My first gray hairs were cause for celebration. My mother, politically liberal, but parentally strict, had forbidden me from coloring my hair “until you start going gray.” So when, at 14, I was able to show her a few silver hairs buried in my thick black mop, I was overjoyed. And, God bless her, she took me straight to the store for the box of burgundy dye that was the obsession of adolescent girls (thanks to Angela on “My So Called Life” of course). By the end of high school, I had grown out a Bonnie Raitt-like gray streak on one side.I chose to part my hair where the gray grew out the thickest, featuring my unique highlights like a peacock feather. During college, I enjoyed my silvering hair, I think because I never associated it with aging, at least, not in the negative, “beginning the march toward death,” sense.
Then for several years, I colored my hair, and now at 28, I am letting it grow in as is, almost completely white. Last year, when I told my stylist not to touch up my roots, she refused, preparing the bottle of black dye anyway, threatening me with the word “hag.” I got a new stylist.
Many associate prematurely gray hair with severe stress or trauma, as though, from an overabundance of life experience, follicles just give up on the whole pigment thing. The truth is that gray hair is genetic; it can’t be brought on by stress, trauma, or insomnia. I have prematurely grayed because my grandparents on both sides did, too. However, as a young, suburban Midwestern writer trying to make it in a variety of “big cities” — Melbourne, New York, Paris — I have always enjoyed the former association. I like the idea that others see me as quietly and courageously living through a tragedy, like a heroine in a country song.
(Coincidentally, the only woman I have found to look to as an example of dove-haired beauty is country singer Emmylou Harris. Her silver first appeared on the cover of her 1977 album Luxury Liner, when she was just 30.)
These days, most who comment on my hair compare me to the sexy, leather-clad character Rogue of the “X-Men” movies, and I never disabuse anyone of the notion that I am a superhero.
My bad-ass world-saving name? Silver Fox, of course.