Lately, my white hair has been annoying me. I think I’m going to change the color — again. Thinking about the color I want to change it to, I remembered an article I wrote in 2007 that is just as relevant now as it was then. Here it is:
Miss Dorothy, who cut and colored my hair for years, retired. I was devastated. After all, she’s just a kid – she’s only sixty. However, after I understood that she had a good reason to call it quits, I wished her well.
But I miss her. She could make my sparse locks look as big and mean as an angry hornet’s nest.
Most of all, I miss her wisdom. For example, she said that she would rather be bald than have white hair. I didn’t get the significance until I decided to let my hair go back to its natural white color.
Miss Dorothy grudgingly bleached out the blonde color during the last months she worked, and in the end, she insisted on putting on some blond color. “No one is going to call you a little old lady with this sexy color,” she assured me. How could I resist her good intention? Of course, I went for it.
I quickly let the blond thing go. Too much trouble to keep it up.
No – a colossal mistake.
Now, for women whose hair is gray, white, or something in between, and happy with it – my blessings upon you. May you never suffer white hair discrimination or assumption of senility.
Here’s the thing: When you have white hair, you are perceived as o-l-d. No matter what your face and or body look like, white hair categorizes you in an instant. It tells the world you are an old person. There is no getting around it.
What’s wrong with that? Well, people, especially young people, treat you differently. It’s not my imagination – it’s real. It goes beyond the “looking old” issue – it relates to the perception of ability. “Old” women simply aren’t viewed as competent as young people.
It’s different with men. They can have white hair, no hair, a face full of overgrown grubby vegetation, look like a grizzled old goat, and it’s okay. They don’t look old. They look distinguished. They are considered competent. Yuck.
In the doctor’s office recently, the young nurse gave me instructions for taking care of my husband’s minor surgery. She didn’t explain it to him – I guess that since he looks older than I and has white hair, she assumed he was too senile to understand.
She spoke directly to me as if he didn’t exist. What needed to be done wasn’t difficult: clean the incision with antibacterial solution and apply antibiotic ointment daily. Then the nurse said to me, “Do you need me to write that down?” I didn’t appreciate the offer.
Please don’t assume I’m incompetent or senile until there is tangible evidence!
I’m thinking – if my hair color were different, would it have made a difference? Would she have taken for granted that I had the ability to understand and remember what she said?
Long story short: As soon as I find a replacement for the irreplaceable Miss Dorothy, I’m going to get a buzz cut. I have plenty of gel to make my hair stand up straight in the air. You know the look – “biker babe.” And I’ve already purchased the sexy blond color Miss Dorothy would have used. I may never use it, but I’ve got it.
Fast forward to 2021: Nothing has changed. White hair on a woman equals old and decrepit, at least, to the younger generation. I’ve been thinking about orange hair, as is the preference of some older women. They go all-out for the color — matching orange eyebrows and orange lipstick. If there is enough hair to hold a BIG bow, it’s a contrasting color. Talk about fashion-forward!
I must be having a hot flash. Did I just say I’m considering orange hair? Someone, please call the men in white uniforms, waving useless butterfly nets, and put me into the paddy wagon along with other nuts and flakes. Wait! Is that Joe Biden and his better half and fearless leader, Dr. Jill (“Joe, come this way — don’t go into the bushes”) that I see behind the window bars? I must get their autograph! But notice: They are not wearing a mask! Someone, please report them to a self-appointed guardian of public health! I need some old-fashioned” smelling salts”! They obviously don’t care about the health of others! AND, THEY HAVE ORANGE HAIR!
Once I regain my composure I’m going to rethink the whole color thing and try to recover from my latest bout with geriatric adolescence. Sometimes you just need to leave well enough alone. Know what I’m sayin’?