I’ve been describes as many things.
My husband John likes to call me a hippy. I guess that is sort of true. I do want a commune, I like that the sexual revolution freed people to express themselves, I’m pretty liberal and I am all about eating organic, non GMO, healthy food. I like my blue jeans and my long flowing skirts go well with my long flowing hair.
But I can also look like I stepped right out of a high powered board room. I know how to dress like an executive and can sport a chignon that is classic and conservative. Once I was helping my son Adam with an event he was putting together in Santa Barbara and went to a meeting there to see if I could help. Later one of the men from the committee asked “Who is the power woman Adam brought in to help?” Someone laughed and said “That’s his mom”.
I’ve been called a feminist by a few people. I can see that. I definitely believe in equal rights for women. I believe in equal pay for equal jobs. And, yep, I believe it’s a woman’s right to choose if she has a baby or not.
But I’m also pretty old fashioned. I admit I like it when John opens the door for me – every single time. He also does all the heavy lifting at home, including most of the yard work. I like to work in my rose garden, while he is out trimming trees and hacking things away with his machete. Right about those times I’m not really interested in equality.
When my best friend first met me, she would have described me as a farmer. I owned a little farm in Central Oregon complete with cows and chickens and even pigs. I wore irrigation boots and was out moving pipes early each morning. I had horses and for a while I actually made saddles. I think I might have even been listening to country music at the time. I looked every bit the part with my blonde pony tailed hair, ranch boots and carharts.
But I was also just a few hours away from Portland and city life. I loved walking around Pioneer Square with a latte, shopping and going to some of the best restaurants in the world. My girlfriends and I would dress to the nines with way too much makeup and big hair and go hit as many nightclubs as we could. I loved the wonderful fast pace of the city.
I’ve been described as intense by just about everyone who knows me. I have no idea where that comes from. I don’t ‘feel’ intense. But too many people have told me that to ignore it. And I’ll admit I like being described as intense. Intense gets the job done when others are just trying to figure out where to start.
But I’m also pretty kick back and even lazy at times. I keep saying I’m going to go back to school, but then I keep changing my mind about what it is I want to get out of school. The job I’ve had for the last five years would have given me enough time and freedom to get a four year degree by now, but I never signed up for one class.
So here I am, in my early 50’s, this hippy, power house, feminist, old fashioned, intense, low key woman who has earned the badge of confidence I wear.
And I’m frightened to death of letting my hair grow out to its natural (read: gray) state.
Why is that?
Most men have no trouble letting their gray show. John’s salt and pepper hair makes him look all the more handsome and distinguished to me. Whether it’s in the boardroom, in Hollywood, or just the guy fixing your faucet, we all seem to be quite comfortable with their gray hair.
Not so much for women. Even strong women like me.
Our message is: Look as young as possible for as long as possible. And gray hair isn’t young looking on women. So we put chemicals on our scalps every four to six weeks to keep the gray wolves at bay.
And I’ve been doing that for years.
I used to have blonde curly hair when I was little. Then it sort of turned to a darker blonde the older I got. By the time I was a young mother of two I was going to the hair dresser to have ‘highlights’ put in it.
One day while I was on my farm, sitting in the sun flipping through a magazine, I saw a picture of a woman with striking auburn hair. I instantly wanted that. So my next trip to the hair dresser was for my first official dye job.
The next day I was out changing irrigation lines as I had done so many other mornings before. By the time I got back to the house the phone was ringing. It was the neighbor to the west of me. He didn’t even say hello, just blurted out “what did you do to your hair?” After I told him I had it dyed he said “I liked it better before” then hung up.
That’s when I first realized just about everyone has an opinion on what women should be doing with their hair.
So now I have been dying my hair for the last 20 years – every four to six weeks.
My hippy side has been whispering in my ear for a few years now to let it go. I even tried it a few years ago. What a disaster that was. I let it grow out for several months then couldn’t take it and changed my mind. The before and after pictures are exactly like the ones you see in magazines. The sad, ‘not put together’ before picture followed by the’ happy sexy new’ look.
It quieted the internal chatter for a while, but it’s back. The feminist joined in too, yelling: Why in the world do I need to put chemicals on my head – every four to six weeks – to be considered young and beautiful? The executive tried to remind me that women are not looked at equally in the board room with gray hair. Then the farmer hollered back “So what! You don’t work in a board room!”
So the intense side took charge.
I’m doing it. This time I’m prepared. I did my research. I’ve read blogs, looked for inspiration in other wonderful women of power who have done it and I am prepared to let my natural beauty out.
But I’m still scared. I haven’t even told my best friend, mainly because the first word out of her mouth will be NO.
In the blogs I read, women described the responses they got when they told co-workers and friends they were letting their natural gray out. One woman wrote that her co-worker actually said “are you sure you want to do that??” like she was going to do something so drastic it required a second or perhaps third opinion.
My hair grows fast but I figured it’s still going to be at least a year long journey to find my natural hair color again.
And I wonder how I will be described then.