I am a 46-year-old woman. Like many middle aged women of my generation – the first to be raised with a nearly unlimited buffet of life options – I’m not ashamed of being 46. I don’t lie about my age. I don’t pretend I’m younger. And I don’t try to hide it.
One of the ways I don’t hide is by not coloring my hair. I never have, and neither did my mother. She was an excellent hair role model in more ways than one, since her black hair was only partially grey when she died at 55. To be fair, I inherited excellent DNA from her and my dad who, at age 71, has only a small bald spot nestled among his thick head of hair that’s not yet entirely grey. While I do take good care of my tresses, I enjoy hair privilege by having been bestowed by genetics with thick, naturally auburn waves. Such hair privilege enables me to get away more easily with sporting a growing thatch of “wisdom highlights” sprouting from my top of my scalp, but this unearned privilege only takes the edge off my subversive attitude.
My attitude is this: aging is nothing to be ashamed of, and therefore grey hair is nothing to be ashamed of. Covering my greys with toxic chemicals would not only be hazardous to my precious health, it would be voting with my dollars for an industry that profits mightily from making women feel insecure and ashamed of our bodies starting in childhood. Covering my greys would be saying “yes” to the notion that I, as a woman, am only valuable or attractive if I look “young.” It would be saying yes to the idea that age, and its physical signs, are something to be feared, denied and hidden – that I need to pretend to be something other than I am to be deemed worthy. It would mean I agree with the belief that a woman’s only power stems from her being “sexy” in public.
I didn’t come to my no-color decision lightly. I used to pluck out my greys, but stopped on my 35th birthday since baldness isn’t one of my goals. My intent has long been to age gracefully, but the recent accelerated pace of that process (thanks, perimenopause!) has created doubt. Not only am I single and looking, I have a profession that puts my face in media, on stage, and in front of well-paying clients. I never realized how much my physical appearance has likely contributed to my professional appeal. I never realized until I suddenly found myself in the middle of my lifespan that the second half of my career will happen amidst a steady loss of physical attractiveness – a quality I’ve taken for granted and unknowingly leveraged to offset the harmful impact of sexism. Read more!