At the Women's march

At the Women's march
All Lives Matter

Never Again

Never Again
We Won't Go Back

Monday, May 11, 2009


A couple of bloggers whom I follow (Susan of and Joan of have been talking about hair color lately, a topic I’m always ready to blather about.

My mother was 33 when I was born and already so gray that someone seeing her on the street pushing me in my carriage asked her if I was her granddaughter. She went home and burst into tears -- but she never colored her hair. She had beautiful fine silvery hair that she wore short all her life. I wore my almost black hair shoulder-length until my early forties when I kept finding gray hairs and didn't like the looks of long gray hair, so I cut it short. I didn't do anything about the color until I was 64 and tired of being the only gray-haired women under 90 in any large gathering. (60% of American women color their hair, and since this includes younger women the percentage of women who color their gray hair has to be much higher -- I've never seen that figure.)

I colored it brown, a color I wasn't crazy about, because dyed black hair looks too artificial, and my complexion is too dark to be a blonde or a redhead. But what I really didn't like was the revenge of the roots. Since I'm short I was convinced that taller people were always peering down and seeing those telltale white hairs at my scalp. I also didn't like the bother and mess when I did it myself and the expense when I didn't. And it seemed to be coarsening my hair. Two summers after coloring it, I cut my hair a little shorter than usual and went hiking in Wales. Apparently enough sun shone between the daily rain showers to bleach the brown and that, plus ordinary summer sun, lightened it enough so that it almost seamlessly went back to gray, and stayed so for a few years.

Then two years ago I got bored again with my gray hair and went to Paul Sharakan, the man with magic fingers who cuts my hair, and told him that I wanted a streak like the purple one his wife, Louise, a talented artist, used to have before she let her hair go gray. Karen, the colorist, didn't have any purple dye that day, but she did have some red on hand, so I got red highlights, and that's what I've had ever since. Who knows what the next chapter will be? I get into some interesting conversations with strangers, both young (often with wild streaks of fuschia or turquoise color in their own hair – or shaven totally bald) and old (including a question from one man asking me if I had been a party to an axe murder).

So this is somewhat of an extravagance -- but less than dinner for one in a typical New York restaurant, and I justify every extravagance in my life by saying that I never wanted (or had) a fur coat or a diamond ring. I'm sure that over the years I've spent much more than I would have spent on both of those, but it eases my conscience.

I’d love to know what other grannies think about and do about gray hair. Let’s dish about it.


Laura said...

I had a grade school teacher who was gray - at the time I thought she was 60ish but she was in her 30s. I think this had more to do with the clothes and glasses she wore than the colour of her hair.

Donne Davis said...

I loved your "hair" story. And I love the artistic look of your hair. It really makes a statement.
My husband says: if you get 3 women in a room, the conversation will eventually turn to the subject of "hair!"
I'm seeing more and more women with gray hair. About a third of our members in the GaGa Sisterhood have let their hair "go natural" and they look great.
I'm glad I don't have to face the dilemma of coloring my hair yet. People don't believe me when I tell them my brown hair is my natural color. My grandma lived to 93 and hardly had any gray hair. But it is an issue. I remember hearing our rabbi give a sermon about deciding not to color her hair any more!
It's definitely a personal choice. Our youth-oriented culture, driven by the Boomer generation who want to be young forever, creates some pressure to color.
In the mean time, I'll just keep plucking those random gray hairs - oh wait, is that "old wives tale" true about 2 growing in its place?!

Susan Adcox said...

I've been thoroughly enjoying our dialogue about hair, but I'm still on the fence about mine. If I could wave a wand and make it gray, I would. But how I dread the growing-out!

Charleen said...

I hated my natural color when younger. It was a dirty blond, so I would lighten it. About two years ago I decided that perhaps the Lord knew more about what color was good for me than I did, so I now color it my natural color. For some reason, I feel satisfied with that color now.

Sally Wendkos Olds said...

Charleen, isn't it amazing how we accept things when we're older that we hated in earlier years! I guess that's what they mean by the wisdom of maturity.