Column: Writing on the Wall

Forget about 50 — I’m just looking for one good shade of grey


Well tie me down and tickle me silly! You’d think I could find one good shade of grey in the hair color aisle — but alas, there’s no “Silver Siren,” or “Greyhound Gorgeous,” or even “Snow One Like You.” It seems that there’s no market for those of us who want to go the way of Grandma Moses or even the funky and fabulous Jamie Lee Curtis.

Why am I looking for grey hair dye? Because I’ve been impatient ever since I’ve decided to let my own silver-hair-among-the-bottled-gold come shining through. Yep, after 42 years of telling everyone “The sun did it,” I’m growing out my natural color — whatever that turns out to be.

At 16, I thought of myself as vivacious and precocious, certainly not someone whose hair color should be described as “mousy” or “dirty.” How drab! So it was very, very easy to go blonde and guilt-free, too, since I was a tow-headed baby and toddler — nature wanted me to stay blonde, I assured myself. First I used “Sun-In” (“let the sun or your hair dryer lighten you locks naturally!”) and then any permanent shade that promised that I, along with the other natural or unnatural blondes, would have more fun by just lightening our hair. And I did have fun — whether I was a neutral, ash, golden, caramel, honey, strawberry (I’m getting hungry), Born Blonde, Baby Blonde, Beach Blonde, Champagne Blonde or Malibu Blonde — you name it, I rocked it. I was as light-headed as they come.

Some people start to go grey in their late teens or early 20s, while others are well into their 40s when they first begin to see those silver threads. As we age, the pigment in our hair follicles decline, so less melanin is produced — which translates into less color, resulting in a head of gray, white or silver hair — just like the gorillas.

So what made me want to go back to my roots (pun intended)? I really don’t know. I could say it was an decision to be earthy, more natural, more true to myself, but I think it’s just darn curiosity. What lies under there? Will I be the youngest looking grey-haired grandma ever? Will people think I look Bohemian with my silver streaks and hoop earrings? Maybe I don’t want to hear any more blonde jokes. I do hope it won’t make me feel older, just as the blonde has not kept the years from creeping up on me. And as 19th century poet Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton observed, “It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.” I’ll keep you posted.

The column won "Best Column Writing" in 2010 from Suburban Newspapers of America.

For more of Mary Malloy's columns, visit  Writing on the Wall