On Going Gray


Going GrayGoing 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?

i love your thoughts, so jump right in and share yours

Joining Seasonal Sundays on a rainy, gray day

13 thoughts on “On Going Gray

  1. I know so many women who have chosen to let their hair be naturally gray, but their type of gray is a beautiful silvery white..me for that matter..I am speckled with strands of gray here and there and is not pretty like the others…so I choose to color my hair to make me feel better. I am sure it is a matter of me trying so desperately to “hold on to my youth”..the “Peter Pan” syndrome…Now, as for wrinkles, etc…that does not bother me..I just call it “patina”…

  2. I read somewhere that the average woman spends $65k during her lifetime on hair color. WOW. That’s a lot. I think your gray is flattering to you and your coloring. Outside sources tell me my gray would not be — I have thin, fine hair that appears almost non-existent without color. Color also helps give my hair some body. My skin tones also don’t look good with gray. I WANT TO GO WHITE, but that is not in the cards. I’m yucky gray.

    I think about growing it out while I am in Maine every year, but when I look in the mirror and see scalp not hair, I run to get the color done! I guess I could shave my head and see what comes in.

    I’d do it myself, but I get most of it in places other than my hair — professional jobs are cheaper than new towels, grout and emergency visits to the eye doctor when I get it in my good eye.

    Perennially brown Dixie

    • Yes, the book pointed out how much money is spent over a life time of coloring hair, and you could put a kid or two through college with the $$$ but it might not make you feel as good. Bald is an interesting concept. It seems to work for the guys!

  3. I have absolutely no problem with my hair turning gray. My husband says he loves it, so that’s just about all that matters to me. 🙂 My grays are thankfully coming in very silver, but if – as Shirley lamented – they were an unattractive color, I might be more than a little bit tempted to see a colorist. The silver in my hair, however, is not a measure of who I am. It may suggest that I am mature, but how can that possibly be a bad thing? For me, it’s all about how I look overall: Am I healthy? Do I look well-rested? Do I dress and look like a woman living in 2012 rather than 1985? I am almost 54. I celebrate every year that I gain in this life, because it sure beats the heck out of the alternative! I may have become invisible to the construction workers with their lingering glances and rowdy catcalls, but my gray hair is a stamp of wisdom that seems to make most people take what I have to say more seriously. It’s my gray hair that may be responsible for signs of respect from young people like being called “ma’am” (which I personally feel I deserve…I don’t want to be called by my first name by some 20-something stranger!), having doors held open for me, having seats given up for me to sit down, and being invited to go first in the buffet line. My youth was fun while it lasted. It’s over now. Time to start living in the now, appreciating what I have accomplished in my years on this earth and preparing for the great accomplishments of the future. Not that I want to look like a woman beyond my years, but it’s really more to me now about FEELING good inside and looking good outside within the parameters of what’s reasonable for me. For ME. I don’t disagree with women investing in themselves by getting their hair colored or getting Botox treatments or tummy tucks…it’s just not for ME. Save the “There’s Something About Mary” hair, I’m OK with who I see in the mirror first thing in the morning.

    • Alycia, you are simply the best, so comfortable with who you are. I’m not sure what my gray signifies other than it’s just part of the natural course of things and since it started changing late, I’m OK with it. Speaking of hubbys, mine is often surprised when a stranger asks who colors my hair. My hair cutter likes that, too. So, all things considered, the hair is the least of the other changes.

  4. Hey Linda it’s me Ames. After watching a friend slowly die from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I have stopped frosting my hair. I am going gray gracefully. My hair was BOZO the clown red when I was younger and since letting nature have her way with me, I now have naturally frosted strawberry blonde (gray) hair. Everyone always asks me if I dye it this color. My friend, that I mentioned above, has bleached her hair platinum blonde since she was 16. When her doctor diagnosed her he said you have to stop bleaching your hair. It’s contributing to your disease. Well that was enough to freak me out!

    I just want to share something from a fellow blogger friend. She read a book about how our bodies can reguvenate itself… here is the excerpty…”I recently learned that all the cells in all the muscles in the human body are destroyed, hauled off, then rebuilt about every four months. Ditto with all the blood cells every three months, all the bone cells every couple of years. Who knew?

    When we stress muscles with exercise, special wrecking-crew cells get a stronger-than-usual signal to come in and start tearing things down and cleaning things out. Rest after exercise cues another crew of cells to start building things back up again, just a little stronger than before. Without exercise, old cells don’t get taken down and recreated as efficiently; muscles and bones are rebuilt slightly weaker than they were, according to Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., authors of “Younger Next Year.”

    Isn’t that great news. I think we need to be kind to our bodies and it will carry us through our lifetime. And KUDOS to Jaimie Lee Curtis for refusing to be touched up or airbrushed any longer. She too wants to accept her body as it is and feels that Hollwood wants to portray the unnatural woman and that is not the way an average woman looks!
    See ya on Words with Friends!~Ames

    • Ames, this is even better than our brief exchanges on WWF, and I particularly appreciate your sharing the info about how our body rejuvenates itself. I think I’ll take a little walk and get those wrecking crew cells working!

  5. You and I must share the same DNA, because the thought of spending all that time and money and still having “roots” just doesn’t work for me. And then, I also am on the same page as Ames. I don’t believe it is good for us. I was sitting near someone the other day while she was getting hair color, and my eyes were burning. That doesn’t work for me.

  6. Some people look great with gray hair…others washed out. I think a lot depends on your complexion. I’ll probably always have blonde hair. I’ll get old but not gray.

  7. What a lovely St. Patrick party post! I love your placemats and love the pop of turquoise too. Beautiful! The HG might actually be in Cape Coral. I love in Natchez, MS but I go to FL a lot cause all our kids live there and I have a daughter who lives in Cape Coral. Please stop by again to see my latest tablescape….Christine

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