Monday, January 24, 2011

Silver Threads

This seemed an appropriate re-post from two years ago.
 
One of my favorite emails about my books was from a woman who said, "Elizabeth makes me want to quit dyeing my hair and be who I am."

Back in high school I had dyed hair-- my mother's attempt to make me more glamorous -- just to 'brighten up' my rather ordinary dark brown hair. Then I got into it -- in college I was various shades of strawberry blonde; when I got married, I could be fairly, if somewhat romantically, described as 'raven-tressed.' 


Then I got over it. What had been fun became tedious. Keeping up with roots showing was a real drag. So I got back in touch with my inner brown-haired girl just in time to watch her begin to go gray. (We gray earlier in my family -- except for my mother who became ash blonde.)


The encroaching white hairs never bothered me -- and for quite a while they were limited to a streak or two at my temples. By the time I first heard someone describe my hair as salt-and-pepper, I was thirty years old, the mother of a toddler, and teaching full time with not a spare minute to be looking in mirrors. 

And then I was moving to a farm and milking a cow twice a day and having another baby and raising a garden and still not looking in mirrors. 

Somehow, by the time I'd taught both sons to drive on our narrow, winding, guardrailless mountain roads, my hair'd become mostly white. Imagine that!

Years ago a visiting friend told me that she'd like to quit dyeing her hair but in her job, she needed to look young. This puzzled me -- but I'd been out of the work force so long that I didn't argue. 

Then I saw this article in the NYT about a best-seller How Not to Look Old -- aimed at women over 40 worried about "professional obsolescence and economic vulnerability."

Oy! Why should looking young matter to a professional (unless you're in show biz or a hooker, maybe). Shouldn't it be about how well you do the job; not whether you still look like you're capable of bearing children? And why is it more acceptable for men to age? And no one expects them to wear lipstick.

There's nothing wrong with dyeing your hair and wearing makeup if you enjoy it -- but there shouldn't be anything wrong with not doing so ....

Here's the link to the NYT article -- and the comments are worth reading too, especially number ten, from the man at Attica State Correctional Facility.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/24/fashion/24skin.html?em&ex=1201410000&en=06b6899885b3f203&ei=5087%0A
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24 comments:

Martin H. said...

We've had a fairly high profile case, running over here. TV presenter, Miriam O'Reilly, has just won her case against the BBC, on grounds of ageism.

Women are pressurised to maintain their youthful looks, all the time, by idiots in marketing. Strangely, men have responded to receding hairlines by shaving their heads completely. Who are they kidding?

Brian Miller said...

i agree..though it is not nearly always the case... .esp in a work environment that is competitive...i used to be in the corporate world and it can get rather cut throat and petty at times...

thoroughly enjoyed my time in your area...saw an article about you in the paper for your upcoming lunch...spent an afternoon in the arts district and over easy had the most amazing breakfast...

Elora said...

OK. So, here's a joke:

Question:

"What don't women over 40 wear miniskirts?"

Answer:

"They're afraid their boobs will show."

And you know how I feel about all of this. I talked it over with Marigold, and she agrees.

Elora

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I worked in the corporate world of the cosmetic industry when I was in my thirties and I was one of the oldest. I was blessed then to look younger than I was.

I believe in being your own person and doing and not doing whatever makes you happy with regard to one's appearance.

I enjoyed Martin's comment about men shaving their heads. My nephew who is 33 shaves his head because he's balding. So it's not just a female problem. I'm off now to read the article.....
Sam

June said...

I read enough of the article to begin to sputter in outrage.
I am glad that I live in a rural place where old and fat is more the norm than the aberration, where colored hair is common, but often not well-managed.
I am glad that I stopped coloring my hair, because I love the way it looks, all salty-and-peppery.
Oh yes, and the guy who commented from Attica . . . he still has his sense of humor. I'm sure he needs it.

Bouncin' Barb said...

This is so prevalent in the corporate world. Age discrimination happens all the time but without admission. Old "looking" people are vulnerable as are non-stylish woman. Corporation is definitely about image but you just can't prove it in court.

Beth said...

I don't mind my salt-and-pepper threads at all---just the fact that my hair is thinning so on my head, but growing happily, in profusion, on my upper lip. It seems so unfair somehow that I got a mustache about the same time my teen son did.

Vicki Lane said...

Yay for O'Reilly, Martin!

The River Arts District is pretty neat, Brian -- I set a murder there in my second book. Asheville is full of terrific places to eat -- I haven't been to Over Easy -- but I don''t get out much, especially in winter.

Titter, titter, Elora!

Absolutely, Sam!

It's the same where I live, June, thank goodness!

Sad but true, Barb.

You're cracking me up, Beth. It does seem that Mother Nature has a fiendish sense of humor...

Liz said...

I found not coloring my hair anymore to be one of the most liberating things I have ever done! When I turned 50 I realized I had no idea what color my hair really was (having highlighted it for 30 years). Now I have a lot of gray on top and a lot of dark underneath and I could care less! My 21-year old daughter's friends all like my color - but then again they are all hippies!! I think when we reach a certain age we just don't give a s*** anymore!

Darla said...

Glad you re-posted it, Vicki ... certainly something that can always be reflected upon fresh!

And LOL to Elora ... I hadn't heard that joke...! ;-)

Louise said...

I remember sitting in a round table meeting a few years ago. There were several other women in the meeting with me, none of them in the first flush of youth. I noticed then that I was the only woman in the room who had let her hair grey naturally.

Also, my last boss, before I retired, was a woman a couple of years older that I. She told me that she wanted to quit having her hair dyed, but that she was afraid to, because she was afraid that if she looked older, she would be in more danger of losing her job.

I'll take aging naturally, thank you. I'm proud of every grey hair, and every wrinkle that I have. I've earned every one of them.

Joan said...

I'm always sad when I notice everyone begin to look alike.. blonde hair, perfect over-white teeth.. I sat in a theatre lately beside a woman with soo white teeth and she flashed me a smile and her teeth under the theatre lights were luminous! I was so distracted i wanted to tell her..your teeth are like neon lights! Hilarious! Great article Vicki. 100% pure and natural me.

Kaye Barley said...

Oh how I wish I had known how much I was going to love the color of my hair in its natural state long before I did. It's completely silver and I love it. I'm still I red head in my heart, but without the inclination to color it every few weeks, thank you very much.

Friko said...

might be meant for me.
shall I, shan't I, what am I going to do . . . .
that's the stage I'm at.

Brenda said...

Interesting article, interesting point. And it gave me one more reason to hate Rush Limbaugh.

Vicki Lane said...

It was an easy decision for me because I really hate beauty parlors (early bad experiences with permanents left psychic scars) and when I had dyed hair, I was pretty fanatic about keeping the roots touched up. I began to realize that I had better ways to spend my time and money.

I used to know a woman in her late eighties with dark brown hair which she had attended to weekly and I thought she looked great -- couldn't imagine her otherwise. But she enjoyed the beauty parlor scene.

It IS liberating, Liz! As liberating to me as when I discovered I could go without makeup and the world wouldn't end.

Kaye -- your silver hair is gorgeous!

How do people transition from dyed hair to their natural grey or white without a weird grow out period? I don't know...

Mama-Bug said...

I used to color my hair when I was younger. But now I love the color Mother Nature has given me, silvery-white with a few threads of light brown. I'm hoping it continues on to the lovely white of my mother and grandmother. I think I've earned everyone of those lovely silvery hairs! I love your hair Vicki.

Tess Kincaid said...

Ah, yes, I've been thinking along these lines, as well. I still keep up with the root thing. At some point, I've got to go gray, but I'm not quite ready yet. Excellent post.

Margaret Bednar said...

Ah yes, the evil silver streak. If only it was a pretty silver, I wouldn't mind. But my dull, dark "blond" is what bothers me! I will continue to color blond until my "silver" is further along. Then I guess I will just match that. But I think we are still looking at 20 years of beauty treatments...

I finished your third book. I'm reading them in order and I am really enjoying them. I could really see them as a movie series. Meryl Streep would be a pretty nice choice as Elizabeth! :)

Markin said...

"How do people transition from dyed hair to their natural grey or white without a weird grow out period? I don't know..."

My mother was finally persuaded to give up the battle by a very good hairdresser who started dyeing her hair progressively lighter until she could grow it out naturally without its being too great a shock. It turned out her hair had become quite white, with black streaks at the temples. (Sort of like a negative of the dark hair with white streaks.)

My friend gave up fighting (she'd been offered senior discounts from the time she was in her forties) and was persuaded just to let her roots grow for a bit, then cut her hair very, very short -- basically a crew cut, down to where it had turned white, then let it grow again without dyeing.

Me, I never bothered. Started growing noticeably grey in my forties. I've always liked it, myself, but then I was lucky enough not to go for a job where my appearance would count.

--Mario

Vicki Lane said...

Mamabug, Tess, Margaret -- you all look great.

And Mario -- Ah so! Thanks for the info. And don't you know that grey hair makes guys look distinguished -- not old.

Tipper said...

I started dying mine before I was 30-like your family we turn grey early : ) Sometimes I think about letting it go now-but how can I when Granny still dyes hers : )

When I complain-my brothers and hubby all say-at least you still have it : )

Vicki Lane said...

Too funny, Tipper!

Jeanna said...

It is so funny that I found your blog and this post today. Just Wednesday while eating Lunch at Fatz my mother made the comment that my sister had found a new hair dye that covered really well. I told her I really didn't care about coloring my hair anymore and who were we kidding anyway? I being 45 and my sister turning 50 in a couple of months. She said the same as you had made reference to that because my sister works as a Secretary/ Personal Assistant that she feels she has to look younger. I would have to tell anyone who doesn't like me the way God made me to just "build a bridge and get over it" as my 17 year old dd would say. Anyway, I had to comment and also tell you that I have just finished the first one of your books and although I did not start with the first one (Art's Blood is the one I read), I can tell you that it will not be my last and this is coming from one born and raised WNC woman. LOL