Monday, September 24, 2007

Going Gray - To Dye or Not?

It is a family curse for females in my maternal family ... premature gray hair. Every one of us is significantly gray in our 30s with most totally gray by 40. And it is that wiry, frizzy gray hair during your younger years -- when she entered her 50's my mother's hair turned this lovely shade of white that actually makes her look much younger than her current 64 and counting.

I've had quite a bit of gray hair since my mid-twenties. It used to look cute and frosty. Since I've been too busy/lazy to get a hair cut lately, I've caught sight of a LOT more gray hair. I look old. No wonder people often think Ledcat is my child (she's 7 years older than moi). She is young and cherubic looking. I look ... like my mother in her pre-Barbara Bush years. Gulp.

What to do? Dyeing my hair does not hold any real appeal for me. The expense. The maintenance -- I barely get it cut and dread having to get to the salon regularly for touch ups -- ugggh. The capitulation to social norms that regulate female beauty. The nagging suspicion that lathering chemicals on my scalp month after month has some link to cancer. And the big one for me - the fear that some poor rabbit or kitten was brutally tortured to make sure I have just the right shade of auburn. That would haunt me and undo every single eco-friendly bit of karma I have ever built up. Every bit. Plus ... rabbits and kittens.

Time magazine recently explore this debate (not the bunny aspect, but the rest of it) for babyboomer women --- comparing it to the working/stay at home mommy debates in its economic and social scopes. What impact does choosing to stay natural gray have on your career, even if its latter stages? What about dating and romance?

These days, choosing not to dye has become a statement rather than a casual
stylistic choice. Thus the gray wars are a bit of a grownup replay of the freaks
vs. squares and smart kids vs. populars from junior high and high school 40
years ago.

Would being a premature gray-haired dyke impact my professional life as as social worker or my future earning power as a blogger (ha ha ha!)? Do you think John McIntire will still love me?

Seriously, I am very perplexed about this. I am not a Baby Boomer -- I'm 36 years old. I see other lovely lesbians out sporting cool hair colorings and want to be that girl. This could be my opportunity to try out some new radical colors. But I know I would use a flippant "you go girl" justification to cover very real tumult about aging and appearance.

First up, I'm getting a hair cut. Pronto.


  1. my sister and i both began to grey early. both of our parents greyed young.
    i dye my hair. i am watching my hands turn into my grandmother's and my hair turn the exact shade of silver grey as my mom. well, can't do much about mt hands but i can about my hair.
    i have short hair and i color it myself.(hydrience, i like it the best)
    i do it for me.
    i think that is as it should be. do what pleases you.
    i like make up, don't wear tons, but i like to buy it. i like to try new stuff. i enjoy it. my sister only wears make up if she must.
    we do what pleases us.
    there are so many times in the course of a day when we have to do things. these are little things that we like to do to feel good.
    feel good about wahatever choice you make. it's your hair. : )

  2. I guess the difference for me is that dying my hair isn't a little indulgence. I believe in little indulgences, but this feels more weighty to me. I can make things weighty with very little effort, tis true. However, I also think a lot of us women are brainwashed into thinking that "looking good" equals taking care of ourselves with little regard for the health consequences (for us and the earth). I'm not saying you are brainwashed, Sherry! Just that few women I know even consider the impact everyday choices make on their wellbeing -- everything from cigarettes to bleached tampons.

    So I wonder if the gray-hair-dye question rises to that level -- should we be concerned about the carcinogenic potential of hair dye? should women be having that conversation? or the impact on our environment?

    is there such a thing as a truly safe hair dye? i've searched several vegan websites and come up only with very temporary dyes.

  3. lots of things aren't safe. truly, if you dwell on it long enough you'd lock the doors and hide. to me, there's a difference in being cautious and letting myself be scared to death. i'm phobic about a few things as is.
    i think it's up to each person as to what feels comfortable and good and what doesn't. not letting other's opinions or self- guilt creep into so much of life.
    i do what i can for myself, others and the earth and hope that every small effort joins with the efforts of others.
    i try to gauge risks. no one can be risk free. you could do everything right and be hit by a damn rock thrown by an idiot on an overpass.
    me, i've already survived an astrocytoma in my brain when i was a toddler and the list goes on from there. i have NF1 and no one knows how that might turn out so...?

    if i go now, at least i'll go with hair that pleases me and make up i like. i might live to be 112 or get hit by that damn rock. who knows?
    i have always recognized risks but i believe that at the end of life many more times people regret not having done something than what they have done.

    just a soapbox moment brought to you by a 55 year old gramma who is still kicking, tho not quite as high, hydrience #48, sable cove hair color and bare minerals
    make up. ; )

  4. Boy Sue, with all those reservations, you are definately not a candidate for hair dying! Just don't do it.

    I really have no opinion about gray hair. I like it. I may even like it on myself some day. My partner has gray hair that I think is beautiful!

    I have dyed my hair for so long, so many different colors, that I've forgotten what color it really is. In fact, it was one of the questions that my partner asked me when we played the "question" game. (After being together for 13 years.) "Ah, what color is your hair?"

    And where do I get this from? I would guess my mother, who always dyed her hair. I reserve the right to primp, to pluck, to dye, to (fill in the blank).

    Whatever you choose to do, I am sure that you are gorgeous!

    PS-It is sooo much easier with short hair.