– Does she or doesn’t she?

Remember that Miss Clairol ad, from a time when stylists were still called hairdressers?

This is about my hair, and how I don’t color it, and how, in response to pressures from various factions, I’m considering it. Yeah, it’s a digression from my usual blog topics, but it’s also about making a decision.

The first faction is myself as observer. Here’s what I see in the mirror every day, when my hair is dry. When it’s wet, it looks perfectly black and smooth.

Hair closeup

I actually kind of like it, except for the fly-aways (oh, what happened to the sleek, textureless hair of my 20s?), but I notice it. There’s no hiding it, even from myself.

The second faction is the woman who cuts my hair. The last time I got my haircut, she even… grimaced. “It’s time,” she said. I replied, trying to buy time: “Mmm, maybe next time.”

The third faction is made up of many people who, over the last few years, have said, every time they see me after a break of several weeks, “Wow, Jane, I’m just noticing that you’re getting a lot of grays.” Some have said, demurely, “silver.” Some, more truthfully, “white.”

A resistant faction, the practical me, doesn’t really want to start down that long, un-turn-backable path of coloring or foiling. If you have dark hair, that means maintenance visits every six to eight weeks to deal with the roots. Add the time for a haircut and blowdry, and that’s three hours at the salon! Not much of a self-pamperer, that makes me agitated just imagining it. There’s money on top of that.

Still, there is another faction — perhaps the über-faction — which is vanity, or audience internalized. Is my vanity in my hair remaining natural, or is my vanity in my person looking brighter or younger? I’m torn.

How do I proceed?

Step one, of a decision-making process, is, obviously, defining the problem or question, which I have done.

Step two is gathering information. Most of that information is in the hair photo, and what I know about the procedure and its costs.

Step three is seeking advice. I have turned directly to my reliable and thoughtful friends. Marcia appreciates the aesthetics of graying hair, but recommends her strategy, which is color now, and go gray at 50. Jan says she’s always liked dark hair with gray, but points out the annoying part of gray hair — the dry texture, its uncontrollability — and informs me that coloring takes care of that. Eli, although he is in the faction of people who have brought my gray hair to my attention — “Mom, your hair has a lot of white in it” — says, “Be your color.” From my friend James, with whom I talk about style of all kinds (writing, clothes, music, etc.), I received a measured response, full of examples, in which he recommends resisting pressure and doing what feels right, whatever that is: keep my gray hair if I like it or color it if that would be fun.

Those four answers contain factual and emotional information, but not a decision, which I guess is up to me. Damn.

Step four is taking more time to think about it. This isn’t surgery, so there’s no rush.

I could even put this one off forever.


Digital hair closeup in daylight conditions — you can’t run, you can’t hide — by Eli.

8 thoughts on “– Does she or doesn’t she?

  1. today, for halloween, i’m coating my hair in baby powder and hairspray. i’m going as albert einstein. i was going to go as sexy albert einstein, but i’m too lazy to change my costume now. also, i have, at last count, eight gray hairs. but i don’t really have to look at them, so it’s my concern least of all.

  2. don’t do it! (she exclaims hyocritically, having colored her own hair for years, either just for fun or to cover grey.) well, ok, do it if you want, by all means, but i agree with james that you should only do it if you feel like it, not because of what other people think (or what you think they think). especially don’t do it because of your hairstylist — it’s her job to talk her into it! it’s kinda true that you can’t go back once you start.

    i always go back and forth on these issues. most of me is pro-natural, but even that is an aesthetic, so does the naturalness really make it better? that is, part of me says one should go with what’s natural, but part of me asks, why? is there something better about natural? or is it just that i can’t be bothered to, for example, put eyeshadow on? i only wear makeup on special occasions, so maybe it’s less an aesthetic choice than just a time issue, or that i’m not a morning person. or is it a feminist issue? such as: men don’t wear makeup or feel the need to color their grey, why should women? i’m strongly opposed to breast implants; is this why i don’t wear makeup? yet, i do wear makeup on special occasions, but i don’t get temporary breast implants. (hahahahahaha) how much are these things my convictions, and how much is it just my time/money/laziness at work? where is the line?

  3. Kristina, you hit the nail on the head. I think sometimes I develop a position on something that I say, and even think to myself, is based on an ethical or philosophical rationale, but really it has more to do with that feeling of “can’t be bothered.” In this instance, the feminist in me might say I eschew beautification, but, honestly, I have nothing against makeup, skirts, or leg-shaving. I’m obviously and artificially drawing the line somewhere, so I could easily affirm my choice, or anyone’s, to color their hair. At rock bottom, my time/money/laziness factor resists, but I’m dressing it up to seem higher-minded!

    The jury is still out on this one. I do like having more outside testimony to consider, esp. from expert witnesses! Stay tuned… there will be real verdict at some point soon.

  4. I have thus far liked all the variations of your hair (except maybe the one where you, Sal and I all had the same haircut and we looked like we might be having some weird threesome dating experience). I have a feeling you might be surprised to recall that I haven’t said one word about it…until now…because you mentioned it first. So, here is the solicited opinion: I considered your gray last week at Thanksgiving. I considered it again when I saw the pictures from Thanksgiving. I think you look younger than you did five years ago.

    New hairstyles are more about the change than the fashion or style-I personally like the transformation more than the outcome most of the time.

  5. I’d like to cast an enthusiastic vote for letting time and nature stay in charge of your hair color.

    And, since everything in the world can be considered in terms of whatever rock concert I attended most recently, I should point out that, on Sunday night at the Orpheum, I saw that both Pegi Young and Neil Young have let their hair go gray, and they both looked great.

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