coloring your hair in middlle age

FatesI allowed my hair to revert back to its natural color, which at this point includes a fair patch of very white hair. Not gray. White. And this pleased me enormously because two of my great-aunties were blessed with snow-white hair that was thick and simply gorgeous. When I was a young girl, I prayed that when old age struck, it wouldn’t curse me with hair the color and texture of steel wool. I wanted to be as white as a snow owl’s down feathers.

As the whites multiplied, I was content. For a while.

Here’s the trouble with pigment loss, unless you are a character in a Stephen King novel, it’s unlikely that your hair will go white overnight. It’s a fairly slow process when that doesn’t make you look as old as it does washed out, tired and hallow-eyed, and after a while, I’d had enough.

So last week when I went in for my thrice yearly haircut, I had Stylist put the highlights back. She’s new to my hair. I’ve only had her cut it once and as a result there was that moment when she realized that my hair likes being a yellow gold. It quite naturally lightens up to a colour that most women pay quite good money to achieve through dyes. The gods of beauty showered me with precious little at birth, but they gave me great hair. Even the coarse texture with its tendency to poof and curl can’t fully undercut the colour luck I have.

Stylist oo’d and aa’d as the morning slipped away. Foiled, shampoo’d, cut, thinned and blown out straight, I left the shop a lighter version of me. Not one I wasn’t accustomed to because I have been lightening my hair for close to 30 years. I have been more blonde. Much. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s been a while.

One of the reasons for the long blonde-less stretch was my reluctance to play too much into the idea that women of a certain age – my age – should fight like cougars to hold off time. Artificially influencing the colour of our hair is the most common way that this is done because it works and it’s easily accessible. I know personally every few women under the age of 70-something who don’t mess with the locks Mother Nature gave them. Even women my mother’s age, and she will be 80 this spring, colour their hair though not as much as the under 60 crowd does.

And the effects are startling. I’ve stopped counting the number of times a woman will turn to face me and I am thrown off by the fact that her hair doesn’t match her face, and even if she’s Botox’d, the neck always gives her away.

There is just too much pressure and unrealistic expectation. Women are supposed to grow old, travel the path from maiden to crone. It’s not something that needs correcting because aging is not about anything but aging and if most of us stop doing that – we do our daughters and granddaughters a disservice. I don’t want my daughters to think that middle age and beyound is anything to fear or fight against.

But I got impatient awaiting my milky mane, so back to highlights I went.

The reaction?

“Your hair looks fantastic. I didn’t recognize you.”

Um, thanks.

Didn’t recognize me? How crone-ish did I look exactly?

I am not vain or terribly interested in foo-foo fluffery. I haven’t willing applied make-up since my father’s funeral back in the fall of ’09. My wardrobe is yoga based and aside from deodorant, I steer clear of perfumes – cuz they are poisonous.

But I have always been a bit weird about my hair. Love/hate to be sure because it curls willfully and never cottoned to any style that has ever been popular or trendy. Colour was all that was left to me once I slipped my parent’s yoke and grew it long*, and it didn’t take me long to realize that while my natural red shade set me apart from the herd, being blonde suited me on more levels than simply attention seeking.

I will, therefore, maintain the highlights until such time as my head deigns to grow me stark white tresses. As interventions go, it’s barely extreme. It’s certainly not pulling a Demi Moore, dieting to anorexic proportions with the help of Red Bull.

*My father had this odd thing about our hair being short when we were growing up, which is made stranger by the fact that for a long time he insisted that Mom wear hers long.