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GRAY is OKAY with ME

by sandy feet

Last week Mom Feets went and got her hair done at the Blue Hairing with a stylist whose chair I have often frequented. (Won't mention any names, but she is practically an Island Institution and her name rhymes with "Shell.") When I asked mom if she was happy with the results, she said she was indeed. She also mentioned that the stylist had suggested that I myself might be, um ... overdue for an appointment.

I knew right away what she meant. "So, she thinks I need a rinse job, eh?"
Silence. Raised eyebrows ....slight head tilt.
"And you agree with her, don't you?"

I guess it was about a year ago when, encouraged by the Current Object of my Affection, I stopped coloring over the gray and just let nature take its course. I thought I would hate it but have actually grown quite fond of the dramatic white streak that is slowly but surely expanding across my brow.

This time of year especially, there is no shortage of lovely gray-to-white-haired ladies on the Island. However, I can't help but notice that very few women in my own age group (north of 30 but still a few miles shy of 50) are sporting silver. My friend the stylist spends a lot of time up to her eyebrows in hair color making sure that Island women age as gracefully as recent advances in chemical research allow.

Curious if this is just a local phenomenon or something more widespread, I did a google search for "women and gray hair." The results were ... discouraging, to say the least. One of the first references I found was from "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Women" - chapters arranged in alphabetical order included Genital Warts; Gingivitis; Gout; and Gray Hair. As if I didn't already suspect it, this helped confirm that gray hair is commonly considered to be a malady - but only if you are a woman. Nearly all the references I could find were links to a wide range of alternative treatments. What I was hoping to find was more of a range of alternative attitudes.

Getting your hair colored is no picnic. In fact, I would put it right up there with getting your teeth cleaned as one of the least fun things upon which people voluntarily spend large chunks of disposable income. The process lays waste to the whole afternoon, the stuff makes your eyes water when it is applied and it smells bad - sometimes for days. As you sit there, you are saying to yourself (if you are honest) - "Something this vile cannot possibly be good for me." And yet you do it over and over - every 6 weeks or whenever the roots start showing. And you thank the stylist and add a generous tip as you make your next appointment.

Does this strike anyone besides me as just a bit ... weird?

I know all the arguments: Our culture worships youth; gray hair makes even a young woman look old; why look older than you need to if the price is a couple of hours in the stylist's chair where you have the added benefit of possibly catching a juicy tidbit of island gossip? My answer to all that is another question: Why would I want to look younger than I am? Why would I want to disavow my years of experience, the accumulated wisdom, and the respect it (hopefully) has earned me? I look at the vibrant, interesting lives my parents and other older people around me are leading and can see no shame in growing old.

I should emphasize here that I mean no disrespect in any way to people of colored hair. Some of my best friends are colored. My lovely mother colors. (Shhh, don't tell!) I used to color and who knows - I might feel compelled to go back to it some day. But right now I am enjoying my gray streak and so is my sweetie; the fact that he loves me for my uncolored self is just one of his many endearing qualities (the gleaming silver he himself sports is another.)

But if you are in the market for a good hair color artist, I highly recommend (rhymes with "swell"); assure her that I love her still and wish nothing but the best for her....but she should not expect to see me in her chair any time soon.

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