Woman to Woman: A Woman's Dilemma: To Dye Or Not To Dye?
Woman to Woman: A Woman's Dilemma: To Dye Or Not To Dye?

By Ana Veciana-Suarez

I spotted my first touch of gray -- a white strand smack in the middle of my head -- when I was young enough to laugh about it. I had recently graduated from college and, in addition to full-time employment, had begun the business of mothering. The latter endeavor is known to short-circuit attempts at beauty and fashion.

Eventually, one strand became two, then three, then 219. At my mother's suggestion, I colored my tresses, and before long I found myself enslaved to a monthly ritual that unites women of every race and creed the world around. And once you begin, honey, there's no going back.

Or is there? Lately I've been toying with a subversive idea: Going gray.

There, I've said it publicly.

Most people with whom I've shared this sinister thought regard me with alarm. I might as well be saying that I'm going to join the circus.

My friends, most of whom dye, highlight, straighten, or otherwise treat their hair, nixed the idea. One called this indentured servitude an investment. In what, I'm not sure. Maybe my hairdresser's retirement fund.

"You'll look old," my daughter groaned. Well, it's not like I'm getting any younger.

Hubby took a diplomatic tack. "You'll look beautiful no matter what." Lot of help there, sweetheart.

My initial research has proven one thing: Silver may be a prized commodity, but apparently it's not a look favored by most women. With men, it's a different story. Gray anoints them with mystery and presence, with respectability.

Gray hair popped up in the news a few days back when the hair-care brand John Frieda reported that a study it conducted found that premature gray hair is far more common today than it used to be. The company dubbed these women Gray Haired Overstressed Twenty Somethings, or GHOSTS, because two-thirds of the women surveyed attributed their color change to stress. And here I thought it was genetics.

Researching further, I discovered a lively online debate on the merits of showing your age. That, after all, is the reason why this is a topic of discussion. If we weren't so intent on clinging to the vestiges of youth, we'd all be going au natural.

To dye or not to dye is an argument that reminds me of the Mommy Wars, the kind of issue we media folk like because it can be resurrected generation after generation and news cycle after news cycle.

There's a Growing Gray Blog and a Growing Gray Project, also online, a Color Me Gray book and a Going Gray app. I should also mention goinggraylookinggreat.com, and gorgeousgrey.com . There's even a forum on the topic at WebMD.com.

The most extensive and soul-searching treatise on the subject I came across is the 2007 book by Anne Kreamer, "Going Gray: What I Learned About Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Matters," which grew out of a diary she kept for More magazine about her hairy 18-month transformation.

So, do Clairol's advertising people have their work cut out for them? Is there a growing movement against artificiality?

Nah. In my immediate circle, I know only two women who have welcomed the gray. They look fabulous.

Me, well, I suffer from a teensy bit of insecurity. I wish I were more courageous or better prepared to face reality, but I'm not there yet. Maybe in a few years. Maybe never.

In the meantime, I might try on a gray-haired wig for size.

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Woman to Woman: "A Woman's Dilemma: To Dye Or Not To Dye?"

© Arianna Huffington. Distributed by Tribune Media Services