For one of my gigs, I have the freedom to write about pretty much whatever I like (relative to self image and/or my experience of being female), and last week I wrote about my hair. Specifically, I wrote about how I feel like I’m losing the battle against my advancing gray. For me, this was an off-the-cuff musing, resulting mostly from a couple of weeks of extreme stress and very little free time, and realizing that right now my hair looks just plain awful. Three inches of obvious roots isn’t attractive on anyone. Luckily, my hair is very curly—which hides it, somewhat—but still. It’s not a good look. The question was whether I make peace with going gray, and stop coloring (and likely cut my hair short, at least to start), or continue to color even though I sort of hate it, because I’m still relatively young and gray hair on women who aren’t senior citizens is, I think, often viewed as lazy or unprofessional.
What shocked me, though, was that (at last count) there were nearly 90 comments, and while some of them were of the “do whatever feels right to you” variety, many more were vociferous defenses of one camp or the other. “Embrace it!” urged several commenters, while my own father (the source of my early gray!) suggested that I do the extra work for now because I’m too young to go gray. One anonymous commenter not only went all-caps to make their point (”DO NOT GO GRAY”), the justification was that my wonderful husband doesn’t want me to look “OLD.” (The hell?)
[Sidebar: For the record, my husband almost never comments on my paid writing, but for that particular comment he was moved to do so---he made sure that Anonymous knows he really doesn't care what color my hair is, thanks.]
Part of the lure of writing from home is that I don’t have to have a closetful of suits or get dressed to impress every single day. I’m a casual sort, and I definitely appreciate being able to spend the majority of my time in jeans, makeup-free. So the whole “look professional” thing is, for me, an intermittent concern. But the flip side of that is that when I do go give a presentation or attend a conference or whatever, of course I want to look my best. It is important to me to look good—look polished—when I’m out and about, being the physical face of my “brand.” (I really, deeply, hate referring to my person as a brand. But in this case it’s accurate, as I’m referring to situations where I’m probably looking to network and/or get hired.)
Several commenters on my post referenced Alice Bradley as a younger woman who’s totally rocking the whole “embrace the natural gray” thing, and I couldn’t agree more—Alice is gorgeous! Her hair and face are very different from mine, though, so someone saying “Alice rocks it and you can, too” to me isn’t a very practical comparison. And, again, it seemed like some commenters brought up beautiful graying ladies to say it’s a-okay while others said that allowing myself to be gray at this age would be totally bad and wrong and make people not take me seriously.
The funniest part, to me, is that my issue really isn’t the color. I’m deeply pragmatic; for years I really felt “too young to be gray” and I dyed it because it bothered me. At this point, I think I’m more bothered by the time/expense/chemicals than the color. What I’m really struggling with is the fact that there’s no good way to convert, here, short of chopping all of my hair off and basically starting over un-dyed. And I’m not sure I want short hair. (I’ve had short hair, long hair, and medium hair. The bottom line for me and my curls is that longer = more manageable, most of the time. Shorter usually means I’m fighting poodle-head.) I tried to convey that in my post, but instead I stirred up strong feelings about whether or not gray is professional.
And on that, I’m still sort of torn.
I think… I need a Hairy Godmother to come tell me what to do. Anyone know where I can find one of those…?