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Grey Is The New Blond

By Ray Lesser


Some women are willing to do anything to attract a man, even if it means letting their hair turn gray.

For ages women have been trying new things to become more appealing to men. In ancient times they rubbed themselves with flowers and herbs to mask the ever-present odor that comes from dressing in dead animal skins, and only taking a ritual bath once a year. They tried painting their faces different colors using mud, blood, and soot, which I’m sure also did wonders for their complexions. Women even fastened bones, feathers, and small live animals in their hair to impress the opposite sex of their worth and elegant sense of style.

Much of their efforts were probably wasted on the men of that time, who mainly noticed women who brought them a sizzling piece of meat to eat, preferably with a coconut shell full of fermented jungle brew and the sports section of the newspaper.

But in addition to women’s best efforts, natural sexual selection was also at work. Men seemed to be more attracted to women with blonde or red hair, perhaps because it was rare and seemed exotic, or perhaps because it was easier for them to spot at a distance, even if they weren’t wearing their glasses, which weren’t going to be invented for another several thousand years. It wasn’t long before many members of “the fair sex” were artificially making themselves even fairer. Classical Greek women dyed their hair red with henna and sprinkled it with gold powder. During the Renaissance, upper class ladies of Italy sat for many hours in the heat of the sun in an attempt to bleach their hair blonde using onion skins. This beauty treatment worked best in attracting men wearing necklaces of garlic and carrying strings of dried anchovies.

By the mid-20th century, the cult of the blonde reached its apex. Thanks to constantly improving hair dyes, ever-darker women could follow the advice of the famous 1960s Clairol commercial: “If I have only one life to live, let me live it as a blonde bombshell like Marilyn Monroe, only not so crazy and suicidal!” One recent study found that five out of every six blonde American women had some chemical help, spending over $100 million annually to help support the dumb-blonde joke industry. (Q: What does a postcard from a blonde’s vacation say? A: Having a wonderful time. Where am I?) Though, as Dolly Parton says, speaking for many of her stereotype, “Blonde jokes don’t bother me because I know I’m not dumb, and I know I’m not blonde.”

Today, the popularity of blondes remains high, sometimes bordering on bizarre, as evidenced by ads for some egg and sperm donors that offer bonuses for blondes. As Rita Rudner noted, “Blondes must have more fun. How many brunettes do you see walking down the street with blonde roots?”

But the newest, attention-grabbing hair color seen on big city streets and in salons, is gray – or more appealingly called white, silver, pewter, platinum, or ice. Older women are tired of constantly dying their hair, and are beginning to realize that their new natural color makes them stand-out just as much as any bleach blonde.

Personally, I love this trend. Even guys want to remain in style, and now I realize that my hair, what little of it I have, is getting more stylish every day. Also it makes it much easier for me, as one of the silverbacks of my urban jungle, to comprehend the signals that the fair sex is sending my way. When I encounter a blonde of any sort, whether she be covered with tattoos and piercings or wearing heavy makeup over her wrinkles, I know for certain – these women are not trying to impress or engage the likes of me.

Instead I find myself drawn to the stylish new silver goddesses, looking as natural and carefree as when they were teenagers, except for the limps. Their snow-white locks speak of innocence, mixed with the kind of experience that can only come from having lived with seven different guys. Unlike their light-haired, ditzy counterparts, I find them to be knowledgeable, wise, thoughtful, and, best of all, willing to laugh at the same jokes I’ve been telling for 25 years.

I know we all like to play the game called “looking good,” although everyone has their own interpretation of the rules. Some of us think we look our best in perfectly tailored Italian suits, while others want skintight pre-ripped jeans. Fashion and beauty are a shallow business, but we live in a shallow culture, and anyway, as someone once said, “If truth is beauty, how come nobody has their hair done in a library?”

Still, if the current beauty trend is that you look your best when you look like yourself, then I’m going to try to enjoy being in style for as long as I can.