In today's New York Times, Natasha Singer writes about Anne Kreamer, an author who stopped coloring her hair three years ago. Kreamer's new book, Going Gray, chronicles her dramatic change of hair color, from dyed mahogany to "salt and pebble."
At a time when more than half of American women ages 13 to 69 color their hair, Ms. Kreamer argues that hair dye is the great divide that separates those who are in denial about aging from those who embrace it. Dyed hair looks as artificial as a toupee, she concludes, whereas gray suggests candor. "We have been brainwashed to think hair dye looks good," Ms. Kreamer said.
And you know what? She's right.
In this country, we're obsessed with youth — and the "anti-aging" business is flourishing. But no one thinks silver foxes like Anderson Cooper and George Clooney look elderly. As any good women's studies major will tell you, the patriarchy is to blame (as usual). There was a time when our civilization revered gray haired women. They were thought to be older, wiser, and often knew how to use plants and natural elements to cure the sick. The advent of Christianity turned these medicine women into witches and hags, cackling over cauldrons, up to no good.
But maybe it's time for a shift? "If we had more role models like Helen Mirren and Emmylou Harris out there, more women would want gray hair," says Ms. Kreamer. Unfortunately, it would take more than Emmylou Harris to create a culture in which "embracing authenticity," as Ms. Kreamer calls it, is not only acceptable but rewarded with respect and admiration. Obviously it's a woman's prerogative to do as she wishes with her mane, but seeing as how Ms. Kreamer spent an estimated $65,000 on hair coloring over 24 years, doesn't going gray seem particularly sage?
Bottled Blondes, You Too Can Break Free [NYTimes]