OK, it's time to talk about the ultimate solution to the problem of having gray hair.
Which is to have gray hair.
And of course, that's always an option. In fact, Anne Kreamer wrote an entire book about it.
And eventually, when there is a high enough degree of COGNITIVE DISSONANCE* between my face and my hair, I'll do this myself. Maybe.
But here's the deal. You'll look older with gray hair. It's guaranteed. After all, many characteristics combine to create the appearance of youth: smooth, glowing skin, upright carriage, a slim waistline, firm muscles, and thick, healthy, shining hair that's not gray.
Wearing gray hair successfullyGray hair sends the world a very loud message: "I am neither young, nor hip." So if you want to keep your hair gray, yet appear youthful and hip, you need to drown out that message.
When you look at these pictures of women rocking their gray hair, you'll notice that many of the models are prematurely gray. Yes, they have striking gray hair. They also have lots of it. It's beautifully styled. They're slim and beautifully groomed, and their skin looks great.
If you want your gray hair to evoke some of the same spirit, you should do your best to emulate them. Remember, looking great at our age involves compromise. Staying in the game takes some give and take and a certain amount of effort. Here are the essentials:
1. Don't wear your hair the way you did in high school. Yes, long-straight-parted-in-the-middle was the cool 'do in 1972, but if you wear your hair like that now, you'll look like a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
2. Get a really fun cut. Go wild with your style. I'm not saying you need to go short. Just have some shape cut into your style. And why not? The rest of us are spending hours in the salon or our bathroom with gloves and little dye brushes touching up our roots, then pampering our dyed tresses like Golem with his Precious. You won't have to do any of that, so spend the money you've saved on a chic cut and the time you've saved with a blowdryer and flat iron. YOU OWE IT TO US.
3. Keep your makeup, clothes, glasses, bags, and shoes current. Remember, your hair is telling everyone you're over the hill. Let everything else you wear contradict your hair.
4. Be impeccably groomed. Think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Without the personality, of course. But preen like the gorgeous silver fox you are.
5. Rethink the color of your clothes, makeup, and jewelry. Gray hair is like a halo of cool light near your face. If you've been wearing warm tones, try switching to the cooler side of the spectrum: mint green rather than chartreuse; cherry red rather than geranium red; pinks, blues, lavender, black, and white. (Helen Mirren consistently gets this right.)
6. Make sure your teeth pass muster. Gray or white hair can make your teeth look dingy.
Snowy white hair spotlights the darkening that occurs as we age, simply by virtue of all that contrast. The whiter your hair is, the whiter you should try to get your teeth. This doesn't have to be a big deal--Crest Whitestrips do a great job--but it's something to keep in mind.
7. Stay in shape. Ay, there's the rub. My sister--my older sister--has never colored her hair in her life. She's also a life-long athlete who has always had an amazing figure.
When I was hugely pregnant at the age of 40 with my second child--probably weighing in at 190 pounds--she sent me a photograph from a cruise ship. She was wearing a bikini. And she looked good, gray hair and all. (Gee thanks, sis! Way to demoralize me. You've just won the gold medal for sibling rivalry.)
This is when I came up with this part of my theory. If you can rock a bikini, your hair can be as gray as you want. Remember that picture of Helen Mirren in a bikini that was all over the internet last summer?
But if you already look a little less than svelte ... if your youthful waistline is only a memory ... then you might want to rethink the wisdom of keeping your hair gray. Because gray hair plus dumpy body equals Aunt Bea.
(Now you know another reason why I dye my hair. It lets me dip into the cookie jar a bit more frequently!)
* From now on, when I use a word or phrase that really makes me sound smart, I'll use all caps. Otherwise you might miss it.