Last weekend I went on a date with someone new. As I was getting ready, I stared in the bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth, and sighed when I noticed my roots: a quarter-inch of silvery-gray seemed to have sprung up overnight and now bordered my dark brown tresses.
I keep dye on hand to touch up my roots between hair appointments. But it was too late to remedy the problem, an hour before the date. Relieved that I was meeting him for the first time at a dimly-lit wine bar, I mentally clicked through the standard woman-who-is-married-to-her-stylist calculations:
When was the soonest I could get an appointment? What was my cash flow situation? Were my roots as glaringly awful as they appeared? Should I just throw in the towel and cede victory to Mother Nature by finally -- after 25 years of peroxide -- going gray?
I started coloring my hair when I was 27, as my first gray hairs presented themselves. My mother was all gray by 40, and my grandmother sported a silver streak in her hair, perpetually coiffed in a stylish up-do, at the same age. But I couldn't bear the thought of yielding to my DNA. I was way too young to look old, I thought.
Now that I'm 52, I'm old enough to look "old." When I consider the time and money I'd save by letting nature have her way with me, it seems silly not to go gray. And considering I'm on a mission to disrupt the cultural narrative that older women aren't hot, it seems slightly hypocritical. Have I bought into the notion that men can be silver foxes, but women cannot?
Cultural narratives shape the way we think about women. When young women are put on a media pedestal, older women compare ourselves unfavorably. And many men do too. If Hollywood and fashion magazines courted women of a certain age in the same manner as young women, however, we might come to believe that gray hair and wrinkles are beautiful in their own way. We might see the character that's apparent in physical signs of aging as sexy. A deeper, richer sexy that young women don't have.
Still, I don't think being older means you should go gray or eschew a judicious amount of injectables. If you adhere strictly to the logic that aging gracefully = 100% natural, then we'd all have to stop shaving, plucking, doing squats, and getting mani-pedis.
And then there's this: what if gray hair simply doesn't suit you? The silver fox above has fair skin and light eyes that work with her hair color. The gray seems to enliven her. Gray hair on me, with my olive skin and brown eyes, might wash me out. Which seems a valid reason as any to keep my color the way it's always been.
Aging should not mean you have to limit your choices. Gray hair, crow's feet, slackened skin: none of these detracts from desirability. Because being sexy at any age comes down to one thing.
Photography by Nick Holmes