The Hair Color (R)evolution

I read years ago, in some clever book or another written to make women feel good about aging, that the invention of hair color can be singularly credited with imparting renewed youth to women. It isn’t makeup, or clothing, or even cosmetic surgery. It’s hair color. The older I get, the more I tend to agree with this assertion.

Many years ago, when I was a single mom of two young children, I worked hard to make ends meet. There wasn’t a lot left over at the end of each month to spend on my curly locks, and I was OK with that. I actually had the courage and the time to “frost” my hair myself in those days (we used to call it that, remember?). The natural color of my hair, as best I recall, is a rather unremarkable brown. Well, it used to be. So when I occasionally added my ashy blonde frosted tips myself after I had put the kids to bed, I was pretty proud of myself.

When I met my second husband, and when I had more years under my Marketing career belt, he taught me that not only did I deserve to pamper myself every now and then, I deserved it. He then booked an appointment for me with one of Atlanta’s premier hairstylists, and off I went. That experience opened a whole new world for me.

I have had my hair professionally colored and highlighted (not frosted) ever since. There’s just something about a fresh cut and style with shiny, multi-faceted color. I do love it. It’s wildly expensive, but so is therapy.

A funny thing happened when I turned 60, though. “I’ve raised my children,” I thought. “We made a good home for our family. We have built and enjoyed fruitful careers.” But with the children gone, and with my lifelong dream of having a career as a journalist and author sailing along nicely, I felt a change building within me. I felt like celebrating my age and this stage of life, and I really felt that celebrating my gray hair – every strand of which I’ve earned, believe me – was in order. I announced to my sweet half-my-age stylist that this was my new hair goal – letting my gray show itself. And for a while, I was good with that. I felt very proud of myself.

About 8 months into this gray celebration, I had a very extensive foot surgery. If you know anything about that kind of thing, you know that the recovery from that surgery is long, painstaking and very slow – about 18 months, to be exact. Healing takes the patient through several stages: first, one must wheel around on a scooter for months. Next, the patient graduates to wearing a cumbersome cast and using a walker.  And that’s the phase at which I did an about-face regarding my gray pride.

About 4 months into my recovery, I remember walking into the bathroom one morning and pausing for a second, then doing a double-take. Now, we were about 18 months into COVID at that point, so my clothing was not only mismatched, it was optional (come on, you know what I’m talking about). I was hobbling along using my walker, and that’s the image that stared back at me from the mirror – a sleepy-eyed, messy-haired, slumped over old woman using a walker to navigate.  And this frumpy specter had graying hair. I didn’t recognize myself. In fact, I scared myself.

I hobbled to my phone as fast as my walker and throbbing foot would allow, and I called my hairdresser. “Uncle!” I cried. “UNCLE!” The gray had to go. I couldn’t do much else about the other things I saw in the mirror, but I could do something about that hair.

A year later, I am happy to share that my hair is subtly highlighted, a perfect shade of platinum that allows my gray to grow without screaming as it does so. The cut is a flattering bob. I like it. I can go a week or two over my usual 8-week appointment intervals without looking unkempt, if I need to. I can still celebrate my age without feeing the need to make burial arrangements every time I walk past a mirror. I feel good, and I feel good about that.

I suppose that, as in most things, moderation is key, even with hair color. 

Where are you with your hair color now? Brunette? Red? Blonde? Or purple, pink, or blue? Whatever you choose, if it makes you feel amazing, do it!

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