Light Notes

A costly double-standard over gray hair

Baby boomers are worried.

They’re fretting about Social Security, adequate retirement funds and doctors who won’t accept Medicare. But this “hip” crowd — many sporting replacements — is also deeply concerned about getting back to their roots.

My husband highlighted this latter issue when he handed me a copy of our yearly expenditures.

“Do you realize,” Bill lamented while he combed through the numbers over my shoulder, “that you spend as much on coloring your hair as it takes to run our all-electric home each month!”

I smothered a sigh, wondering if I’d soon be seeing the handwriting on the Walmart greeter application — and it’d be mine.

For men — at least my man — the necessity of a locked-in pricey hair appointment every four weeks is a gray area; not the foggiest notion why a vacation should be scheduled around the hair salon.

Women, on the other hand, see this issue as black — and never white. We’re as nervous about exposing our roots as a near brush with death.

Quite honestly, it’s all about perception. Men who are gray look distinguished. Women look — ugh — old.

So that’s the reason this grey mare — and a lot of others in the herd — wants to be what she used to be, even if restoration is costly. And to semi-quote a familiar hair color advertisement, “We’re worth it!”

With a mane of brown, red or blond, you can forget a birthday or lock your keys in the car and the world smiles. Future employers do, too.

I’m living proof.

When public television called me a couple of years after retirement to host the regional program In Steppe, you can bet my last dime I was thankful I hadn’t missed a date with the “hair doctor” — one who wielded a big paint brush. Sure, they knew there must be some silver wisps hidden beneath the darker shades, but the big picture shouted experience.

Surprisingly, that look hasn’t always been “to dye for.”

There was an era when only cheap girls tinted their hair. But Clairol brought it into vogue for baby boomers with a variety of cool slogans, one that women remember to this day:

“I’m not getting older. I’m getting better.”

The company wisely knew not to add, “And more expensive, too.”