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Friday, July 21, 2017

The ol’ grey hair

We all face challenges as we get older, some bigger than others, and some entirely insignificant. How we choose to respond to the cosmetic challenges are entirely up to us, though others seem they think they have a right to judge. The thing is, we have so many more options now than we used to have, and in the future there will be even more options. I act on mine. This is a good thing.

A couple days ago, I dyed my beard and hair, as I have so many times before. In fact, I last did it two or three weeks earlier. But what makes all that different is that up until that time a few weeks ago, I’d decided it was time to stop dyeing my whiskers. Then, I changed my mind.

I’ve felt for a very long time that there will come a time when it’s more than a little ridiculous for me to continue dyeing my whiskers/hair. As the grey (well, mostly white these days…) hair resists colouring more and more, it seems like it’s becoming more trouble than it’s worth—so much so that I recently thought I reached the stopping point.

Part of what reinforced that for me was that Nigel said that what makes me look old is when I let my whiskers grow too long, not merely the fact they’re grey (well, white…). Only trouble with that was that I didn’t agree.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I resumed: I felt that I looked tired and older than I actually am with the un-coloured whiskers. My hair is mostly my natural colour, apart from a few odd patches, so my increasingly grey (well, white…) whiskers stood out by contrast. And, of course, they’re what I see first when I look in the mirror.

There was a time in which no man would admit to colouring his hair because that was something that only women did. Men were supposed to “grow old gracefully”, and they weren’t supposed to do anything to make themselves look younger.

That all started to change in the 1970s when men first started taking more care with their appearance (1970s fashion notwithstanding) and more male-oriented grooming productes emerged, as did “the dry look” for hair.

Over the intervening years, more and more products were introduced for the specific needs of men, not the least of which is seeming to be different from the exact same thing used by women. Hair dye is actually a good example: There’s really no difference in hair dye products, but labelling it “Just For Men” makes it seem very different—and, this works, because that’s the brand that I buy.

Men also have what are really cosmetics created and marketed to them, though they’re not called cosmetics, of course. This is a return to the past because centuries ago it was common for men to pay far more attention to their appearance.

Even so, if men are “too” open about what they’re doing, it’s often treated as a character flaw. “Why would you do that?”, they ask. “Just be yourself,” they add—even as they tell a woman who colours her hair how good she looks.

I colour my hair not for anyone else—I don’t care what they think—but for myself. As I’ve put it many times before, I don’t want to look dramatically older than I feel, and that’s all there is to it: It’s about what I see in the mirror.

There’s still one more thing that made me want to stop dyeing my whiskers. As I get closer to 60, and plan on talking about all that more, and I felt I needed to be more “authentic”. That is, I thought that up until I realised that wanting to look as old as I feel IS authentic for me, regardless of whatever anyone else may think. It’s also true for other middle aged men trying to find their way through a rapidly changing world. Being true to myself means, in this case, that I colour my hair.

And that brings me to the reason I’m bringing this up today: 18 months from today I turn 60. I can’t quite wrap my head around that fact, and I don’t know that I will even when the birthday arrives. But over the next year and a half, I’ll be trying to make sense of it all, including how I’ll dye my damn hair if I want to.

But the fact that I’m still here to talk about all this, when there was a good chance I may not have been, is the best thing of all. Put another way, like so many of my age-peers, I’m trying to figure this all out, and I get to do that. This, too, is a good thing.

But the old grey hair, it ain’t what it used to be. Either.

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