Curl up and dye: On making the decision to cover grey hair.
I found my first grey hair when I was fifteen. Truthfully, I wasn't the one who discovered it - the boy who sat behind me in music history class did. We were languishing through a lecture regarding the mathematical implications of Bach's concerto bass lines. I daydreamed about a neon sweater I'd seen at The Gap. The girls next to me passed notes. Minutes ticked by at a glacial pace.
The boy poked me sharply in the back.
"There's something, like, sticking out of your hair."
"What?" I screeched. (It should be noted that this boy was the same one I'd nursed a crush on for essentially my entire high school career. He was handsome in an almost cliched sort of way - chiseled jaw, broad shoulders, dark hair that flopped seductively over one eye.)
"Yeah," he shrugged. "It's kind of silvery."
"Well, pull it out."
He yanked. And presented me with a long grey hair that snaked across my textbook.
Surprisingly, I wasn't perturbed. I thought it was kind of cool. In the innocence of my dewy youth, having grey hair meant I was one step closer to becoming Older. Being older meant having my own apartment in Manhattan and working as a junior editor at Vogue and hosting chic dinner parties with white wine and wearing stilettos without falling over. Or so I thought.
I started coloring my hair as a bored twenty year-old, and spontaneously went from mousy dishwasher brunette to lusty redhead overnight. It was fun, and deliciously experimental - an easy way to play at being someone else. Though it helped conceal the fistful of grey that had spouted in the place that first hair was plucked, dying my hair wasn't about hiding the evidence of my advancing age. Not yet, anyway.
A 2008 study done by Clairol found that 75 percent of American women dye their hair. According to a 2011 report published in the Daily Mail, 32 percent of British women under the age of 30 have already begun to go grey. Twenty years ago the percentage of those under 30 who admitted to seeing grey was just 18 percent. Hair care brand John Frieda has coined a term for these young grey ladies: GHOSTS, aka Grey Haired Over-Stressed Twenty Somethings, a result of our increasingly tumultuous financial and political times.
Going gray: it happens to all of us. While stress might play a small part, grey hair is direct result of decreased production of pigmentation in our hair as we age. What used to be blond, brown, red or black turns silver or gray. There's no way to know just how many women color their hair purposely to conceal grey, but if you look around at all of the women ages 40 and above, you can get a pretty good idea that it's more common than not.
Aging for women in the United Sates is considered both unattractive and undesirable. Our society's perception of beauty prizes youth, specifically in the form of wrinkle and blemish-free faces, taunt bodies, and shiny, lustrous hair. From a biological perspective, a woman with grey hair has reached the end of her reproductive years, and our society no longer values her as much as her more youthful counterparts. The internalization of this message has encouraged our culture to classify the aging woman as less productive, less intelligent, and less innovative than a woman younger than she.
A Forbes 2010 article looked at 15 female chief executives of Fortune 500 companies. All were high-powered, highly successful, financially stable role models - and not one had grey hair color. Of the 93 women who serve in Congress, only five of them have allowed any grey hair coloring to show through. Conversely, salt-and-pepper hair on men earns them the title of 'silver foxes' - distinguished, wise, sophisticated and sexually experienced. It's no surprise that many of the world's sexiest men - George Clooney, for example - display their grey hair with pride.
I'm nearly 38 years old, and approximately 75% grey. Coloring my hair now is more about concealing those wiry silver strands than channeling my inner Jessica Rabbit. It also feels more like a chore, something I need to do rather than an activity I look forward to and relish.
Do you color your hair? If so, is this action done out of a desire to conceal grey hair? When did you start to go grey?