I make no bones about it; I love our president and totally believe in his good intentions. He ran on a reform platform that includes transparency. (Given the complexity of all he has to protect, I think he’s doing a hell of a good job, which makes me love the guy even more.) My admiration for him brings me here to my musings about "transparency" in going gray, musings that began as a solo essay on letting my hair be what it is (gray, though I prefer to call it silver). My writings about this "age marker" has generated responses that range from feminist fervor to surrendering to old age.
Some women tell me they, too, would go gray, except their gray grows in yellow. To them I say, weave in silver highlights. For some, my rejection of hair dye has been interpreted as a rejection of the cosmetic industry. My going gray is not a manifesto against a society that says gray hair turns us invisible. While I do believe some of us shrink from sight as we age, the culprit is depression and lousy self esteem, not lack of color pigment in our hair follicles. In The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep wore her silver tresses as boldly as she’s ever worn any shade of blond.
My march toward gray began years ago; a page torn from a magazine in 2001 offers testament. I found it a few days ago rummaging through files. It’s a dramatic side angle of this silver-haired model who back then became my role model for going gray. She wore it the way I hoped to someday.
When you’ve been dying your hair for as long as I had, your hair loses its natural luster. It breaks more easily no matter how much product you put on it and no woman, any age, welcomes brittle hair. My decision to go au naturel on top of my head has everything to do with the rest of me aging well. A head full of healthy hair on a body also healthy is a good look for "an old broad,” as my mom was fond of saying. It’s a look I aim for and I don’t believe I’m alone. Health clubs and yoga centers are filled with women my age working out; each of us on our own quest to age well.
This idea of aging well is not new to me. I grew up with a mother who aspired to grow old looking good. And she did, given the constraints imposed by her lifetime nicotine addiction and years of nursing her sick husband, my dad. My mom was quite a looker in her day, which was back in the time when a woman wearing good looks, especially a woman not educated, had an edge. My mom wanted to keep her edge for as long as possible. Women of today may consider her way of thinking shallow, but it wasn’t for my mom or women like her. It was just a fact. I grew up watching my mom bathe her eyes with cucumber slices to reduce puffiness, rub squeezed lemon halves on her elbows to bleach out dark skin, smear Ponds Cold Cream nightly on her face and neck. On her hands she used a cream that was her one extravagance in the truck driver/housewife budget she managed. She swore by this pricey hand cream she could only purchase at Marshall Field’s. Until her death at 81, my mother’s hands remained beautiful.
I think I speak for a lot of us women who want to keep our mojo working for as long as we can. We just don’t know how to say it without sounding vain or self absorbed. So I am owning it here. In the spirit of transparency role- modeled by our president, I am one of those women who intends to age with a balance of nature and discriminating use of products and services offered by the beauty enhancement industry. I just don’t do dyes anymore. Should a woman choose to use any and all enhancements, from fillers to peels to surgeries that lift and tuck to bovine toxins that freeze-frame foreheads, it’s nobody’s business but her own. My only beef with this privacy thing is the lack of good information that does not flow when lips remain sealed. As a former RN practitioner, I wish we had more fact-based information and less of the other kind spoon-fed to us in info-advertisements on TV and in magazines, but that’s another story for another time.