Going gray is not something that most of the women I know choose to do. The reasons are as varied as the women themselves. Some feel that gray hair would make them look older, something not acceptable in this culture of ours that emphasizes eternal youth. Others don’t like the color of their gray or have been coloring their hair so long they are afraid to find out how the natural color looks. Some feel that having gray hair puts them at a disadvantage in what they consider a competitive environment. Whatever their reasons, gray hair is not an option.
When I saw this book Going Gray laying on the counter in a small shop in Maine where, by the way, is considerable authenticity, I couldn’t resist buying it wondering how a book about hair color could possibly be interesting. To my surprise, it was not only interesting, it dealt with the taboo subject of aging in an intelligent and witty way similar to that in Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck.
From camera lenses that enhance TV appearance to photoshopped/air brushed portraits to cameras said to knock ten pounds off our images, there is no question we, women and men, are obsessed with how we look. Increasing life expectancy certainly adds to our concern and explains why many choose to enhance their appearance whether through hair color, plastic surgery or stepped up exercise.
Deciding to return to her natural color was a challenge for the author Anne Kreamer, and to help her through the process she spent hundreds of hours talking to and surveying both sexes trying to discover truths about hair color. She found that roughly 54% of American women color their hair, and that number may be as high as 90% depending on where you live. In Hollywood, for example, there is no sign of gray hair on women, and even in my own environment, I’d guess the higher percentage holds true. Interestingly, the figures in most other countries is significantly lower. Hmmm, maybe they don’t have as much media advertising!
In her research, Kreamer found much of interest. Some women were more willing to sacrifice eating out or new clothes or travel before they would give up coloring their hair. On the other hand, some viewed their graying self as being in touch with who they are, not living in the past but accepting where they are. In all cases, hair color had a lot to do with the individual’s self image.
As I read the book I could not help but think about the women I know and while their hair color makes no difference to me I wondered whether their feelings about themselves would be different if they were not blonde or auburn or mahogany. Knowing that how we look has much to do with our self esteem gave thought to how much something like hair color affects it and led me to question why we can’t embrace ourselves as we are.
My hair is graying strand by strand. The alternative would be to spend hours and lots of dollars with my hairdresser, and that kind of maintenance just isn’t in my DNA! His sassy haircuts will just have to do! That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to recapture some of my lost self as living with new wrinkles, changing hair color, a different body shape is, as Anne Kreamer found, not always easy. The challenge is to embrace your changing self and love it for what it is.
So, how do you address your changing self?
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