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The Beauty Of Hair Roots

Why we should all just go gray.

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Sonia Pulido
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Roots? Not quite genealogy, but somehow about who we really are. In the last two days, two women — from a safe, social distance of 8 feet — have bent their heads to show me the line of gray in the parts of their hair. “Just trying it out,” both of them said.

Another woman I know told me she had offered to order an extra emergency root touch-up for a friend in case Amazon ran out, but the friend said she already had stockpiled four of them.

And, I am sure that somewhere in little pockets of downtown chic, there are self-isolating millennials who are nursing lines of dark growth in the parts of their artificially dyed gray hair.

It got me thinking about the whole gray hair thing, and whether the original impulse to “go gray” was an ironic fashion trope, or a true strike against ageism; but I have no doubt that on my end of the age spectrum, it was a stab at looking younger than I really was. And it is also the end of a long line of hair-coloring efforts to become a “better” me, from my essential blondness of spirit — or the fun of change to brunette and auburn from time to time.

When I decided to stop coloring my hair, it was about coming to terms with aging. I wanted to see what would happen after the big reveal. (And I admit when I finally did let the gray come in, it was a streaky gray and white that people were always asking me about, who “did” it, so I’m not sure whether I was so brave or just lucky.)

The big news is, my hair color has not changed my life. No one looks at me differently (except a stranger passing me in the street, who is probably saying something like, “there goes a gray-haired stranger”). No one seems to respect me more or less, and my prospects have not changed greatly because I am a woman with a head of gray hair. There are also some small positives in this. I have more time, now that I do not have to make hair-coloring appointments every six weeks. I have more money, too. And most of all I am happy that the deluge of ageist negativity, which I feared, did not come to pass.

I’m not saying ageism does not exist; it does. And I am not saying that in some “youth” careers, younger workers are not favored. But that is rather specialized, and also gender specific. I recently spoke to a man working in one of those “youth” careers who complained he was older than most of his colleagues. But that’s all he did — complain. He wasn’t moved to dye his hair or lift his chin. And I assume that is because he trusts that his work will be good enough to make up for whatever perceived deficit his age presents. And because, well, men just don’t do things like that.

Which leaves the rest of us. What if during this time of social isolation we take the need to color our hair off the table? Do more than try it out; grow it out. And revel in the knowledge that our essential selves, down to the roots, will still be there.