I started to go grey in my thirties when I was still kind of buff. It was a statement then. But when the middle-age spread started I pulled back and made a drastic transition from grey to whatever shade of brown was on sale at the discount store. Not that I don’t love my hairdresser. Claudia Curl rules, I see her at least twice a year. (You can see how cheap I am.)
A few years later I hit a minor life crisis. Have you ever had a really bad job? I felt so disrespected that I decided to let my hair go back to its natural grey. People might still condescend, but at least I had come out as an old person. Also, a couple of women who were doing better in that job than me were natural grey, and they looked kind of cool.
I told Claudia that I wanted to lose the dye but keep the hair. It takes a long time to grow past shoulder length. Step by step she stripped color and added streaks, and about six months later it was all natural color. Grey. With white highlights. I like it. Now if I could only get buff again I would be totally self-satisfied.
Going grey helped me get in touch with my ethnicity.
It was St. Patrick’s Day at Patrick’s Pub on Smith Hill. Irish-American ground zero. I walked in and there was wall-to-wall people who looked like they could have been my cousins. Lots of them had the same grey hair. It wasn’t until then that I really understood that there is an Irish look and I have a visible ancestry.
I think it’s a generational thing as well. I see a lot of women in their forties and fifties letting their hair go grey. We let our hair grow straight when we were teenagers and our mothers were still doing curlers and perms. Or else we didn’t straighten our hair, and let it be afro or kinky curls. It seems logical that we would let our natural color, or lack of it, be what it is. We are the boomers, after all, and when we get old we do it our way.
So the grey thing was a little bit of a transition, but no big deal. I was surprised to find out it’s a Trend. Not only is there a website, Going Gray, but a book. I regret that I didn’t write it, but it really never occurred to me. Darn.
Just to show that everything that goes around comes around, here’s an excerpt from ‘Barbara Frietchie’ by John Greenleaf Whittier. Interestingly, it has a pounding rhythm that would work very well as a rap. Say these lines out loud if you don’t believe me…
Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;
Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;
In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.
Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.
Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.
“Halt!” – the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
“Fire!” – out blazed the rifle-blast.
It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.
Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.
She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.
“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word;
“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.
Best of all, Barbara Frietchie made her brave stand for the flag of the Union. Which we are always trying to make more perfect.