To Dye For: Or the problem of my hair

In the first world problems scheme of things, next to the dilemma of my lying pants, is the problem of my hair.

The question is: Is there a politics of coloring your hair?

Here is my concern: I worry that if I color my hair I will be buying into a culture that denies the reality of aging and death. The glorification of youth in popular and consumer culture suggests that the physical signs of aging are both ugly and unhealthy. We are thus encouraged to take all steps necessary to avoid succumbing to the inevitable: time. We are sold flesh-eating makeup, cosmetic surgery, Spanx, and, of course, hair dye to help us reverse the clock.

But, the thing is, we cannot stay young. We will get older, and we will die. Unless you are reading this while driving your car or stepping in front of a bus, that is guaranteed. Any culture that tries to deny the reality of that truth is not just deluded, but cruel. Because you can't win! You cannot look 27 forever. You cannot look 40 forever. Pity the poor person who tries to win that game.

About a year ago, I remember seeing this commercial with Raquel Welch, who is in her seventies, but has had so much work done that she looks thirty. I said to my kids: Who do you think is older, me or her? No question: her. But I couldn't help thinking: How are her knees holding up? How about her hip?  After all, you can fool my children, but you can't fool your colon. What kind of fool's errand is it to try?

So, I think, I have an obligation to let my hair go gray as a sort of prophetic act. I want people to look at me and say: "That lady is getting old. That lady will die. Ah! So will I!"

But, you see, I am conflicted: Because what I just wrote is fricking crazy! Who wants people to look at them and think: "Wow! That lady is getting old! We're ALL GOING TO DIE!" Can you imagine me at Halloween? I'd be the house all the parents would say, "Oh, don't go there, Johnny. That old lady will suck your soul out and use it to pomade her scraggly gray hair."

And here's another thing: while I dig the groovy streaks of silver that are starting to frame my face, I'm not so keen on the general lack of luster that the mousy brown predominance of my hair possesses. It's dull looking. It would look better if it was kind of...golden, as in chemically enhanced. And looking better sounds appealing (see my previous post). After all, it is my body and my one life: Shouldn't I be able to have golden hair if I want to? As postmodern feminist, isn't that my right?

By the way: Look at that picture! Talk about your crazy prophets of doom! My eye looks like its ready to curdle you. Don't get me started on my eyes.


Shanna said...

...Well, Jim, who doesn't mind doing such things, picked up the wrong shade of hair color for me yesterday. Auburn rather than Medium Brown. I reminded him that I have had auburn hair in the past. I was trying to let him know that it was OK. At first he said...Whatever makes you happy. Then he said that he really prefers brunettes.
Grey, of course, is not even an option. So here I am. I really need to wash my hair. Will the root touch-up that I have tide me over?

Daisy said...

Some of the chemicals in hair dye will probably hasten dying in the other sense! I wear my gray hair proudly. It says I have gained wisdom in the wars of life, triumphed, and also get a senior's discount on lots of stuff I need.

Em said...

Maybe it's because I lived in LA for a long time, but I'm okay with hair dye, makeup, plastic surgery, everything. Probably the only thing I'm not okay with is really young clothing. The days of really pegged pants and short skirts with tights are, thankfully, behind me.

Otherwise, none of it makes me think I'm denying death. I'm a near-death survivor, so I know for sure I'm capable of dying. They aren't mutually exclusive for me!

altadenahiker said...

The way I see it -- orthodontia gets all the good PR. Somehow it's ok to spend thousands straightening the family's teeth, but considered vanity to straighten a crooked nose. I don't get it. Color your hair. I'd do mine, were it not for the maintenance involved.

Rois said...

For the past two winter's I have tried growing my grey out.Last winter I colored it for my own vanity's sake.

I am giving it one more hair cut this winter before I will even let myself give into coloring it again.

It's a hard call for sure.I definitely have the whole omber look going on but somehow it looks better when it's done at a salon and not by mother nature.

I feel your pain.Most likely some young pup will call me mam just so and I will be all about the coloring.

Ms M said...

I've colored mine in the past, but only with semi-permanent. That way, the change back to "natural" is more gradual.
But it's a hassle to keep up when dyed, so I haven't done it in several years.
"Follow your heart..." or that of the one you most wish to impress :-)

Petrea Burchard said...

I think we should do what pleases us, up to a limit. When you start to look weird (Raquel Welch! Melanie Griffith! Cher!) you must stop. Plastic surgery, no no no.

But why not a little hair dye, if it pleases you? It's only make-up. I like Ms. M's idea of the semi-permanent stuff.

I went gray early and began dying my hair in my twenties. There came a time when it was no longer right. You'll know.

Adele said...

I was going to say what Petrea said (I seem to just travel around the Blogiverse, saying that I was about to say what Petrea said...) What I mean by this is that the real freedom is in doing whatever the hell we are comfortable with. For the moment, I'm going the dye route. I go once a month, I sit in a chair, I read a book, and I feel like I'm having a spa vacation. But, when that's not fun anymore, maybe I'll change my mind. Because, I can! (...and let me add to Petrea's list: What has happened to Courtney Cox's lips???)

Pasadena Adjacent said...

As you know, I'm sporting purple and maroon with an eye on that NoNo unwanted hair zapper

Star said...

Enjoyed all the comments. Me? When still a young whippersnapper ("slip of a thing" would be misleading), I bumped my head against a pale wall I was painting, and got a preview of what I'd look like (what I do look like) with graying hair. Love it! Each silvery strand is testimony of my life's events. Loved your photo, too!

Shanna said...

Hiker...I've had braces on everything EXCEPT my teeth. They are naturally straight. And Em...I am also a near-death survivor. I'll do whatever I can do about the rest of me.

Joan Baez, btw, is grey and gorgeous. Did you know that she had a long relationship with Steve Jobs?

TheChieftess said...

I wasn't going grey...I went mousey brown and totally limp...love my hairdresser!!! She gives me a weave about every 3 months...I know it's time to see her when my hair starts clinging to my head.

And while I understand the draw to plastic surgery, botox and big lips when I look in the mirror and see the lines deepening and creeping down my smile edges...all I need to do is look at a movie magazine and see some of those big lips and frozen foreheads and I breathe deeply and wonder what do they see in the mirror???

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Shanna - Enmmylou Harris too.

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Petrea Burchard said...

Oh shoot, Margaret. I thought Cheapest Payday Loans had some neat design ideas there. I hope s/he visits my blog so I can innocently click her link and not get a computer virus, thereby learning a valuable lesson.

Margaret said...

Petrea: Well, I'm all about your learning valuable lessons, but not those kind.

I have loved following everyone's thoughts. I must admit, the maintence problem is another issue for me. I'm not sure I can be trusted with such a thing since I can't ever remember to get my hair cut, let alone colored.

Alison said...

Coloured hair has been part of my life for so long now, that I would think there was something wrong if I didn't visit the hairdresser every five weeks or so!
Alison xx

Susan Campisi said...

I remember feeling conflicted like you when I first started going gray, many years ago. I wrote a poem (a really bad poem) about old age and the pressure to stay young and beautiful. It ended with "who needs such a cage!" (I said it was bad, didn't I?)

Then of course I dyed my hair.