Power of Grey Hair

My Grey Locks and Silver Strands

A growing number of women are embracing the Power of Grey Hair.

In an article titled The Silver Tsunami, the author suggests this about gray hair:

“It allows the wearer, when walking into the room, to subliminally convey the notion: ‘You think growing older is a bad thing? Think again.’”

The article goes on to discuss the fact that grey haired women are wearing radically younger hair styles:

“In fact, it is wearing exactly those unexpected-after-40-or-50 cuts that make gray hair less of a symbol of aging and more one of confidence and power.”

Catherine Cleary in an article in The Irish Times titled Grey Pride tells her story:

“I stopped out of curiosity, boredom and a desire to be different, to resist what is expected of a woman turning the corner into 40.”

Mia Gallagher believes our fear of mortality is behind the fear of ageing and treating ageing as a disease that can be cured with potions:

“If ageing is a disease then life is a disease.”

Ruth Sutherland in The Observer article To Dye or Not says:

“Wherever you stand on follicles as a feminist issue, a woman who opts for grey liberation is making a statement. She is saying: ‘I’m relaxed and comfortable about ageing.’ That’s pretty brave, because there are precious few grey-haired female role models.”

The Oprah Magazine weighs in with an article called The Gray Hair Bible:

“But a growing number of women—courageous, rebellious, or just exhausted by the tedium of coloring—are going brazenly, vividly gray.”

There are far fewer web sites that embrace grey hair than there are sites that tell you how to get rid of grey hair. Clearly the Grey Hair Crusade for Women is in it’s infancy…

Age – What is Good About Getting Older

The stereotype for aging is not always very complimentary. Articles, advertising, cartoons and jokes often paint a dismal picture of what it is like to get older. It is as if people have perfect lives, and then wake up on their 60th birthday (insert the age you think is “over the hill”)  to discover they are old and unhappy.

People age differently. Some will reach a ripe old age with their bodies and minds more or less intact. Others won’t. But what usually changes the most when a person gets older is that their mirror no longer reflects the person that their mind remembers.  And society starts to treat them differently. Sometimes it is good differently, but often not, I’ve found.

The QuipperySo, what is good about getting older? I’ve looked at dozens of websites, and this is what people are saying:

  1. Freedom to do what you want to do; time to ‘smell the roses’.
  2. Probably don’t have to worry about how your career is going to turn out.
  3. Earlier bed times.
  4. Dressing for comfort.
  5. Fewer hormonal driven, emotional decisions.
  6. A lifetime of good stories to tell.
  7. A long personal history of experience to draw upon.
  8. Better at imagining different points of view, thinking of multiple resolutions and suggesting compromises.
  9. Probably know the meaning of life and don’t need to look for it anymore.
  10. Stress isn’t so stressful.
  11. Seasonal allergies generally lessen.
  12. Smaller, closer group of friends because the need to be ‘popular’ is no longer important.
  13. Skin doesn’t break out when you eat things that used to cause zits.
  14. More outspoken and assertive about things.
  15. Wear my slippers to the supermarket to buy bourbon and cat food if I want to.
  16. Enjoying old or new hobbies.
  17. Giving up the quest for perfection.
  18. Usually get fewer colds.
  19. Sweat glands shrink, so we sweat less.
  20. Senior discounts.
  21. Age lets you be the person you would have been, if you hadn’t been so busy being the person you were.

Women, Liberation, Freedom, Beauty – the Anti-Aging Scam

Steve Craig of the University of North Texas presented a paper in 1997 called Madison Avenue Vs the Feminine MystiqueHow the Advertising Industry Responded to the Onset of the Modern Women’s Movement.

The Abstract of this paper states:

In her now-classic 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, feminist author and activist Betty Friedan charged the advertising industry with perpetuating and exploiting the oppression of women through the use of negative stereotypes. Her book and its charges gave impetus to the growing women’s movement and led to an all-out campaign of political action against advertisers in 1970. Madison Avenue at first responded with protestations and denials, but the threat of product boycotts and pressure from many women within the industry itself led to at least superficial changes. Companies also realized that changing their approach made good business sense and began creating products and marketing strategies that exploited the idea of the “new woman.”

The QuipperyThis “New Woman”, though liberated from many of the inequalities of past generations, now faced a beauty industry that led them to believe that a women could only be accepted in this new world if they met rigid new standards of slimness, beauty, and fashion. As Naomi Wolf explained in The Beauty Myth: “An ideology that makes women feel “worth less” was urgently needed to counteract the way feminism had begun to make us feel worth more.”

This idealogy is called “The Beauty Industry”. It is a multi billion dollar one, aimed at making people feel they are not good enough looking. It is aimed predominantly at women, but men, children and ageing people are  increasingly being targeted. In many parts of North America, a Cult of Youth not only predominates, it demeans and derides.

On the laundry list of supposed unattractiveness, any signs of ageing are at the top. Grey hair (and wrinkles) are the prime offenders. The Hair Coloring industry is fueled in large part by consumers wishing to camouflage their gray hair. The industry promotes the idea that in order to be successful, people should look “vigorous and youthful”.  Appearing “older and more experienced” is deemed undesirable. Not so long ago,  people said grey hair made a man look distinguished, but it made a woman look old. But today, even men are being targeted by this industry.

 Clairol has a product called Nice ‘n Easy Grey Solution that “uses a breakthrough Gray Retexturizer Pretreatment to soften coarse colour resistant grey hair.” Brown Betty sells a product that colours pubic hair . The product received a positive review from the online edition of The Oprah Magazine. SanoTint advertises that “SanoTint hair color is one of the only “green” products available that creates a deep, rich, permanent hair color that will cover grey hair.”  Restorias message clearly states what their attitude is towards gray hair:

Unfortunately there is no cure for gray hair, however there are many products on the market to help you deal with your gray hair problem.

A salon owner, Louis Licari, sums up gray hair on women by saying,

Very few women look more beautiful and vital with their gray hair showing. You have to have the perfect shade of silver hair combined with a flawless complexion to wear your gray hair successfully. When your hair is gray, your face must look perfect every day. Any stress or fatigue is magnified when hair is worn gray. To allow hair to go gray creates a huge burden for most people trying to look their best.

hair color gray arctic blonde
“Arctic Blonde”

It is estimated that before the 1950’s, a minority of women over the age of 40 dyed their hair. Today, it is the vast majority of women, according to Anne Kreamer, author of Going Gray:

One reason people dye their hair is that when they look in the mirror they feel they aren’t seeing their authentic selves. And what they mean by “authentic self” is that period in life where they thought they looked their best. So they try to recreate that moment through hair color. But it might be helpful for people to know they don’t have to. No one pays attention to anyone else! We have far more latitude to be comfortably what we want to be than we think we do. We should all be more tolerant about aging, no matter what choices people make.

For men, grey hair has traditionally been a badge of authority and experience. But the hair colour industry would like to change this, probably because they have nearly saturated the market for womens hair colour. Clairol Natural Instincts for Men claims, “Look like yourself again – Natural Instincts for Men fights grey in 10 minutes…” Then there is Touch of Grey. Men who use it will “show your experience and your energy.” Restoria  states that “Going grey isn’t anything to worry about. With Express for Men you can eliminate grey hair in a few easy steps and be on your way to feeling more confident and look even younger.”

Hair dye isn’t the only product that is sold with the express purpose of making people think they are “worth less” unless they use them. There are industries for cosmetics, diets, plastic surgery, clothing, shoes, spas, films, TV… all designed to reinforce an impossible ideal of what women should look like.

    • Anti-Ageing products offer the promise of a “Cloak of Youth”.  Youth is beauty. Age isn’t.  Most of these products are targeted at women. Women are not young enough looking, slim enough or sexy enough. Women should use these products to be acceptable, desirable and valuable. This generates a fear of the natural process of ageing.
    •  TV, Magazine and Internet advertising promotes youth over age. It sells vanity product through advertisements of  “ideals” that are impossible to achieve.  Examples on the internet: ” Discover Anti Aging Information For Looking Younger And Feeling Great!” “Learn how to look younger by getting rid of grey hair with hair color in this free hair care series of anti-aging videos.” These advertisements are at the very least offensive in their Ageist Attitudes. They are  dangerous messages for young girls and women because they erode self confidence. They are demeaning to women in general because they objectify them.
    • In the Entertainment Industry, it is not uncommon to have an older leading men in the movies or on TV, but most of the leading ladies are younger, or have to appear to be a lot younger.

If a society is preoccupied with looking young, how can they see ageing as a positive process?
If a women is preoccupied with making herself look different, how does it make women seem real and genuine?

Aging Woman and the Invisibility Factor

There was a column in the National Post this morning called 10 Ways to Make Canada More Senior Friendly. It appears that the piece was written by National Post Staff members Joe O’Connor and Jeremy Sandler.  It is a very good example of what the term “Ageism” means.  In short, the article is a derogatory depiction of a group of people based on a prejudice against that group.

The “10 Ways to Make Canada More Senior Friendly” is simply a list of  ten of the more common stereotypes that brand Seniors as being tired, broken down people. It isn’t a funny column. It doesn’t contain anything original. It is offensive.

These National Post Staff members were commenting on the fact that Statistics Canada is predicting that people over the age of 65 will soon outnumber children under the age of 15. No surprise here – the Baby Boomers are becoming senior citizens. While the young staff writers of the National Post are looking forward to a rapid diminishment of Baby Boomer power,  Baby Boomers will likely not oblige them. Baby Boomers have always considered themselves to be Change Agents, and as such it is unlikely their “Senior Years” will be anything like the ageist stereotypes that the National Post listed in their column today.

In addition to Ageist Stereotypes, women often become  to suffer from being Invisible.  Writer Susan Reimer explains: ‘As women age we begin to fade from view, moving from vibrant to translucent to invisible. To young husbands and little children, women shine like a sun at the centre of their universe. Soon enough, these same husbands only pretend to listen when we speak. Those same children dismiss us with a flip of the wrist. And the rest of the world, full of people who might once have thought we were pretty or interesting, does not even see us when we pass.’

More Reading:

Allergic to the Gym – Fitness and Aging

The QuipperyI’m Allergic to the Gym. I don’t break out in hives or anything. I just don’t feel right when I am in one. Not that I have spent much time at a Gym.  I’m just not comfortable with the concept of driving somewhere to do something that I don’t like, with machines I don’t understand, surrounded by a group of people I don’t want to know.

I’m not totally unaware of the benefits of exercise, which is why my fitness regime, if you can call it that, includes walking. I either do laps around the available countryside, or I occasionally spend some  time with my treadmill. But mostly, I am committed to the notion that my forefathers lived into their 80’s and 90’s without ever engaging in any formal “exercise”, so there is a reasonable probability that I will too. The caveat here, of course, is that I have to live a relatively unsedentary lifestyle, similar to what my forefathers would have lived…

As I age, I have become keenly aware of which parts of my body are inclined  to not live up to my expectations. For them, I have developed mini routines to keep them functioning reasonably well. I try to keep things simple because then I am most likely to do them.  I also have seasonal exercises. In the winter, after it snows, there is the “shovel about 100 feet of driveway” exercise. In the summer, there is the “weed about 100 feet of flower beds” exercise. This spring there was the “lay paving stones on the 50 foot patio” exercise.  I took up golf a few years ago, so once a week I enjoy the walk around a golf course. I don’t keep score – I just try to leave the course without losing too many golf balls.

I became a ‘gym person’ when we became Snowbirds in Arizona. The Community Centre is just a short walk or bike ride away, and it has an excellent little gym with several recumbent bikes. With a library in the same facility, I can exercise and read at the same time!

How does a bit of exercise affect longevity?  According to an analysis of the Framingham Heart Study (a research project that has followed 5,209 residents of a Massachusetts town for more than 40 years) people who engaged in moderate activity, like walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week — lived about 1.3 to 1.5 years longer than those who were less active. More intense exercise, like running half an hour a day five days every week — lived 3.5 to 3.7 years longer.

Actuarial tables suggest I will possibly live to be at least 86 years old, based on my current lifestyle.  If I exercise a bit more, or a lot more, I could live 1.3 to 3.7 years longer. The question is, do I want to live to the age of 87.3 or 89.7?  By then, many of my family and friends will be gone and I think I’d be lonely. I guess that would be a good time to join the Gym  and meet some new people…

Go Grey, Girl – Be an Arctic Ice Blonde!

Hair colour (or color) is a confusing and controversial topic, especially if the hair colour is grey (or gray!) To start with, great swaths of the population spell the essential words differently! Although it is quite acceptable to spell grey – gray,  and colour – color, having grey hair is quite another matter. Of course, the individual hairs aren’t actually grey either. They are either some shade of white, or the original hair colour. The grey colour is an effect achieved by the mingling of the white and dark strands. Sheer trickery.

A quick search for the precise term “grey hair” brings up many, many pages. A search for “gray hair” is the same. I spent a morning previewing a very small sampling of these pages and came to the conclusion that women, and the fashion industry, have more or less declared war on grey hair.

I decided to revisit the Gray Land of Grey Hair after a few years of colourful experiments in the hands of my well meaning, and much younger, hair dresser. Upon arrival at my Grey destination again, I found that my former Grey Locks were now mostly Silver Strands. There are a number of reasons why I am delighted with this colour, not the least of which is the fact that it brings out the most interesting reactions from family, friends and strangers.  The reaction, for the most part, is a startled silence. During the growing out period, not a single person said, “Wow, those are some roots you’ve got happening!”  And now that I have these silver strands, only two people have commented. I’ve had several compliments from total strangers, but family are not saying a thing. Curious.

arctic blonde
This is my Arctic Blonde hair!

The best part of grey-white hair, though, is the small silent band of sisters I now belong to. Whenever I pass a stranger who shares my hair colour, either she or I initiates a small smile. We hold each others glance just long enough to say, “Welcome to the White Side!” I’m thinking we should have a little wave, too, maybe similar to the one that is shared by the motorcyclists we pass on the road. It’s the same wave we give and get from the drivers who live near us in our rural setting. Just a slight lifting of the hand off the throttle or the steering wheel that says, “You are one of us.”

While the vast majority of women are busy keeping their grey hair at bay, men tend to accept the grey look as part of the natural order of things. If women viewed grey hair on women as a sign of power and maturity, rather than fearing it is a sign of being old and worthless, would women finally have the gender equality that they have fought so long to achieve?

Maybe what women need is just a little rebranding, and for me, what could be more perfect for a Canadian than ‘Arctic Ice Blonde’? If you are unsure of what I mean by the term, check out this Arctic Blonde Pinterest Board. Then, there are the Arctic Blonde Strippers – a group of quilters from Whitehorse in the Yukon.

If you google Arctic Blonde, you will also come across a Miss Clairol Hair Dye by that name, but we all know there is only one way to be an Arctic Blonde, and that is to let Mother Nature do the job for you.

As for a community – there are Silver Sisterhoods and Graceful Greys – but what should I call a group for Arctic Ice Blondes?

Did you Get the H1N1 Flu Shot in 2009?

Toonaday flu bugH1N1 was probably the most talked about topic in the whole world in 2009. Worldwide, annual flu epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths. In 2009, H1N1, or Swine Flu was the pandemic.

It was hard to pick through the rhetoric to find out how spooked (or not) you should be by this bug. The easiest to read and most user friendly source I found was at the US Department of Health site at FLU.GOV

Less easy to read, but useful to Canadians is FIGHT FLU

I wanted to understand how this flu affected my age group. Good News! According to several sources, there may be some benefit to being a healthy person over the age of 60. Research suggests a percentage of people in this age group may have some natural immunity to the H1N1 Flu virus. This immunity may not prevent you from getting the flu, but it may reduce the symptoms significantly.

Apparently H1N1 has met the criteria for inclusion as a pandemic.  I lived through the two previous flu pandemics, but I don’t remember anything about them. Will I live through this pandemic? It’s hard to say. I’m pretty healthy, but no one knows what this virus might do. Will I get the vaccine? I might, but I am not going to take a vaccine away from someone who is at greater risk than I am. According to the clinic in my area, the criteria for getting a flu shot this week is “pregnant women, children under five and people under 65 with chronic health issues”.

I’m not going to fall prey to all the hype and fear that swirls around this flu. That could make you sicker than the flu itself, I think.

I do, however, love all the stories that have circulated on the internet about Swine Flu and Miss Piggy…