Going gray, for many of us, is no longer a natural process. It is a decision, and not an easy one. It is something we, especially women, have discussed and agonized over for years before taking the plunge. We consult our hair stylists, our friends, our partners, and perhaps our therapists. Many of us do not even know when the gray hair actually came in. I, for example, occasionally colored my hair for fun in my twenties and thirties. When I was in my forties my hair turned from warm brown to a kind of lackluster brownish-gray, and a few silvery strands showed up here and there. I started making regular hair color appointments. I’m not sure when, if ever, my hair became definitely gray.
Eight or ten years ago, I asked my hair stylist at that time whether I should let my hair grow out. “What would you want to do that for?” he asked. Since then, there has been a growing trend toward gray hair as a fashion statement. Cindy Joseph, a makeup artist and model, was recruited as a model after she allowed her long hair to go gray. Now she has developed a line of makeup aimed at baby boomers, called “Boom.” The makeup regimen she has developed is marked by its simplicity and transparency. “I wanted to do a line that was not about hiding, but was about revealing.” (Sylvia Rubin, S.F. Chronicle, 7/3/11)
In March, newscaster Dana King started to let her hair go grey. Viewers had quite a reaction to this change, mostly negative, but King went ahead with her change. She aired a short segment (this time the response was overwhelmingly positive) exploring the choice many women are making to go gray. The process of deciding to go gray took place for the news anchor over a period of several years. She said she no longer wished to “contribute to that kind of lie that fosters the impression that women of a certain age have no value.” (S.F. Chronicle, June 5, 2011.)
I find myself with a similar dilemma. Since I worked in Older Adult Services fifteen or more years ago, my position about aging has been to celebrate rather than deny the process; yet all this time I have been coloring my hair. I am still doing so, but now the color treatments are meant to lead gently to overall gray hair. Every two or three months, I go in for all-over highlights, hopefully to resemble the uneven, salt-and-pepper coloring of my hair. It seems as if I am going blond, not gray; but each time I get highlights, they are a little bit lighter. I hope my colorist knows what she’s doing: She seemed very confident about the procedure. And I can’t wait to see the new, old me!