Coco Chanel said, “There are no ugly women in the world, only lazy ones.” Yet, no matter how industrious she may be, inevitably there comes a time when the bloom of youth has bid a woman adieu. The space it leaves must filled with an array of personal maintenance. What used to be fun, like going to the hairdresser, is now work. It seems that no sooner has the modern woman crossed the various maintenance projects—haircolour, dermatologist, facialist, mani/pedi, waxing, gym, dentist—off her list, then entropy ensues and the process must be re-started. And nowhere is this Sisyphean task more evident than hair colouring to cover the grey.
What starts out as a bit of a giggle, “Look I’ve found a grey hair!” inevitably becomes another irksome reminder that one is indeed becoming an oldster. At this point the choice is: Whether to do so with or without dignity.
Colouring one’s hair has many merits, chief among them is a near-instant burst of youth in a place where Nature has decreed, “I’m so over you.” In the Nurture vs. Nature debate, it’s a big thumbs up for Nurture. When we look back at photos from the 40s or 50s, everyone looks so old! The formal style of clothing—hats, gloves, tailored dresses—is part of the explanation. But the other reason is hair tint. I mean, would we want to see Mick Jagger mincing about on stage on his spindly legs while croaking “Street Fighting Man”, his hair all white and wispy like granddads? Clairol to the rescue!
Still, a small but growing contingent of baby boomers are saying, “Enough!” For Leah Rozen, a 57-year-old former entertainment reporter for People magazine, letting herself go au naturel, was the outcome of taking a buyout because, as she said, she couldn’t bear having to review another Adam Sandler movie. No longer obligated to appear on news or infotainment programs on behalf of the magazine, she could indulge in her “anti-makeover”, as she put it. Financially well-off, Rozen didn’t have to look younger to compete to find another job or draw in viewers in the 18-49 demographic so coveted by advertisers. She also realized she could save over $800 a year (what cheapo place was she going to?) and countless wasted hours sitting in a salon chair by foregoing hair colour.
Rozen admits to being extremely frugal, saving enough money from her lucrative People gig to be able to retire early. If she had to hustle for another job, chances are she might be tempted to dip back into the hair colouring bottle. Except for spiritual gurus, neither men nor women get bonus points in the employment market for looking old. (Women, of course, are held to a higher standard when it comes to a youthful appearance.) This is especially true today when rapid changes in technology have given those who are young and tech savvy the trump card over those with work/life experience. Hammering home the message that you’re an oldster is not a strong hand to play.
With so many increasingly clever ways to disguise aging, it’s a refreshing gesture of honesty to see someone who wears it like it really is. We’re all heading down the same road. Grey hair reminds everyone: “It’ll happen to you too.”