Gray Hair


I was innocently surfing the Internet and came across this article from More, a magazine for women over 40. You might remember the famous picture they published of Jamie Lee Curtis sans makeup and glamor.

Jamie Lee Curtis in More magazine

Anyway, the article discusses the writer’s perceptions of how she is treated differently when she has gray hair. Some of her observations include:

I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to talk myself into leaving my friend Amy’s apartment wearing this wig. Said wig is actually quite fetching, much more so than my own baby-fine mop. Sure, it draws attention to certain lines around my mouth I wasn’t aware I had, but I’m shocked to report that I actually like the way I look.

Well, quel surprise. Gray hair can actually look good. She was also surprised to be ogled by some construction workers:

The closer I get, the less they hammer — they’ve noticed me. Could they be less subtle with their let’s-go-to-the-nearest-cheap-motel stares?… What normally seems like harassment suddenly feels more like an affirmation. If it’s possible, I think I just enjoyed being ogled.

Oh no she didn’t. Did she just say that women with gray hair must feel affirmed — “I’m still beautiful, even if I look old!” — if they are ogled by construction workers? As if we are desperate for attention we never get? Let me tell you ladies, my experience has been that both men and women like my hair.

Next, she talks about working out at a fitness club:

People are checking each other out right and left, but no one even looks at me. I guess it’s true that women become invisible after a certain age. But, contrary to what I expected, being ignored doesn’t bother me. For the first time in months, I’m actually paying attention to my workout instead of worrying that my fellow gym-goers are fixating on my back fat.

It’s the same argument as “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” I am wondering how much of this is her perception and how much is reality. How much does she get ogled — or does she think she usually gets ogled — when her hair is its “natural” blond?

Her sense of shock only deepens when she describes flirting in a bar. I want to smack her and say, “duh.” One of the men she talks to perfectly encapsulates my attitude about my hair: “I liked that you didn’t feel like you had to change your hair. It’s cool when a woman is brave enough to be herself.”

I have never attributed rudeness on the part of any store employee to my gray hair, before, either. In fact, I can’t really remember feeling rejected by store employees because of my hair. I wonder how much of this article is based on experiences the author had because she wanted to have them. What I mean is that her slights may be perceived because she wanted to prove the thesis that she would be considered less attractive by men and ignored by everyone else because of her gray hair.

It might just be my own prejudice, but I like her better in the gray wig. It goes well with her complexion. What bothers me most, I think, is the persistent condescending tone. She keeps referring to herself as looking “older,” and while she thinks she is being positive, it’s really like one of those backhanded compliments — “Wow, that dress doesn’t make you look as fat as the other one.” Maybe that’s a bit extreme. But what she didn’t address is the fact that there are a number of young women, like me (I’m only 34), who are genetically disposed to prematurely gray hair and choose not to dye it. I wonder why it is that she assumes that a relatively young woman wouldn’t be gray — or that she wouldn’t color her hair.

I should probably add that my hair is almost precisely as gray as her wig. This is the best recent picture I have of my hair. I look mad because I was late to my eye doctor appointment, which was subsequently cancelled, and I was kicking myself. For cripes’ sake, Dylan had broken my glasses and I couldn’t see. I had a new camera phone, and I was playing with it until Steve could pick me up.

Dana's Gray Hair

I like my hair, so I guess that’s why I was miffed by the suggestion that there is something wrong with gray hair.


4 thoughts on “Gray Hair

  1. I started going grey at 19 and wouldn't dream of dyeing it. Personally I'd rather be 'invisible' than be ogled by men who have nothing better to do than picture me naked! That writer sounds like she's 29 going on 20. I feel sorry for her, really, if she thinks looks and youth are worth much.

  2. I've been greying since I was 18. I've started to dye it in recent years, but it's not something I HAVE to do. What bothers me most of all, and has actually made me burst into a fit of tears on several occassions, is the fact that in the last 18 months, my hair has started FALLING OUT. I've gone from barely being able to put it up in a pony tail to being able to wrap the band around that pony tail a whole three times! It's an awful feeling, and as far as "vanity" things go, that's the one thing that makes me feel so ugly. I'd gladly take a head full of grey hair as long as there were no bald spots!

  3. I've been dyeing my hair for years after going grey very young. Now, at 44 I've made the decision to stop dyeing and am looking forward to the process. I'm looking forward to the freedom from 'doing my roots' every 2 or 3 weeks and cannot wait to see how it will look when all the brown dye is out.

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