Kathleen Norton

Goodbye color, hello “real” hair

Posted on: August 16, 2011

It was the strangest feeling.

Since turning 50, at every hair appointment, it felt like I was putting on a mask on my head.

But I tucked those misgivings away and kept using hair color to cover up streaks of silver and white that had been dogging me for  decades.

My pretense was that time was not marching on, though there was plenty of other evidence to the contrary.

Just ask my upper arms.

Every year, the divide between my real age and my hair’s age got bigger while my hair maintenance schedule took over my life.

“Hair Day!’’ was scrawled on every month of the calendar and no social event was attended without a determination of  whether the roots could be seen in public, or in pictures.

I had vowed to “age gracefully” without unnatural interventions but my policy had an unstated hair exemption.

But last year, several friends stopped coloring.

Some whispered that these women looked older, in tones that suggested they’d committed felonies. But the women themselves were thrilled and said they’d never go back.

Then I went to a social function with my parents’ friends. At least half of the women still had dyed hair.

“I’ll never go gray,’’ one woman confided. “It ages women.’’

She was about 85 and looked not a day over 81.

“So that’s where this is all leading,’’ I considered.

Next, I found pictures of my grandmother and her cousin, now long dead, when they were middle-aged. Both had striking salt and pepper hair and were beautiful.

I envied this generation of women, which had far fewer advantages than mine, but never had to endure this catchphrase: “Fifty is the new 30!’’

Right after this, my sister sent me a link to a video of two California news anchorwomen, on station KPIX, who stopped coloring their hair and went “natural’’ in front millions. They looked far better, more like themselves.

I made a commando decision. “Cut it short and ditch the dye,’’ I said to the hairdresser during the next visit. “We’ll deal with what’s under there.

That was nine months ago. A short, layered cut has helped the colors blend during the tedious, growing out process. On bad days, I turned to hairbands or hats.

I almost faltered once, but hung in there. Now, it’s about 85 percent done with salt and pepper in most places and white streaks in others. I use lots of conditioner and need frequent cuts but the new head feels more like me – we’re both in our 50s.

People’s reactions fall into three categories: Positive reactions. No reaction, which means they don’t care or they’re too horrified to say. And then there’s awkwardness.

“That picture they were using of you with dark hair in the newspaper must have been really old,’’ said one person.

“Not really,’’ I corrected. “My hair just looked younger than it was.’’

So that’s my hair story, ladies and gentlemen. What’s yours?

Post it here or email to: kathleennorton1@gmail.com

I am sure we will have plenty to talk about.


8 Responses to "Goodbye color, hello “real” hair"

But you have gorgeous thick locks that look good at any length. My hair is short, cropped — and dyed! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
And, yes, I do want to shave off a year or three!

Bravo! Kathleen, you have gone where (hardly) no other woman has gone! At least here in southern California.

Barb: Here in New York we can wear hats and hide our locks half of the year! Thanks for writing!

Welcome to the Silver Club! When I look at pictures of myself when I wasn’t gray I w3onder who that person is! Enjoy your new freedom from the tyranny of the beauty parlor.

Oh, I am so torn…..breaking the color addiction would be so great, but do I really want to look more like Nanny? Where does one buy the “blue” tint????

Uh, sorry to break it to you but the “looking like Nanny’ ship has already sailed.

I promised my daughter I wouldn’t dye my hair, would go au natural…until she promised not to tattoo….and tattood…(tattooded???)….. done and dood it!

I let my hair go to it’s natural color about 3 years ago and I’ve gotten more compliments on my hair at this color (mostly from men if that matters to anyone) than at any other time in my life (even when I was young and thin!). This whole “it ages you” baloney is just that—I always respond with-so that 85 year old with the jet black hair looks younger than me? But here’s what I know: wear the right color for your new hair and skin tone, get an awesome haircut and stand out in a sea of quasi-blonds and redheads and rock that attitude!

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