helen mirren gray hair greyBlythe Danner, Meryl Streep, Emmylou Harris, Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Mirren and Paula Deen – why are these over-40 stars with white, gray or salt and pepper hair called “silver foxes” while my dearest friends tell me at every opportunity to drown out my gray?

Even famous under 40s are opting for white hair, too.  Kelly Osbourne, Lady Gaga, Pink and Kate Moss have all given “gray lights” a try. I definitely wouldn’t bring on the gray if I didn’t have it naturally.  But I do, and I haven’t found an alternative that I think makes me look better. If I could, I would go for it in a heartbeat.

Before I embraced my gray, I tried lots and lots of hair color strategies in hopes of looking younger, fresher and more attractive.  First a plant-based dye, then semi-permanent, and then the real deal – permanent color.

But, as my gray strands began to outnumber my dark ones, I had to get that permanent color applied every three weeks to avoid the white skunk stripe down my part.  Every three weeks meant too many hours of my time, too many chemicals, and way too much money.

I actually should have reapplied color after two weeks, not three, to keep my stripe at bay, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend more time with my hair colorist than with any friend or family member.   And worse, the artificial “natural” dark shade looked harsh against my more “mature” facial features.  I think it made me look older, not younger.  Not the look I was striving for.

My next attempt was to lighten my natural dark brown a couple of shades in hopes of a softer contrast against my skin and a less prominent white line down my part.  But, that strategy transformed my hair into a funky reddish orange every time the sun hit it.  No good against my pale skin and the shade screamed “fake – she must really be gray” given my almost black eyebrows.

Out of desperation I went back to the darker shade, but this time I left a one inch-wide- white stripe of hair along the front of my face. While this bold look suits Bonnie Raitt and Cruella de Vil, it clearly wasn’t my style.  Now, I opt for low-light foils to achieve the salt and pepper look.  It’s my strategy for growing out my gray without a harsh horizontal divide between black and white.

Unfortunately, not one of my friends has ever complimented me on my silver strands.  Clarification — not one of my friends who dyes her hair has ever given my gray the nod of approval.

I consider myself to have a good aesthetic sense – and apparently my friends think so, too. Many solicit my opinion on how they look, what to buy, how to style…  So, could I be that off on how my own hair looks?

Maybe it’s that my gray make my friends feel disingenuous. Virtually all my gal pals dye their hair, yet they wouldn’t dream of doing anything else that they would have to cover up.    (Well, maybe just one or two things.)

Is it that my salt and pepper tresses make my liberated group of girl friends feel sexist?  Have you ever noticed how middle-age men go gray, but the ladies don’t?

Perhaps my friends’ biggest issue with my gray is that it makes them feel old.  Let me reference Bonnie Raitt again, not for her stripe of white hair, but for the lyrics in her song “Nick of Time” that supports my hypothesis:

I see my folks, they’re getting old, I watch their bodies change

I know they see the same in me, and it makes us both feel strange

No matter how you tell yourself, it’s what we all go through

Those eyes are pretty hard to take when they’re staring back at you

I don’t expect to get to the “root” of the problem.  But whenever I see a middle-age woman sporting shiny gray, I go out of my way to compliment her hair.  I know it makes her feel good, and it makes me feel good, too.  We silver foxes must stick together.

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