Friday, September 21, 2007

Going Grey: A New Trend?

I read about Anne Kreamer in Harvard's new glossy - imagine a person making news by letting her hair go gray. That's how crazy our society is! She is a 50-something who calculates she spent over $65,000 coloring her hair during the 25 years she did so. She chronicles her experiences in her new book Going Gray, What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Matters.
I have had quite a few friends and acquaintances go gray very suddenly - as in they went cold turkey and cut their hair short, and let it come in naturally. Without exception, I think they all look much better. This may be one of my most chutzpadik posts yet - despite my 54 years, I have hardly gone gray at all, while many of my peers have been so for 20 years already. I rejoiced the first time I had a gray hair, since it is a natural maturation. What I observe about my peers is that dyed hair, unless it is done extremely skillfully, with highlights et al, looks extreme and actually harshens, when contrasted with older skin. After all it isn't just hair that changes with age, it's the whole body. So a 50+ face with monocolor hair is not fooling anyone.

Clearly women in our culture feel tremendous pressure to maintain non-gray hair. Each woman who succumbs to the pressure ups the ante, in kind of a giant conspiracy - so many middle-aged women color their hair that those who resist the pressure stand out as making a statement. If women all stopped doing this - think of the costs, chemical pollution, and time they would all save! - then gray hair would just be the norm, and not something that significant.

I once heard a Davar Torah about the nazir, a biblical custom. A Nazir takes vows of not drinking wine or cutting his hair. One of the things that is readily discernible by the Nazir's appearance is the passage of time. If his hair is shoulder length, you know he has maintained his vow a few years. Likewise, women's (and men's - increasingly I notice men my age who color their hair and it looks soooooooooooo bad!) life experience is visible through their graying. Why try to cover up life experience? We need to reconnect graying with wisdom.

So hear's to those who defy the pressure to look young, and nevertheless look great!!

1 comment:

Miranda said...

I've been meaning to comment on this. It's like what I believe about wearing make-up: once there comes a critical mass of younger and middle aged women with grey hair, and not wearing makeup, it'll be accepted. Till then, pioneers are brave!

My plan is to color my hair till I have enough lines on my face that grey will seem appropriate. I estimate this might be 5 or so years from now. Till then I want to find a natural nontoxic dye versus this horrible hypocritical poison I am now putting atop my cranium!