Going Gray (sic)

In some ways this is a very trivial issue; yet it's deeply personal, particularly for women, and Anne Kreamer found that whenever she raised it, the subject elicited lively responses and strong opinions. I borrowed Going Gray on a whim and read half of it on the tram on the way home from the city. It's not a demanding read, but it is a surprisingly interesting one.

Grey hair strikes early in my family. My mother was completely grey by her mid-thirties. Combined with my father's unusually youthful looks (which were a curse to him in a macho-dominated industry), people often thought she was her husband's mother. I was also totally grey by forty (quite white now), and my poor teenage daughter is already finding grey hairs. I don't think my mother ever dyed her hair (I must ask her), and while I had streaks which eased me over the transition, I never seriously considered returning to my original mousy-brown colour, though before I went grey I was an enthusiastic home dyer. Part of the reason was laziness, and partly I actually preferred the streaky depth of my going-greys to my boring brown.

Kreamer had been dyeing her hair brunette for years until she had an epiphany after seeing herself in a photo, realising that her helmet of dark hair wasn't really making her look younger. However the period of transition to grey was more difficult and disturbing to her sense of self than she'd expected. Does grey hair really signal over-the-hill, un-sexy, let-herself-go?

It was interesting to read Going Gray (2007) after the pandemic, when many women (including one good friend of mine, who'd been conscientiously blackening her roots for years) took the opportunity of forced seclusion to make a clean break. I'm not sure when the fashion for young women to dye their hair silver took hold, and I'm not sure if it's still a thing, but it definitely was for a while. I feel as if at least some of the stigma around grey hair has faded. But it's easy for me -- I'm not in a job where I'm competing against younger, hotter women (well, not much anyway!), or in a professional environment where greyness might render me invisible. Anne Kreamer certainly looked great after going grey, more confident and comfortable in her skin, and that was unexpectedly borne out in experiments with online dating and employment recruitment. I personally think grey, silver, salt-and-pepper and white hair looks amazing -- as long as it's smartly cut. Straggling greys don't really do it for me, but otherwise I say, bring it on!

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