Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Going Gray

Before my trip to California, I decided to get a new haircut. An assymetrical bob, with a short layered back that angled sharply forward to my chin on one side and to my left ear on the other. It's a great look for me. It suits my thick, coarse, straight hair perfectlyand I have been getting compliments on it every day for a month.

Except on my trip. My sisters were dead silent about it. My dad said nothing, well, he usually doesn't. Finally, while on a shopping excursion at Target, I asked my sister who is two and half years younger than me what she thought of my haircut. Her quick response was "You know that I'm not a fan of gray hair." She did think that I did something good with the cut yet she felt that my hair wasn't up to its best without being colored. When I started to tell her that I had trouble keeping up with hair coloring and found it expensive, she cut me short and told me that I shouldn't make excuses. If I like my hair gray, don't apologize.

I asked my youngest sister who is ten years younger than me what she thought while alone in her home a few days later. She said that I was too young for gray hair--I have a young looking face and a youthful attitude, she said. What about pink streaks in my hair and a nose piercing?
She envied my nose, she said, it is a great shape for a nose stud.

I read a book called "Going Gray" by Anne Creamer recently. She had colored her hair for years the same shade until one day she took a long hard look at herself and realized she wasn't fooling anyone. She was trying to hide her age, which was fortyish, but the dark locks of dyed hair didn't cover it. In the long transition where she let the gray come in, she went through a bunch of tough emotions regarding her self image. I found her journey of accepting her gray hair and road testing her attractiveness on Match.com (she got more "hits" with her gray hair as opposed to her dyed hair) as well as several appointments with image and wardrobe consultants to prepare her for professional career interviews (not one of them wanted her to change her gray hair). She examines the hair color trend and the advertising industry, the effect on perception on women's careers and political aspirations. Not to mention Hollywood.

The bottom line I came away with from her book is: If you want to stand out as a woman and be recognized as an individual, keep your hair gray.

Which something I really wanted all along. No apologies.

And if I decided to color it, I won't apologize for that either. But I promise that it won't look ordinary. And I won't do it because I think it would make me look younger. Even if it might.
I'm proud of being 45.

I was young once already. It was a confusing time in my life in search of answers some of which I now possess. It was no comfort to me that I looked young and it didn't matter to me that much if I looked pretty. As a single woman, I wanted to be noticed for who I was not what I looked like because I knew that in the long run, the looks would change. The biggest compliment I ever got from a man was on a first date when he said he liked strong women as we walked to his car from the restaurant arm in arm. I glanced in my reflection in a shop window as we walked past it. I was glowing. Dennis LeBlanc's comment was an answer to a question I privately asked God often as a single woman why mature and serious women aren't as attractive to men as the giggly and bubbly types.

Through Dennis, God told me I was wrong.

After 18 years of marriage to Dennis, God keeps reminding me I was wrong. Just in case I forget.


Anonymous said...

your hair looks so lovely to me! So does your heart.


Althea said...

Holly--thank you for your encouragement! We need to get together! Miss you!