Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Lately, I've seen a lot of blog posts from women my age embracing their gray. Personally, I think gray hair can look very pretty. I'm partial to a silver mane worn in a sleek bob, or a white spiky crop paired with bold-colored earrings. In African-American women, I'm a fan of the very short cut with a natural curl accented by an intricate earring. Of course, many are going to say I'm missing the point. Women aren't going gray to be fashionistas. They are rejecting the dye as a way of rejecting fashion standards imposed upon us by a patriarchal society obsessed with youthful beauty in women.

All righty, then. Look, I've been an unapologetic bleached blonde since I was 16 years old and used my Christmas money to buy a box of Miss Clairol at the drug store down the street. I had to wait until my parents went out to a New Year's Eve party before I  dyed my hair. They were furious when they saw me the next morning, but it was worth their outrage. It was even worth going to school after Christmas break and watching the other girls talk about me behind their hands. When my best friend expressed her dismay thusly, "Susan! I'm so disappointed in you. Only bad girls bleach their hair," I told her I just couldn't help it. I had to do it!
I was born a blonde. I was a blonde through grade school, the middle school years, and until the summer before my Sophomore year of high school. It was a strong part of my identity. I was not particularly vain as I didn't have much to be vain about in those days. But, I did appreciate that there was a way to classify myself other than, "skinny, flat-chested, dorky, late-bloomer, brace-face, giggly, and, my favorite - underachiever."  I loved that I got to call myself a blonde. I never said, "I have blonde hair and green eyes." Blondes don't. We say, "I'm blonde with green eyes." Blonde isn't just the color of our hair. It's very much a part of who we are. If there was one thing that made me happy about myself when I looked in the mirror, it was my blonde hair.
So, whatever possessed me to have it cut off weeks before I started my Sophomore year of high school? I blame Jane Fonda. She had this really cool hair cut we called the shag. Lots of girls in my 9th grade class had gotten shags, and as they were cute and popular,  I was sure the hair cut would have the same results on me. It didn't. For one thing, all that blonde hair? Swept away off the floor of the beauty shop never to be seen again. Secondly, the cut? Hideous on me (and, if we're being honest, everyone else on the planet. What were we thinking?)  Worst of all, thanks to having all that sun-drenched top hair cut away, I was now practically a brunette. Except you couldn't even call the color brown. No. My mother "kindly" referred to it as "dish-water blonde" on the drive home in which I was sobbing hysterically. Have you ever seen dish water? Have you?? Tell me the thought of your hair looking like that wouldn't send you running for the Miss Clairol.
All through the remainder of my high school years and into college, I had people comment on the fact that my hair was not "natural." I was asked if I'd ever considered going to my natural color. Once, when I didn't have enough babysitting jobs to support my color habit, one boy pointed to my roots and said, "That looks like a skunk stripe." I wasn't outspoken in those days. In fact, I was like UnderDog before he found the phone booth, meek and mild-mannered. I giggled and shrugged when people said things to me that were insulting because I wanted them to like me, and I was pretty sure that saying, "F*#@ you!" wasn't a way to win friends and influence people. But, secretly? I was flipping the bird at all of them. Do not tell me what to do with my hair or any other part of my body, thank you very much.
I guess my point is that my silver sisters are exercising their own right to choose what to do with their hair, and I respect that.  There are a zillion reasons people just say no to coloring sessions. I have a friend who is deathly allergic to ingredients in hair dye. She looks absolutely stunning with these gorgeous silver highlights gracing her cheekbones.  Other reasons include the cost, the fuss, the chemicals, the fact that George Clooney doesn't have to cover his gray while his wife does...all solid. I support you all and hope you will support me.
I still color my hair bright blonde and plan to have that put into a list of instructions I am currently creating for my son for when it's time to put me in "the home." I refer to it as The Book of Zsus and have a chapter entitled "Maintenance." Here is an exert: The hair will be dyed. Highlights and lowlights are preferable but at least a one-tone champagne blonde to maintain its youthful vigor is mandatory. DO NOT LET THEM DYE THE BROWS! Dear God. Let the few I have remaining be grown out and styled in a sort of comb-over."
I love that the new generation changes their color with the seasons. Pink, blue, purple, silver. Dress it up. Dress it down. Shave it, crimp it, curl it, straighten it. I love that my silver sisters are bold and beautiful in their own choice. I love that I can be a bleached blonde at age 57. I reject anyone who rejects another woman's fashion decision based on their own personal preference. I reject anyone who tells a woman who is letting her silver shine that she should consider the dye. I reject anyone who says a woman in her 60's is too old to experiment with blue or magenta hair. I reject all of that because I reject the notion that we are so stupid, as women, that we need to constantly huddle together to tell each other how to present ourselves.
Look, if we're old enough to have gray hair, then we certainly no longer need to listen to the Queen Bees and Mean Girls. Ladies, it is our hair, our faces, our bodies. When I read in the comment section of one "going gray for all the right reasons" type blog that a woman found herself "heartsick" at the sight of her friends with their highlights and lowlights and over all color because those friends were buying into an industry that thrives on our insecurities, I wanted to respond, "Oh, honey. You're the one who needs an on-line support group to justify your choice to go gray." But, I didn't want to add to her insecurities by calling her out.  Embrace that natural hair because it looks fantastic, not because it's some sort of political statement. It's hair, people. Anyway, I'm going to wind this up so I can whip my dyed hair into a simple pony tail, stroll down the street to the ice cream shop on the corner, and indulge in one of my favorite treats. Of course, at my age, there are plenty who would tell me I really should be watching my weight. Ha! I'd rather go blonde!


  1. Hell yeah! Never dyed my hair in my life but I'll defend to the death your right to do whatever you want with yours :-)

  2. I refer to my blond hair as my natural color -- it's just not my original color. Until she finally came around and agreed with me on this, my mother used to call me a "suicide blond" -- dyed by my own hand. Thanks, mom.

  3. *laughing* This blonde with blue eyes wants photos posted!

  4. I'm a natural redhead. Many times in my younger days, I was asked if I colored my hair. Nope. No color until it started turning....brown! I was in my 40's. At this point, I'm not sure if I have any gray or not, but I'm not ready to find out.