By Beverly A. Black
Should I dye my hair? Before you jump to conclusions and decide I am a petty, superficial woman, you must understand that this is apparently no small question in my new hometown. I now live in an area where I appear to be the only woman who, at age 52, does not dye her hair.
I wasn't always the only woman who didn't dye her hair. I used to live in Northeast Philly, where it was not uncommon to see older women in their natural state. And being a Quaker, I'm supposed to live simply. Most of the women at my Meeting don't dye their hair. They are active, vibrant women and proud of their years and the wisdom they've gained. Most have no time for silly self-indulgences like hair dye and nail polish.
Then I moved to the suburbs; Central Bucks to be exact. Right off the bat I noticed how much prettier the people seemed up here. The guys were in good shape. The women were youthful, fit and fashionable. Especially the ones in their 30's and 40's, but even the ones in their 50's and 60's had pizzazz and high heels. That seemed bizarre because we were only 25 miles from where I used to live. I referred to the experience as Stepford Wives-ish.
It took me two years and a number of back-to-school nights to put my finger on the problem. I'd noticed the manicured nails and attractive figures early on; I just hadn't realized that all these ladies dye their hair. All of them. I eye the rare woman who has let her hair mature and change with age. I even talk to them once in awhile like we're members of a secret society. Last month I complimented the pharmacist because she had hair that looked like mine. Of course, she smiled politely but didn't seem to care much either way. In fact, I think she kind of rushed through my prescriptions, but I couldn't help it. I never see women like me.
I'm an old mom. I had my first daughter at 35 and my second at 39. This makes me stand out at things like back-to-school nights. In fact, my 13 year old just informed me that her best friend's grandmother was younger than me. (Thanks for that, darling.) So maybe it's the age thing. Before, in my 40's, I didn't care. I wore my silver highlights as a badge of honor. Now, my attitude is beginning to change. My hair is now becoming more salt than pepper and even though I keep it short and styled and have even compiled a wardrobe that complements my hair color, I'm beginning to wonder how I'd look as a brunette again. Or, heaven forbid, a blonde. Something, anything, other than this gray old lady color.
I like to wax philosophical on occasion so, I've done some thinking about the meaning of hair color. It doesn't mean anything, you might say. Well, if it doesn't mean anything, why do women change it all the time? And why don't men change theirs? Women like to look youthful, you might say. But we're not youths! We're grown women. But women like to look their best. Since when does looking your best mean you have to deny your age? Didn't Meryl Streep look great in The Devil Wears Prada? Okay, it was a wig, but you know what I mean. How about Helen Mirren at any award show? She looks fantastic. And lastly, there's always the old stand-by: my husband likes me as a blonde, redhead, brunette, whatever. Why do we always blame the men? Do we really think they'd leave us if we wanted our hair color to match theirs?
So, I sit here in a quandary. I like my hair but fear it's getting too gray. I think I should stay true to who I really am, but think a change might be nice. And I worry that I'm losing my Philly roots (excuse the pun) and becoming more suburban. Maybe I am just a petty and paranoid woman. Does it really matter? It's only hair.
Beverly Black practices law and writes from