I don’t know what color my hair is anymore. I have pictures of when I was in my 30s that suggest I was once brunette. I have memories of looking at myself in the mirror at the beauty parlor (do they even call it that anymore?), and seeing a rather dark-haired, dark-eyed woman with short, wavy hair. I remember being a bit vain about that.
When I first started dyeing my hair, it was because my hair dresser commented on the swath of mousey-grey that was occupying the crown of my head. Sorta like a skunk. As a matter of fact, those were her words, “You’re getting a gray streak, just like a skunk!” But now, I don’t know what color my hair is. I have been dyeing my hair for about 20 years. A friend of mine commented recently that she liked my hair lighter, and I realized that it was time to apply the dye again. I just don’t see it.
Don’t get me wrong, I think gray hair is cool. As a matter of fact, I would kill for that stunning blanc-en-blanc, silver fox gray. But my genetics are such that I don’t have that. I am mousey-gray. So I dye my hair. I also do it because it makes me look younger.
Standards of Beauty
Standards of beauty for aging women have fortunately undergone a wonderful revolution since the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, if you were a woman of a certain age, your hair was cut short, permed, and given that hint of blue. Hair salons in the mid-West where I grew up were the only places you could get your hair dyed. Off-the-shelf, home dye products had not yet been marketed in any major way. Today, I have a choice of several products that can change the color of my hair in 10 minutes or less. I can decide to dye my hair virtually any color of the rainbow. I am sticking with brown for now.
Having decided to do that, however, means I have no idea what color my hair is. And I am not sure I am willing to find out because that would mean I would need to let it grow out. This is the truth about my vanity. I am already pegged as older because I move slowly, use a cane, and have wrinkles. The gap between my chronological age and my felt age is almost 30 years. Were I to let my hair return to its natural color, I suspect that that gap would shrink drastically. And I am not ready for that.
I have noticed that more and more aging women are wearing their hair long and letting it go “natural”. Advertisers chasing aging Baby Boomer women who are fashion conscious are positioning themselves between incontinence products and retirement accounts. In September, of 2017, Cover Girl proudly announced its newest spokeswoman, May Musk, a 69 year-old beauty. Vogue dedicated an issue to women over 60. Fashion icons now include movie stars like Dame Judi Dench with her cropped, snow-white pate and Dame Helen Mirren, always sexy and seductive. And who can forget Merle Streep in The Devil Wears Prada?
While I have never been considered a fashionista, I do have enough self-esteem to want to look my best. But it takes a certain courage to go gray. I am conflicted in how to go about this. Should I just let my hair grow out? Should I just dye it white? Or, should I buy a wig and literally try on a new look?
If you are interested, you can Google “wigs for older women”. You will come up with 18,200,000 hits. The irony is that most of the models used in these pictures are in their 30s or maybe 40s. And, modeling these gray/silver wigs, they look like they are maybe 30 or 40 in a gray/silver wig. Hence, my reluctance to consider a wig. Prices range from lowest $39.95 (70% off!) to over $300.00, and I am sure they would make a useful adjunct to any women’s wardrobe. Please do not think me insensitive. I am keenly aware of the many women of all ages who have undergone cancer treatments and have lost their hair. I understand how wearing a wig can contribute to restoring a sense of self and beauty as the healing continues.
I am happy that I live in an era when women of a certain age are no longer constrained in what they wear or how they look. I admire friends who have a sense of fashion and who wear their clothes with flair. I used to make fun of older women who wore knee-high stockings. Now I buy them by the box. I delight that I can wear slacks, yoga pants, and leggings in almost any venue. I still own one dress, but I haven’t worn it in a long time. I wear comfortable shoes and can’t imagine wearing high heels ever again.
I am not ready to go gray just yet. I will continue to dye my hair for a while longer, at least until I screw up the courage to grow into my elderhood and claim my spot among the Gray Foxes.
FIVE PILLARS OF AGING
Beauty is the confluence of compassion, wisdom, life experience, and love. It has physical attributes, but ultimately arises from within. Health and beauty are not separate categories. The healthier you are, the better you look. What is essential is that you continue to exercise, eat nutritious food, get good quality sleep, and cultivate a positive attitude.