Going silver | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

If I had continued to listen to my family and friends about what to do with my hair, I’d still be pouring chemicals on my head every six weeks. In February 2012, after 30 years of dyeing my hair, I decided to let nature take its course.


Premature gray hair runs in the family. My mom dyed her hair for as long as I could remember. And when on a visit with my sister in California, she decided at age 60 to strip her hair of the gunk and wear her curly locks gray, I was shocked. But the more I got used to it the more I liked mom’s new look.




My own graying began in my 30s. One day, I realized I had a silver streak growing right above my forehead. There was no question about it, I had to dye. And so began my adventure with color, changing my tresses from brown to light brown to reddish brown—whatever was my fancy at the moment. One day, to my embarrassment, a friend asked me, “What’s with the blonde bangs?” I had gone too far.


I told my family I would stop dyeing at 50, but when 50 came all too soon, I bargained for time—55. But I was having the time of my life then, it was not time for a drastic change. Then 60 came and I still didn’t have the guts to let my gray hang out.


In February 2011, my siblings came home from the US for our first family reunion since 1990. The pictures showed six brothers and all but two of four sisters, sporting salt and pepper if not snowy white manes. My younger sister and I, both of us senior citizens, looked at each other. Is it time?


I thought about it and began studying my face, trying to imagine what I’d look like with silver hair. I also looked for and studied other women who wore their hair gray. They were mostly little old ladies in church, nuns in their wimples and grandmas in parks, and I got afraid, very afraid. So I looked up Hollywood actors like Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Dench who wore their silver with pizzazz and I said to myself, hmm, possible.


Ugly stage


In February 2012, I decided it was time to make the move. I had done my research and knew the look I wanted. I stopped dyeing cold turkey and had my hair cut very short. The gray emerged with a vengeance, in ugly wide blocks that made me look like a skunk. I sucked it in and lived with the “ugly stage” for two whole months.


Nobody actually made a comment to my face about my two-toned head. Friends and family looked at me as if it was the most natural thing in the world to have a half-silver-half-black head.


In May, I found a young hairdresser who took on the challenge to make me look glamorous in silver. The artist that he is, he cut off most of the brown, leaving just a hint at the ends, which made me look half-interesting, like a tricolored cat. After a month, he cut off all the color and I was finally, totally, happily, the silver fox I envisioned.


With my new gamin hair style, I felt like a new person. I had fun shocking people with my defiance of convention. This time, however, people could not hide their reactions. My high school teacher asked me point-blank, “What did you do to your hair? Why do you want to look old?”


My classmates and I were just starting to organize our golden jubilee and on our first meeting, hardly anyone made a comment. It was as if I was not there.


One of my closer friends said, carefully choosing her words, that the look suited me, and added that I might just start a trend. But no, it wouldn’t start with her.


I have gotten second looks, some admiring, others shocked, still others worried. I have been by-passed, ignored, unrecognized.


At a wake, a very close friend passed me by completely, greeting everyone around the table but me. But it’s been over a year now and people have gotten used to my silver hair.


My grandchildren, who first resisted the idea, are comfortable with their white-haired lola. My daughter can find me quickly in a crowd. During my class presentation for our golden jubilee, she easily spotted me onstage from way up in the balcony of St. Cecilia’s Hall.


Difficult decision


I so enjoy the freedom that I’d like to tell every fellow senior I know to take the same plunge I did. But I’m not about to try and convert anyone else to my frame of mind. It was a difficult decision I made, and a brave one in this society where clinging to youthful looks is a national addiction.


I did this for myself, and for very practical reasons. I’m tired of having to touch up my hair every five to six weeks, and my nonuse of chemicals is my contribution to the environment.


Besides, if men can look elegant and attractive with silver hair, I’m out to prove that so can women.


I thought my life would change but it hasn’t. I don’t feel any older. In fact, I often forget that I have silver hair and get totally surprised at the respect I get from total strangers. People automatically give me a seat in a crowded MRT train, and I can jump the line waiting for a cab, vote ahead of everyone else, and go directly to a teller in a crowded bank, without having to show my senior card.


Waiters, cab drivers, sales persons, cops, defer to my age, calling me mommy, according me all the perks that go with the revered designation.


I know my audacious move to silver has made some women my age and older, uneasy. They look at me and see the future we are all trying to avoid. But even in choosing to let the gray hang out, one has a choice—to look like a little old lady or a silver fox.

Take it from me, it’s more fun being a silver fox.



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