressure to do so. Although I currently don’t have to deal with natural greys, I’m sure they will come along at some point. I’ll probably embrace them for a while until I get bored and then do something different once again.

    While up to a point I agree with you that people shouldn’t dye their hair just to appear young, as with many other colours, grey hair just doesn’t suit everyone.

    I would say one of the main reasons greying ladies dye their hair (and I use my mother as my example here) is because it’s not just the colour that changes but the texture too. Grey/white hairs become a lot more coarse and can be difficult to style. Changing the colour can also make the hair look shiny and soft again.

  3. Amalia Gladhart Says:

    I took my kids to see “The Artist” this weekend; full theater and what they termed an “elderly” crowd–just about everyone’s hair, male or female, was gray. My own gray hairs are still pretty scattered, but more than conviction, I think the maintenance demands are what will ultimately keep me from dying the gray as it advances. But, who knows?

  4. Rebecca Says:

    Thank you! I have a lovely grey stripe and am feeling pressure to start the dyeing. I have more grey than my mom, and than my grandmother. No one at work has grey hair, and I only recently realized that almost every woman over 40 is dyeing her hair! I don’t know many women with grey hair, but I think it is beautiful. I love your hair, and thank you!

  5. fswift Says:

    I used to dye my hair when I first started going gray. Of course I did it myself instead of going and having it done professionally and expensively. It probably would have looked a lot better if I had, however. When you do it yourself, (at least when I did it myself) you end up with a solid color, no contrast – until I felt like I was wearing a hat. I began looking around at women’s hair. In fact I became obsessed looking. And I started to like what I saw – not everywhere – but in certain circles where I would see, not little old ladies, but confident, attractive women who had gray hair and wore it with style. The difference is a great cut and style. You have a great cut and style for your hair and face. It’s been about 12 years for me and every once in a while, I admit, I wonder, maybe…. But the sense of freedom that comes from not doing your hair is so liberating. However, I am the youngest in my family. My two sisters dye their hair. They enjoy introducing me by saying “She used to be the youngest”.

  6. Nomi Says:

    I’m curious about the “grey” vs. “gray” decision.

    And I see the first commenter observed that, too.

    I note your “color” is the U.S. form…..

    • Ruth Horowitz Says:

      Yes, I’m curious about that decision, too. I’m a bad speller, and I have absolutely no instinct for preferring “grey” over “gray,” or the other way around. In fact, when I read your comment, I had to look back at the post in order to remember which one I had used.

      Now I know what to write about in my next post!

  7. Final Cut | Giving Up The Ghost Says:

    […] law finally passed. We no longer have to talk about my hair, because Mario knows how I want it (naturally gray and as easy as possible to deal with). But he has taught me a thing or two about how to be a woman […]

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