Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Going silver empowers you to give a big middle finger to what ‘old’ means


From page A15 | March 23, 2014 |

A little over a year ago, I dyed my hair Medium Golden Brown for the last time. It was about the color of fudge, with about the same light and bounce, because that’s what dye does to your hair — particularly if it’s baby fine hair like mine that could be weighed down by a feather.

I’d been dying my hair a shade darker than my natural color, which is more of a maple syrup, (or Light Golden Brown, if it comes from a box). I say my natural color, but that’s not entirely true. Two-thirds of my hair is Light Golden Brown, but the front third, like the ruff on an Eskimo jacket, is silver. White, even. Hence the choice of a dye one shade darker than my natural color — it was an attempt to extend the length of time between root jobs.

In theory, that should work, but if you’re using a semi-permanent dye (Natural Instincts, which theoretically washes out in a month, was my choice of poison) it means your silver roots look great the first week, blond the second, like crap the third and by the fourth — silver again. As for the darker hair, it gets muddier and muddier and muddier, because the color never really washes all the way out. Except on the gray hair.

The other option is permanent color, which means rather than fading roots each month, you sprout a widening white horizontal skunk stripe until you douse your head in chemicals again.

Why. Why am I fighting this. That was my epiphany about a year ago. There are so many other things to fight in this world, and unless I’m willing to have a biweekly visit with a hairdresser (I’m not), I will always lose this battle.

So, I stopped dying. Cold turkey.

The white stripe grew and grew, and within a couple months, Holy Mother of God, my hair was ghastly. I was so very tempted to grab some Natural Instincts “Pecan” and give up. But rather than make another futile attempt at beating back the silver line, I swung in the other direction. I asked my hairdresser to put highlights everywhere the gray roots were.

Lightening the long ends to blond made my hair look a bit less two-tone. I could live with that. Following that successful experiment, we did this periodically a couple more times, lightening and trimming the ends, and one year later, I’m within a trim or two of having completely silver hair.

Whew. It’s hard work to grow your hair out. And it’s so out in the open. Some people stare at me with shock and pity in their eyes, and wonder what happened to me … how did she go gray so suddenly? What horrible trauma happened to her? Other people just gush and they fawn all over my new “look.” The pessimist in me wonders if that’s all just a load of BS and, truth be told, they also pity me and wonder what horrible trauma happened to me.

When it gets down to it, however, there are only two opinions on my silver hair that actually matter to me. One is my husband’s, because he has to look at me the most. He’s a bit of an odd duck, he is, in that he prefers natural beauty — with all its flaws and imperfections — to manufactured, pre-packaged “beauty.” He was the one who encouraged me to embark on my Silver Journey and complimented me every step of the way. When he gushes and fawns, it’s for real.

I have to admit — my hair looks healthier now. It’s not the color of mud, and it’s thicker and bouncier. All through the front section (where I’d zapped those gray roots for literally decades) new hair has sprouted in little baby ringlets. It might be because I switched to that “Wen” stuff last June, but my husband insists it’s because I stopped “poisoning” my hair.

The only other opinion that matters to me is my own. I’m at the point in life where I give my own opinions more validity than the herd’s. (If you’re not there yet, girls, be patient. You, too, will someday cross the half-century mark and realize the lunacy in placing the opinions of others — particularly regarding your appearance — above your own. And you’ll just stop.)

So, what is my opinion on my silver? Some days I look in the mirror and I’m horrified. I can’t possibly be this old! Other days, I look in the mirror and marvel at how awesome and witchy and wild the silver looks. I guess it depends which of my Gemini twins is squawking the loudest that day. But, even when the twin that still wants to look 20 is aghast, the other twin usually shuts her down. This internal struggle does raise the question, however: What is old?

Is old a hair color? Is it an attitude? Societal norms? Behavior? Marketing? Me myself — I know what “old” is, and I ain’t it. I also realize that the vast weight of majority opinion disagrees with me, and insists “gray hair = old.”

Eh, the vast majority — who needs them, really? I am not old and I have silver hair. What conclusions you make about me based on the color of my hair are irrelevant. If you believe “silver = old,” you’re a victim of the self-imposed limitations of your own beliefs. Here’s a new symbolism about my silver hair: it’s a big middle finger to “old.”

It’s an odd thing, this silver mane. It offers freedom. It’s a statement that I refuse to make myself miserable by perpetually chasing 20. Silver says, “This is who I am — no apologies, no regrets.” And “Yes, I am 54. And 54 doesn’t look 20 — no apologies and no regrets about that either.”

And no, I don’t look like my mug shot anymore. But I will, in another trim or two.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and



Debra DeAngelo



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