Not dying her hair any more was a sort of happiness-project for Anne that caught my attention.What is this book about?
Anne who had been coloring her gray hair black for several years realized she wasn’t fooling anyone after viewing a photo of herself:
There she was - behind carefully chosen clothes, meticulously dyed hair, and several rounds of botox - looking exactly forty-nine.She decides to go gray and wrote this book to document her experience. She explores our perceptions of gray hair. She interviews family and friends asking them if they think grey hair will make her appear older. She posts photos of herself on an on-line dating site, one with grey hair and one with black, to gauge which photo will receive the greatest response. (The grey-haired Anne is more popular) She explores whether those with grey hair are less employable? (In most cases they are). She looks at those who have gone grey in the entertainment and political arenas. She seeks advice from Mireille Giuliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat, who explains that French men value women of any age who are “bien dans sa peau” (comfortable in their skins). It gives them a quiet confidence and serenity, that seductive je ne sais quoi.
Initially, I thought Anne seemed narcissistic. It didn’t help that I’d read a review shortly after bringing the book home that said "Who Cares?" But as much as I wanted to stop reading the book, I couldn't seem to put it down. The more I read the more I liked it and Anne no longer seemed self-absorbed at all. She was just exploring the social and advertising pressures women encounter to look “young.”
Today, three and four decades after the baby boomers’ countercultural transformation of the culture, we have held on to the hedonistic, forever-young part of our Woodstock dreams much more tenaciously than the open-and-honest-and –authentic part. Yes, women really have come a long way toward equality of opportunity and social empowerment. Yet at the same time there has been a narrowing of the range of acceptable looks for women. Women may now be CEOs and TV news anchors, and openly indulge their sexual appetites-but only if they appear eternally youthful. And a main requirement is a hair color other than grey or white. (Pg. 38)And what a business boom hair color is for the beauty industry:
Some hair-color marketers estimate, hopefully, that as many as three-quarters of women color their hair, although some research puts the number closer to half that, including women in their teens, twenties, and thirties. (Pg. 44)Anne calculates she spent over $65,000 coloring her hair during the 25 years she did so. She went to the hairdresser on average every three weeks to touch up her grey roots.
I love Anne’s opinion of low-lights:
A friend Betsy was wrestling with the whole low-lights concept of reverse coloring, adding dark streaks to her grey hair. If you search “grey hair” on the internet, a lot of information you’ll discover covers how women can add ‘dimension” to their hair by introducing a wide variety of colors. I personally think this is simply one more way the beauty industry tries to keep us on their regimens. But “low lights” might effectively change the subject from age-versus-youth truthfulness to plain-versus-stylish aesthetics. (Pg. 23)Anne, now grey, meets with three image consultants. Surprisingly, none of them think she should color her hair, but all feel she needs to update her wardrobe. This gave me another push to clean out my own closet (I, like Anne, still own suits from the 90’s that no longer fit).
Anne realizes every decade of our life is important and that if we spend our time, money and energy trying to look perpetually twenty we will miss out on what is important in each of those decades - but we also care about how we look.
She closes with:
One's character is the result of hundreds of ordinary, mundane daily choices. And social and cultural progress are the cumulative result of a billion tiny choices. If each of us tries to tell more of the plain truth in small ways, then maybe we as a society and culture will find it easier to start to recognize and reward the truth in bigger ways. And hair, as ridiculous as our obsession with it may be, is a very real, visible, emotionally central sign of what each of us is trying to be- a sort of personal flag. To dye or not to dye, that is a question. (Pg. 202)
What about me - do I or don’t I dye?
At 48 soon to be 49, I’ve yet to see a grey hair, but that could be somewhat deceiving since I've been professionally highlighting my mousy, dish-water blond hair since the early 90’s and don’t have plans to stop anytime soon. My hairstylist agrees my hair color hasn't turned grey it is just duller and in my opinion uglier. Other than an occasional teeth-whitening and nightly dose of anti-aging cream when I remember which isn't often I don't partake in any youth preserving beauty regimens. I have friends who have gone grey. They grew tired of the four-week maintenance appointments and their hair is gorgeous. We all do what we works for us. Moderation most likely is the key.
How about you do you or don’t you?