The Hair Question Every Woman Eventually Must Answer

rainbow hair

It’s the looming question waiting for every woman at the bottom of a plastic bottle.

The answer you give that informs the world information about you without your saying a word.

What do you believe?

What is beauty?

And so, Dear Woman, I know you’ve asked yourself.

Will you or won’t you?

Do you or don’t you?

When that time comes, do you—

Reach for the bottle?

Bottle, as in plastic.

Bottle as in—


Do you choose to color your hair?

And yes, this is question for my women only.

Call it sexist, but I’ve never seen a man look better with dyed hair. Guys, like the song from “Frozen” says, you just need to “Let It Go!”

As for us, ladies, I guess it depends, as so many of our choices do, a lot on the messages you get growing up.

raincoat gray

My own mother has had that messaging since her gray hair started showing up in her early 20’s.

“Oh, you really need to start coloring your hair,” her mother told as she sent her straight to the local beauty parlor.

I was fascinated to hear this story recently, never realizing that it was my grandmother who sent my mother on her half-century long journey with trying to cover up what nature was sending out of her head.

My grandmother, my Nana Lil, who always wore the most gorgeous head of snowy white hair. Not gray. Not silver. Solid white.

That is, until the day my grandfather passed away.

From that day on she was blonde.

“Papa’s body was barely in the grave,” my mother remembered recently, “and your Nana was at the salon dying her hair.”

Her memory brought into focus something I had never really put together before—my beloved Nana with gorgeous white hair for most of my childhood and her later years when she sported that blonde hairdo that, between  you and me,  I never thought suited her olive complexion quite as well.

It was only the other day that I learned the rest of the story.

“Papa always forbade Nana to dye her hair,” my mother recounted, bringing to a life a time when a husband ruled a wife in such ways. “His passing was her first chance to decide what she wanted to do with her hair.”

What had looked to me like an off hair color choice was now something so much more.  It was about power. It was about choice. That lemonade sauerkraut color suddenly looked beautiful in my memories.

Though I get my dark coloring, my eyes, my skin, my hair from my grandmother and mother, I don’t remember my own mother telling me what to do with mine.

I just kind of always knew I would start going gray in my 20’s and yes, I would, and I do color my hair.

Oh, I have fantasies of cutting it all off super short and just going with my natural color. One day I will do that. Until then, God only knows how much salt and pepper awaits.

I have friends who have let nature take her course.  Some inspire me. Like my friend, Lori, whose short salt and pepper cut sets off the sparkle in her violet hazel eyes.

And if I’m honest, which it’s my job to do in this column, there are a few friends who I would love to send to the salon, as my grandmother sent my mother, because the gray is just making them look older and blah.

For now, I’m a voluntary slave to the color, the highlights, the blow dry to get my hair looking just so.

It’s my choice.

Turns out, sometimes, that choice changes.

When I saw my mother last month, I noticed something new. A single white streak of hair peaking out in the front of her off-center part.

“I’ve decided to stop coloring my hair,” she shared, though she didn’t say why.

She’s letting it grow in from underneath, slowly revealing her new look to the world with that single white streak.   It looks like it will be the same pretty snow white my grandmother had.

New generation, reverse choice.

As my mother answers the question, “No, I don’t color my hair because for me, for now, it’s now my choice not to.”

What about you, Dear Reader, do you or don’t you?


Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.



One comment

  • Jon Friedman

    May I ad a perspective from the male point of view? There is no doubt we notice a woman’s hair quickly in the initial scan. Well done treatment is definitely a plus, HOWEVER…..if a woman’s hands say “Senior” (or her neck) and her hair shows “youth” (not a single grey hair) then the conclusion is immediate distrust. A woman who cannot or will not embrace her age has underlying problems that are best avoided.

The Hair Question Every Woman Eventually Must Answer

by DarynKagan time to read: 3 min
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