Glad to be grey?

// 5 September 2007

The Times today has an interview with Anne Kreamer about her decision to stop dyeing her hair at the age of 50.

Kreamer used to spend a jaw-dropping $300 at least once every three weeks on having her hair dyed. Whilst most of us don’t spend the gross national debt of a small sub-Saharan country on our locks in our lifetime, the plethora of anti-ageing products available are a testament to the fact that concealing one’s age is an issue for women. And as Kreamer points out, life isn’t easy for a woman who doesn’t conform:

When she worked at MTV, looking young had been “nonnegotiable”. Now, masquerading as a “returner” whose children had grown up, she was advised by headhunters that she was no longer hirable, except as a consultant. A grey-haired woman over 40 is regarded as out of touch, even if she has expertise: “Not a good fit” is US employers’ code for too old. “On Wall Street there is only one woman, Ellen Levine of the Hearst Corporation, with fabulous white hair. But she refused to be interviewed: she didn’t want to be known as the only white-haired woman on Wall Street.”

What’s also interesting is the male reaction to Kreamer’s journey back to her grey roots:

She was saving thousands of dollars, and hours of time – and she still got “Hey, beautiful!” calls in the street. This was the real revelation. Men find grey hair sexy. Men read youth in “attitude and energy and vitality, and the way a woman carries herself”. She experimented with theoretical internet dating: posting herself as 50, separated, living in Brooklyn, no children – first as a brunette, then after three months posting the same information but substituting “silver hair”. “And do you know, four times as many men ‘winked’ me – which is the online term for wanting to know you better – with my hair grey! Maybe this is unique to New York, I thought. So I tried it in Chicago and LA as well: and the national average was that three times as many men were interested in me with grey hair.

However fascinating this may be, it’s unfortunate that Kreamer sees street harrassment as an indicator of her attractiveness.

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