Book review: Going Gray

   If you've been following my blog you'll know that I've started the journey of letting my hair grow out to it's natural colour (ie. grey).  I needed this book and I wasn't disappointed. It's not a heavy book but I found it so refreshing and frankly, encouraging.

I'm at the 4 month point which is not looking all that great.  I often used to straighten my hair to make my hair neater for work but I just can't do it with my giant streak of grey.  And I'm resisting going the pixie look because I do think that will age me very quickly (and plus it is winter and I don't want a cold head!).

Anne Kreamer has a very similar story to mine.  She started to colour her hair in her early 20's and at 49 decided that she no longer wanted to keep up her three weekly hair appointments.  She saw a picture of herself standing with her teenage daughter and a peer with natural coloured hair and thought she looked like a fraud.

Anne uses her experience of letting her hair go grey to write this book (darn, she beat me to it!).  She undertakes all kinds of different experiments to see how people perceive her (and other women) with grey hair.  Her anxiety (and mine) is that she will perceived as older.  However, the overwhelming outcome is that she is seen to be interesting, brave, intriguing.  She stands out - but in a good way.  She reflects on the deep, strong commitment western women have to hair colour (especially in the U.S).  Even when people are unemployed they will still keep forking out that money for the hair colour.  In her book she calculates that she has spent $65,000 over the years on her hair colour - ouch!

Letting my hair colour grow out and sharing it with you all has led to some interesting and revealing conversations with other women.  A lot of women don't want to be seen to be older than they are.  But Kreamer's reflections show that ageing is unavoidable - it happens in your face, your posture, your neck - you can't actually hide it and people can pretty much work out how old you are.  So she thinks you can end up looking a bit disjointed - with hair colour of a 19 year old (and often not the actual colour you had when you were 19) but the face of a 49 year old.

Women in their 60's who I've chatted with, are quite sure that if they went their natural colour they would be unemployable and be seen as irrelevant.  Anne Kreamer points out that it is actually who you are as a person that stops you being irrelevant.  Are you an engaging person?  Are you dynamic and active?  Do people enjoy talking to you?  Do you sit comfortably and securely in your own skin?  All these things make you attractive to others.

Having spent a lot of time recently at teacher librarian conferences with the rapidly ageing female TL workforce, I've carefully observed that hair colour is not what sets apart the relevant, current women.  It is women who love the energy of learning new things, who didn't give up when trends in the workforce moved out of their comfort zone, who gain pleasure from networking with others.
See ... she looks OK!

I do know for me personally what makes me interested in the older women in my life is not their beauty and hair colour.  It is their life experience.  It is the wisdom of the years lived that they share with me.  It is their ongoing energy for serving Jesus and other people as their priority that makes me want to listen to them.

I have to admit that I do feel weirdly vulnerable and exposed as my natural colour grows out.  It is a mini mid life crisis I guess.  It is coming to terms with the fact that I'm just getting older.  But at the same time the vulnerability is kind of liberating.  I like being me and I'm glad I've had this many years of life on this earth.  Not sure why I'm so worried about hiding that.


Catherine said…
Part of the reason she looks good is that she's wearing a colour that flatters her - the same colour as her eyes.
Jenny said…
I did mean to say in my review that she spent time with a styling consultant who helped her look at her wardrobe so it matched her hair colour.
Fiona said…
A 37 year old here - and I have decided not to colour my heair since I was in my twenties - because my mother coloured her hair for years and it looked dreadful. I hated it. So now I have grey strands. Although I realise I get foils because my hair is still mostly dark. The foils cover some grays, others shine on. I have had some people mistake my gray hair for highlights!
Basically, what I want to say is, I've always thought old lady faces with obviously dyed hair looked sad. Let the gray shine on!

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