Want aging naturally to be the norm? Then do it

Published 9.29.2016
In the New York Times, an aging Barnard professor shares her dismay that women such as herself don't allow themselves to age naturally and laments that it betrays their feminist roots (pun intended). I’ve written before about my decision (which I don’t regret) to allow my hair to be its natural (that is to say greying) color. I haven’t noted, but will now that I also haven’t done any botox or other plastic surgery to alter my appearance. I am in fact, aging naturally— and happily so.

I work for myself, and don’t have to be in front of a camera or even in front of people selling them something. I note these provisos because I realize that if I had a position where my grey hair would be an impediment, I’ve always assumed I would dye it. However, after reading the article, maybe I wouldn’t.

The article is a lament that the feminist forerunners haven’t let themselves age naturally. Nor have they put on any excess poundage— though she implied that there might have been surgery done to make that a reality too. One thing she doesn't say is that she herself plans to allow herself to age naturally as a result of her lamentation. If no one does anything different, then nothing changes. If women of a certain age don’t decide to be themselves and stop trying to erase the effects of time— and demonstrate that they AREN’T invisible, nothing changes.

And let me be clear, if a woman chooses to alter her aging process, that is her right. Consider the grief that Hillary Clinton gets about her looks. Can you imagine if she allowed her hair to be it's natural color as Bill Clinton does? Clinton dyes her hair, but she hasn’t erased the wrinkles from her face. As an aside: I will also note that Clinton's dye job is a very good one, and definitely an expensive one. I've noted before that I did dye my hair for a few years, and in the beginning had it done in a salon. But even then, I wasn't paying the kind of money necessary to have the hair look as though that was my natural color. In addition, that type of coloring has to be refreshed about every two weeks or so, and I simply wouldn't afford it.

There's also the fact that men tend to think women of a certain age (in other words, gray haired women) are invisible. But again doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is… insanity. If more powerful women would allow themselves to age naturally, that fact would be no longer be the case.

I couldn’t find a comment section for the article, but the Times published a series of reactions sent from women. Some respondents thought the author was brave to admit to the work, but others were miffed that she was being a poor role model. Others noted that there are women who are aging naturally with foreheads that still move, but those women aren’t moving in the same sphere.

This is an issue in particular circles (for example as Manhattan Society, which the author is part of, and Hollywood). Other respondents note that conformity is demanded for inclusion in these group, but if you are comfortable with yourself, then conformity can be eschewed. That runs the risk of being barred from the group though.

In my view, part of the problem is that graying hair is seen as a sign of frailty and an indication that time is passing. However, gray hair needn’t mean frailty though if health is maintained. I am more physically active now in my 50s than I was in my thirties, and I am stronger too. Gray doesn't mean infirm.

So after pondering the article and the responses, I lean towards the opinion that it is possible to live or work anywhere and be your authentic self, you simply have to have the confidence. That said, women have to live in the world as it is, not as we would want it to be. If allowing your hair to go gray would affect your livelihood, then clearly dying the gray is the easiest fix.


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