To Dye Or Not?

Can a writer pen a book about women wearing gray hair when she’s wearing brown? I don’t think so.

Marla Miller

I’m in the middle of a book project, working title is Gladly Gray: Essays & Interviews of Interesting Women Who Are. The idea sprouted from my roots. Last winter when my march began, I wrote about Going Gray Though I Prefer To Call It Silver in columns at Reader response encouraged me to think about a book, my go-to thought whenever a topic interests me. For some time now, wearing gray tresses in a not so friendly gray culture has interested me.  

I’ve been going gray since college when my first grays sprouted. By 29, a side angle photo holding my firstborn daughter revealed a liberal sprinkling where a few sprouts had been. I spent my 30’s, 40’s and much of my 50’s dyeing, trying to stop dyeing and dyeing some more.  As I inch toward 60, I decided ‘enough is enough’ so I went cold turkey.

Okay, not totally cold. I used the ‘highlight/cut’ option. With each hair cut, my silver popped more. The transition suited me. I had no inclination to dye until one day not long ago, I woke up and for no good reason, my bathroom mirror had turned on me. All I saw was gray, no silver, no sassy, just gray.

Okay, so I was having a moment. I’m fine with having moments until they turn into days like this one did. Several days strung together with me wondering “Should I or shouldn’t I?” knowing a lone box of medium golden brown Root Touch Up remained in my bathroom cabinet. 

I’d been here before. Years back when my salt first took over the pepper in my hair and the need for root dye became unquenchable, I did ‘let nature be’ for about six months. I dyed again soon after meeting Eddie; my new hairdresser who gladly washed away the gray one day I sat in his chair, looked him in the mirror and declared ‘Just do it.”

On this day and all alone in my bathroom, I got this idea to dye one strand along my bangs line-a few wisps, nothing more-just to see what the contrast might look like. I readied the Root Touch Up and carefully colored a few strands, tin foiling them up just like I’ve watched Eddie do. Then I spent several minutes channel surfing while the dye took root.  I happened upon Sandra’s Semi Homemade show-she was grilling asparagus –which caught my interest until a casual look in my bedroom mirror caused such a fright. Dye had oozed out of the rolled up foils and into my non foiled hair. I catapulted up and into the shower, leading with my head that I immediately lathered furiously, rinsed and lathered again. 

Only then did I start thinking about the dozen interesting women I’ve already asked to contribute to Gladly Gray. I thought about how gladly they agreed. Me with a splotched crown of medium golden brown stained gray hair, if they knew, what would they say? Then I thought about Jill Dougherty, CNN’s Washington DC correspondent and first big name to say yes to a Gladly Gray interview which her staff squeezed in right before her trip to Pakistan with Secretary of State  Clinton. She was such a sweetheart, two gals chatting about women wearing gray hair in not so friendly gray culture. What would I tell her now? “Gee Jill, so sorry that the urge to dye got the better of me but thanks for your time.”

I squeezed my hair tightly, turned the shower off and faced the music waiting in my mirror where a pitiful swatch of brown hair co-mingled among my silver. I started laughing. The moment finally over; here’s what remains. This is uncharted territory, growing older. How do you do it gracefully when sometimes you don’t feel very graceful about it?  I can dye, cream, laser, nip, tuck and botox it away but the fact remains, I’m aging. I flow through my yoga practice, sometimes with the greatest of ease, and I’m aging. I’m having the best sex of my life and I’m aging. I’m laughing more than I ever have and I’m aging. My passion for my country and my career has never been stronger and  I’m aging. Whether my hair is silvery gray or medium golden brown, I’m aging

Share Your Thoughts!


dana vigilante06.05.2011

I'm really looking forward to reading this book. I've been going "silver", for the past ten years. I haven't dyed my hair twenty. My boyfriend lovingly refers to my grays as "sparkling tinsel". I'm still on the fence though! Great article!

Lisa Lai05.11.2011

I can't wait to read this book! I started going silver early and finally gave in to let it shine when I turned 40. At 47 just this week, I've settled on some black hints under my bangs and around my face to make the silver shine all the brighter. A compromise between my badge of honor and my youth. I love my hair. It's unique and distinct. Rarely does a day go by that a woman (or man for that matter) doesn't comment on it while I'm out. My advice when people ask if they should go silver? I think it can be brave and saucy to go all natural if you can do it with great style. I think it's more important, though, to be smart about who you are and just do what feels... right. Whatever the choice, to dye or not to dye, it's all about whether you can own it with confidence!

Diane Pascoe03.27.2011

I too have written a story on going gray and the journey I took. I just haven't decided what to do with it. I have wanted to get it published. It didn't make the final cut at More magazine but maybe it will somewhere- I haven't yet given upon it. I just want to be able to say I actually sold something but it takes so much effort to shop it around. I think it's a topic women seem to love, especially those considering going gray-Di

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