Saturday, January 23, 2016

Going Cold, Gray Turkey




Credit:powerofforever / E+ / Getty Images
About two years ago, I went cold turkey. I got off the bottle—of hair dye.

I had been thinking about ''going gray'' for years. My worst fear was not looking old or being discriminated against in the job market. It was telling my hairdresser! I had been going to the salon once a month for YEARS, and I really liked my chats with Morgane.

When I told her, Morgan's face fell. She was speechless. (I could read her mind, though: "Another regular customer, gone!") But she realized I was determined, and proceeded to do a balayage, an overall highlighting to ease the ugly transition.

I walked out of the salon $100 poorer—but finally free! Of the cost and time, and of the worry about the monthly chemical saturation of my scalp. I was never really happy with the color, or the silver shoots of roots after a week.

What inspired me was a writer I had with stunning gray hair--though she calls it ''white.''

Author Carol Saller
''My guy calls it Hitchcock blonde (like Kim Novak's) or platinum blonde (like Marilyn Monroe's). I'll take it!'' said Carol Saller, author of ''Eddie's War'' and ''The Subversive Copy Editor.''

Carol and I agree that we're sometimes taken aback with people's reactions.

I get a lot of double-takes. People seem to ask, is she making a fashion statement or a feminist statement? Is that Christine Lagarde? Helen Mirren? Lady Gaga? Gloria Steinem? How old is she anyway? One man on the Metro even offered me a seat—then took it back after realizing I was younger than he was!

Carol's best story is this: ''Last summer at the grocery store a little girl looked at me and actually gasped – she kept staring. She wasn't afraid, but awe-struck, as though she thought I was someone famous – so I said hello, and she said 'Your hair turned white!'

''I laughed and said 'It sure did' (thinking, What... like she never saw an old lady before?), and then her mom said 'Oh my god – she just saw Frozen!' This kid was looking at me as if I were a real-live queen.''

The Snow Queen in ''Frozen''
And how do I feel about my gray tresses now? Great!

Especially since going gray became the ''hot trend'' last year. I don't feel like an extreme outlier anymore. Instead, I can say (to myself anyway) that I'm on the cutting edge.

And I have the social media credentials to prove it: hashtags like #grayhairdontcare, Instagram accounts like ''grayhairhero,'' and the Facebook pages: ''I'm Grey And I'm Proud,'' ''Grey is the New Black,'' and the ''Silver Strand Society.''

Like, like, like!!!

It's all a matter of (self) perception.

Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home."