18 November 2010

graying with grace?


it might be a record of sorts. the recent post in the New York TImes Why Can't Middle Age Women Have Long Hair by Dominique Browning- found 1256 comments stringing just beyond her last words 'The short of it is that long hair means there is always, at least, hope.'  She started something.

This seems to be a habit with the writer- she is likely the most beloved editor of the woefully defunct House and Garden magazine, author of countless exceptional books and now a blog, entitled Slow Love Life- also the title of her latest book. That her list of credits is enviable-apparently, a lot of people are on the fence about her hair.

It is Long.
It is Gray.
It seems it is the combination that really flies in the face of what is proper for old-I say that with love-however- more mature sounds more-well, loving, so let's go with that.

The article caught my attention and as I finished its first reading my comment- To Self: That sounds about right, I will get there. At 55, the author has taken the plunge and let it fly -loud and proud. At 51, I'm not there yet-though my hair stays at about shoulder length for the last twenty years, in varying shades of brown, blonde, & yes-I swear, purple once. The purple-fained as RED, was not- RED-it was purple. So what is it like at the moment- RED, not purple- and it is just right- at the moment.

Yes, the maintenance is going to be hell- mind numbing. I finally found something like my idyllic childhood color. A distinct gray streak either side of the part has emerged overnight after about 1 month. I find myself pulling at the part pressing down-How much gray is there really?  My Loved Ones swear they can't see a thing. Hum?  After sending a photograph of the stunning Ines de la Fressange- as she recently appeared on the Chanel runway- to my longtime friend and stylist, we conferred in front of a full length mirror. In more or less these words she said:
You want to go red.
I: of course not.
:that has a great deal of red in it. At this point she could see I was backing down-
but this time-to my surprise, I didn't.  Everyone that has noticed the RED, or I have prodded to notice says they like it- No- I think they Love it.

Dominque Browning thinks-rather knows-Men love long hair. They think it's sexy. (her words) She sites fictional literature and myth as her sources for this knowledge, and I am sure she is working from first hand experience as well. Now here we do part ways- I don't think this is quite accurate. Perhaps collectively MEN prefer it-it is fantasy. If their reality includes a well loved woman with a darling pixie cut- they would, or should, adamantly disagree. Since my own experience is lackluster- for few MEN In My PAST  have offered a firm opinion-more the - I like it however you like it. Hum? Maybe that was a lie. Anyway- they are no longer PRESENT. Those MEN I do count on for reassurance- two older brothers and a nephew, offered their unique and for each-not surprising- comments.

Right after I went RED, I had dinner with one of my brothers. Standing beside him- I wait for  the shock, the awe. He looks at me- then catches a glimpse of our mother, who just had her hair cut about an inch- and says, "Oh, look- Mom's had her hair done." (exact words) I was flabbergasted! Really. I Mean Flabbergasted.
I:"Kev! I can not believe you are standing right next to ME and my hair is RED & you didn't notice, how can that be possible, I can't believe it?" (all in one string of exclamations- just like that).
He: "Oh, You , did. It looks good." Just as he always has, in his smiling laughing kind of way. It is charming and diverting. We giggled like we did when we were best buddies.

Next brother- Paul, my oldest sibling , I just went right in for it:
"I dyed my hair, It's RED." 
He: "I see that."
Lastly, from my 22 year old nephew, JT, born with sagacity in full, and Bless Him, He loves me just as Aunt Gaye-immediately He said:
"Yes, that's mostly how I remember your hair being." Of course- He is right. It was like saying welcome home, Aunt Gaye.

So how do you get to the point of putting chemical dyes on your head, scalp- permeating ? My niece, Liz at 27 has beautiful blonde hair - always has. This summer when she breezed into our family mountain gathering, her hair was noticeably more blonde.
Her question to her Gran and Me-"If you didn't know me, would you think it was natural?" Both, mother and I laughed, and then we all three laughed wildly. Her father-ever the diplomat,Paul, said when asked if he noticed, replied, "Why Yes, I didn't know if it was appropriate to comment on the change?" That is LOVE. I declare-these are the people that would not care if your hair was green- they LOVE you, so they LOVE your HAIR.

One of my favorite blogs to visit is Catherine's The Blushing Hostess Entertains, writes in Don't Bend  
'be fearless. Cut if you want to, but not because social more's flattened your resolve to maintain it. And not because someone else prefers it another way. Do it because you want to see someone you recognize in the mirror. And because she is beautiful that way.' I agree with this lovely young woman. What I do struggle with it the maintenance, and it will only get worse. It IS Getting Worse. So will it stay long. My father's four aunts and grandmother all maintained very long hair throughout most of their lives. Shocked as a child, one day I found my MaMa out on a bench brushing the longest, grayest hair I had ever seen. Draping just along the ground, she always wore it in a neat coil-this machination performed by one of her four daughters-who always seemed to be just waiting to be called for the task. As my mother says:
"the Women of your father's family prefer long hair - I don't know why, but I guess you do too." Hum?
These same women have married often or never married-so I'm not sure if the Long Hair Gene really exists but it does seem to be Trend rather than Trait. That it will go Gray sooner rather than later is becoming obvious- my grandmother was prematurely gray-white as a matter of fact- and that was most becoming.
IF ONLY. That is likely to be my fate. I have no cause to believe my hair will ever co-operate with my desires as it is yet to do so.

I'm half way there. Fearless? OF that I can not be sure, however, it is nice to have something important to think about, to think of throwing caution to the wind.


Emmy Lou Harris

 Kristen McMenamy
model ,age 46
also on the cover of ITALIAN VOGUE

Carmen Dell'Orifice

see this Little Augury Post on COVERS Would VOGUE DARE? - HERE



  1. Gaye, I would say that these women all have two things in common - they have style and they are being themselves. ... Mark

  2. I say anything without chemicals near that crammed in with wonderful things brain of yours is a good thing. I never thought I would have short hair again, but my wild gray hair has the texture of a brillo soap pad and several months ago I went daringly pixie so it can be cut often and keep the wilderbeasts under control. Just today at the market a woman commented on my silver spiral earrings. She knows the young woman who makes them and sells them at the local artist guild shop. "They especially look great with your beautiful hair," she added. Made my day! Do what is good for you. Be bold. Be yourself. Be the color you were meant to be.

  3. I am so tired of these articles (not you). I'll wear my hair the way I want no matter what. But I have to keep saying it over & again...my mother keeps telling this to people as well: the kind of gray (or white) hair women are crowing about as "natural" most always comes via the salon as well. Ask Emmylou. She will tell you. "I go to the salon--why does everyone think it's brave? If I let it go "natural" it would be hideous." Direct quote.

    I'm so tired of people telling other people how to feel about their hair. OK, it's out of my system now!

  4. When I was much young (I am 52), I was in love with older men that had a full head of grey hair. And curiously enough, my husband of 15 years - who is a dark blond- pines for just that look now. He is in his late 50's.

    I don't think this is a gay or straight thing, but men seem to be able to take the 'natural' plunge regarding their hair color with much success, while women have a much harder time of it. Is that because of our collective desire for youth & beauty? Or at least our idea of it? That said, I shudder when I see a man who has had the misfortune of coloring his hair jet black: it never works with his skin tone. Why do politicians do this?

    I think you are right about longer hair, that is, it's not as thick in one's later years, so short can look fuller. Grey and long together? I would think that one would have to be favored with excellent genes.

    Back to boys for a second: I've not forgotten the stunning photographs I saw of an American Indian gentleman who must have been in his 60's, full head of steel-grey mane all the way down his back. Stunning!

    My last thought: if you have it, go for it!

  5. The beauty of hair is, it is a canvas that can be changed, almost as frequently as we change our minds! I am in the long and colored camp, where I will reside for the moment.

  6. Susan, thanks for the exemption! yes it makes sense-as my friend a salon guru tells me. I will say my Grand Mother (paternal) had perfect white hair-of her own, and I am totally ready to inherit-would that It could happen.

  7. I love a vibrant silver mane on a man or woman with the right skin tone, and yes, the panache to carry it off.


    Art by Karena

  8. Is it not all about a good or bad hair day? I love when I see an older woman with her long hair up, well groomed and tamed locks have always appealed to me. I wore a french twist on my wedding day. Now I sport a bob which is easy to maintain. My Mother-in-law has let the :silver fox: come out and she is striking. I think it is all in the grooming, whatever length or color.

  9. Okay, so Reggie is going to throw a rock in to the gears here. It is the rare woman of "a certain age" who can carry off long gray hair with elegance and grace. And yes, you show us pictures of those who most certainly can, all of whom have been blessed with great beauty and bone structure. But when said hair isn't scrupulously tended to, and the wearer isn't either, then long gray hair can give the appearance of sloth to many and witchy-ness to more than one cares to admit. But it's not just the ladies that bear this cross -- Reggie notes that a three day stubble can look marvelous on a young man, all sexy and redolent of the bedroom, but the same stubble on a gent over fifty brings to mind far less attractive references, such as the town drunk or an escapee from and ICU ward. Reggie is not being personal in any way here, LA m'dear, for your long red tresses are perfection indeed -- he is just speaking as to what he has noticed when out and about among the general public. RD

  10. I like what TBK says as she reminds me of what my love, Susan, says. Infact, one month she IS a redhead, the next brown with blond streaks, etc. And different styles. Recently she looked rather retro, which I adored.

    Me: I keep my hair short now and I think it might me turning a bit gray!

    P.S. I am not so sure about Dominque,s theory.

  11. I have to admit-as I go that route, I would have to enhance it for a while. It is all rather personal No? as if one is wearing a skirt with the hem somehow caught up in the waistband.

    Bruce- I'm not so sure either, it does make interesting reading all round though.

  12. Reggie Darling- I agree. It has to be maintained like anything else- unless one wants to retreat to a cabin in the blue Ridge Mts -which I contemplate daily! xo.

  13. I've often said that "80% of life is maintenance" in one form or another and hair over 50 probably boosts the percentage. I have a friend who dyed her hair for years and finally stopped in her early sixties. She had no idea how beautiful it had become and said every morning was a revelation when she looked in the mirror.

  14. In my book, Rules Regarding Women, there is this:

    Avoid entanglements with women over 50 whose hair is past their shoulders. Nearly all these women have issues.

    Apart from Dominique Browning, who badly needs a haircut, all those other women look great. But as Reggie says, it's a high-maintenance, out-of-the-bottle great. In the real world, a woman trying to pull this off is the equivalent of the man who thinks he looks like Sean Connery when in fact he more closely resembles Ben Bernanke.

    P.S. la, here in the the country, on the morning side of the Blue Ridge, there are altogether too many women with long grey hair. Superannuated hippies posing as gentle mountain folk. It's very dreary to see. (Needless to say, their menfolk look just as bad.)

  15. Ancient, I would love a copy of that book, where to get it? let me know via email if you like. I do think keeping anything up is tiresome work. I totally understand that urge to let go. I am not offended or bothered in any way by the gray haired hippies or mountain folk in the least. If I head in that direction I will try to steer clear of well groomed aesthetes!

  16. I contend-since I know immediately 4 women ages-93 to 45 with gorgeous stark white hair that Do Not Use Chemicals(at least on their hair) on it-they may be the lucky ones, but Not everything is Fake. I do think they wash it.

  17. God, Julie Christie. If I could look like any of these - it would be her. she is so gorgeous! That body! That dress!!!!! Somehow I don't look quite this good when my hair goes gray. hehe. I have to run to the salon for a touchup every six weeks or so.

  18. P.G.T., I like what you said about the men in our lives loving us no matter what our hair looks like. Their love is with us, not our hair. I think Kristen McMenamy and Carmen Dell'Orifice would look smashing with no hair at all. I don't know that I'm buying Dominique's theory. Men prefer women who are confident, happy and ultimately comfortable with themselves. I bet your red hair looks incredible...and when you tire of having it done you will look incredible with your natural color too!


  19. I agree with HillHouse, I think Dominique's NYT essay/theory is full of holes but I also think D's taken two whammies so hard on the chin that it's going to take a awhile for her to settle a few internal conflicts. Gorgeous Ines VERY MUCH resembles Dominique as she was in her appearance on Charlie Rose. LA often leaves us crumbs to connect, so I couldn't help drawing that particular straight line.

  20. I was prematurely gray-haired at 48. Now, at 59 it's almost white. Past shoulder length. Women stop me on the street and tell me "you look great!...but I could never let my hair go white."
    Perhaps this brings us back to the more basic question:
    Why aren't women comfortable about aging?

  21. Anon- an age old question? I am immediately thinking of Diane von Furstenberg's recent comments about about her terrible ski accident and broken nose and serious cheek damage-She said she only thought what will I look like?- I want my OLD face back-Her fear that any needed plastic surgery would make her- not herself. She is aging-and gracefully. It is a problem- I am going gray- this may be the year I GO with it. pgt



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