“I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair—it just won’t behave…”
Thus begins the notorious novel Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James. (If in fact that is her real name.) The central premise of this publishing phenomenon is not, as the opening sentence would suggest, the unruly state of the protagonist’s locks. And if you aren’t familiar with the book’s premise then tell me: “What’s it really like on Mars?”
No, the state of one’s hair is my concern—as chronicled in an earlier post and as I’m about to address here. My natural color is a deep, chestnut-brown, and it began betraying me, to the rhythm of what Margaret Atwood has called “the slow drip-drip of time,” in my early thirties. That’s when I boarded the dye train, with a ticket in hand that required a renewal every six weeks. Finally, after more than two decades of this relentless, expensive ride, I’d had enough. This year I’m embracing the gray.
Frustration at paying outrageous sums to a stylist, even one I liked enormously, served as my motivator. Little did I know that I was part of a trend, and that some women are actually paying good money to put in what I’ve been paying good money to take out.
I first noticed something was up years ago, when a stunning model with long, silver hair began showing up in my J. Jill catalog. “What’s this about?” I wondered. And then the epiphany struck: “Advertisers are finally paying attention to women of a certain age! That’s good!”
I’m not sure if Cindy Joseph gets the credit for starting the trend, but a trend it is, and christened as such by the New York Times, Huff/Post 50, MSNBC, and assorted beauty bloggers. I’m even seeing evidence in real life that the tide of dye has turned. I recently saw a lovely woman working at a home decor shop in Alexandria, Virginia, sporting a stylishly cut cap of silver hair.
Jean L. graciously allowed me to interview her by email. The color you see in her photo is, she says, all natural. She is, she writes, “slightly older than what is considered a baby boomer.” She says she stopped dyeing her naturally dark-brown-with-auburn-highlights hair about 20 years ago. Here’s her story:
“I dyed my hair red for a number of years but the color would not stay. When I went to Aruba for ten days, the sun started bleaching out the color. Each day it got lighter; it was almost blonde when I flew home. I didn’t have time to color it and the next day everyone said they liked it blonde. I just stopped coloring it and it was white; I never had roots grow out.…I think the timing to let it go silver was the appropriate time for me.”
Jean’s photo belies the need for this question, but speaking for my own concerns, I had to ask her if she thinks her silver hair makes her look or feel older.
“I love my hair color. It actually gives me more confidence than when it was darker. I’m not afraid of it aging me as it actually looks better on me than my other, natural color. I think it is very stylish. A good cut and style helps.”
And the financial benefits to abandoning color?
“It’s absolutely been a savings. A cut and style is expensive enough.”
‘Nuff said. I’m already dreaming about what I’ll do with my new-found savings.
I did think I might be able to get away with keeping my hair long throughout this transition, but I was wrong. In the early weeks, it looked, well, charming—the way those little wisps of silver peeked out from my hairline. But as time went on, the little wisps disappeared and in their place was an odd sort of two-tone look, streaked with gray, that resembled the coiffure version of spectator pumps. I actually had three colors going: the new gray peeking through the real color of my hair, and, about a third of the way down, the dyed brown. It was not a good look for me. No, the best course of action was no doubt a short haircut. And the time was right, since summer can get brutally hot in Virginia.
As luck would have it, I had just read Style Weekly’s issue featuring the best of all things Richmond, which included their readers’ top pick in the hair-styling category: Imago, and the salon’s owner, curly hair expert Mary Jo Myers-Battiston. Not only did Imago receive Style Weekly’s blessing, Elle Magazine had named it one of the top 100 salons in the U.S. A place that specializes in curly hair? Ringing endorsements? This sounds like the place for me!
I’ll write a future post about Imago—and the hope that its method gives to members of the curly-haired tribe—because I’m completely impressed. But for now, here’s the finished look, snapped before I left the salon:
I can also smooth out the look with my flat iron. But regardless of how I style it, I’m cooler, the gray is blending in nicely with the rest of my hair, and I now have tons of extra time (and eventually money). The time I formerly spent styling my below-shoulder-length hair—I can use to finish Fifty Shades of Gray and a few other, slightly less sensational books. The money? If my financial planner has anything to say about it, I’ll save it.