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The Politics of Hair

The Politics of Hair

 

We both dye our hair. And we don't think it is a big secret. Highlighted brown for Erica, peroxide white for Karen.

We have always wanted to present ourselves to the world in a very particular way. When we were young career women, we dressed the part, making sure it was obvious we were women, not counterfeit men. Sometimes we looked good. Sometimes maybe we did not. Erica had this yellow polka dot outfit--well, enough said about that. And Karen had to be told several times that she should not allow her clothes to wear her, it was supposed to be the other way around. And neither one of us knew much about makeup, a deficit we are trying now to remedy. So mistakes were made, for sure. But we always tried to achieve a specific, branded look.

That included our hair. Erica used to have a large head of curls. She is a pretty small woman for a very large head of curls. Karen had hair down to her derriere. She is even smaller, and once she was past about 21 that looked pretty silly. We both ultimately changed our hairstyles as we matured, or least grew older. And eventually the use of color was part of the larger question of presentation, for both of us.

We have been a bit bemused by recent discussions in which women are scolded for coloring their hair. There are those who argue, aggressively, that for a woman to be authentic about her age requires that she allow nature to dictate her hair color, be it gray or white or something messier in between.

We heartily disagree. 

First of all, most of the advocates for the natural look have incredibly beautiful gray or white hair. Most of the rest of us do not. Second, every one of us tries to present ourselves as we want to be seen. Hair is part of that. And in the twenty first century the choices for hair color are amazing. Why not make it a color you like? Even, or maybe especially, if that color is plainly fake. For the first time you can have your hair match your jewelry--or anything else. Why shouldn't you enhance what nature has proposed?

Really, of course, the argument has nothing to do with hair. It has to do with aging--or rather anti-aging. Those who think a woman would dye her hair only to attempt to look younger feel that doing so is wrong. Again, we disagree. If you have been around as long as we have, you can do what you want, and if you want to look younger, who cares? But there are many reasons to dye that have nothing to do with age. We don’t dye our hair to look younger. We dye our hair to show we are still in charge of how we present ourselves—to look our age, as we perceive our age looks. We are not anti-aging. We are pro-aging. Aging with style. Our style.

So to those among us who don't want to dye because you look fabulous in gray, we say: great. And to those who don't care, also great. But to those of us who have chosen all along to take a hand in how we present ourselves to the world, we say go for it!

Viewpoints (Virginia): Discovering My Grandmother, A Designing Woman

Viewpoints (Virginia): Discovering My Grandmother, A Designing Woman

Yes: Our Favorite Word

Yes: Our Favorite Word