I’ve been coloring my hair for about 30 years.
It began when I was in the advertising business and contemplating a promotion. I was headed for a sales job to work at a glossy publication and I thought it was time to update my appearance. A few flecks of gray were starting to sprout, and I was not ready to look middle-aged.
So, I solicited the help of a friend, and found a good colorist to help me get myself in order. I guess it worked because I was soon working at Los Angeles Magazine and enjoying my new job and a classy hairdo.
Over the years I have continued to dye my hair, often with the help of a professional and sometimes on my own. The latter has not produced optimum results, sometimes resulting in a chocolate carrot combination. When I left corporate life, this option matched my budget. Instead of $200, I could spend $20, and sometimes even split the store-bought bottle with my roommate.
But the bigger question is why do we feel compelled to color our hair? Do blondes really have more fun? Or is it to remain cute and attractive to the opposite sex because men are in hot pursuit of them, a pretty bauble to display their prowess.
There seems to be a double standard because men aren’t expected to care about their appearance the way that women do. It’s ok for a man to go gray and gain a bit of weight. It makes him seem distinguished and perhaps a good provider. No so for us.
To find a mate, women are often raised to be pretty, fun and interested in men. We are expected to listen, cooperate and keep the conversation going. We are trained from an early age to find men fascinating, while we are often dismissed, treated like wallpaper or worse.
I am down in Florida right now, where almost every female is blonde. Because I am dealing with a broken leg, I have not been able to attend to my locks to the way that I normally do. A bit of my processed color still remains, the faint highlights flanking the sides and the top of my head.
What if women stopped coloring their hair? What if we forfeited manicures and pedicures, high heels and clothes that fit too tightly?
What if we finally decided to eat exactly what we wanted to eat instead of going for salads all the time? Why are we the ones that are expected to stay in shape and not grow old? The story of men trading in their middle-age wives for younger models is almost an epidemic in our culture.
If the economies of scale were reversed and women were the breadwinners, would men suddenly feel like they had to be pretty all the time to keep our attention? Among many species, the males are the colorful ones, fluffy, shiny and new in their attempts to capture a mate.
Although the parameters of economics are slowly shifting, the inequities between men and women are still very uneven. Women’s rights, pay, and sexual choices often display a gross double standard. If we were to graduate beyond what is expected of us, what would happen to our culture?
I am looking in the mirror at my darker color, with curiosity and familiarity, almost like a long-lost friend from grammar school. Maybe my hair wants to be naked once again, and allowed to find its true nature.
As I gaze at the fading highlights, I will continue to address my true color, my original nature, and whether I want to adhere to a culture’s definition of pretty, or perhaps strike out on my own.
Stay tuned.Read More From Mary
Mary McGrath is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including:Chicken Soup for the Soul (Jan. 2019), Newsweek, Wall St. Journal, Betterafter50.com, Purpleclover.com, LANG Newspaper Group, and Good Housekeeping, Please find her work at www.marymcgrathphotography.com