Quiet Desperation

Shades of gray look a lot less shady


Stop me if you’ve heard this one. The day I found my first gray hairs, I thought I’d dye.

Today’s essay is about gray hair. I like gray hair.

Americans are not allowed to grow older gracefully. We are reminded at every turn that youth will be noticed and served. And that trying to stay forever young, while an impossibility, can be achieved with dyes and injections.

I don’t always know who has had injections, but I (almost) always know who has dyed their hair.

Somewhere along the line, gray hair got a bad reputation, and it continues to this day.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with gray hair, and most of the time it looks far better than the opaque alternative.

Our skin and our hair age together. Jet black hair and 60-70-80-year-old skin is an incongruity.

Some of us, obviously, prefer the incongruity.

I began to have gray hair when I was in my early 20s. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t happy about it. And then I saw someone my age who had a full head of gray hair.

It was a comedian named Steve Martin. When I realized that having gray hair didn’t seem to bother him, it no longer bothered me that I had gray hair.

Actors and actresses have their hair dyed for various roles all the time. Martin’s hair was dyed black for his roles in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “My Blue Heaven.”

He looked completely different, but it was right for those two performances.

However, some dye jobs don’t work out so well. The next time you watch “You’ve Got Mail,” take a close look at Tom Hanks’ hair. It’s so unnaturally black that it becomes a distraction.

I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to be a celebrity.

I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to be celebrity, whose looks are pre-eminent.

We have all seen plastic surgery gone wrong. In some cases, very wrong.

Some actors and actresses have grown old in front of our eyes without exaggerated attempts to preserve a memory.

Take a look at Bud Cort in “Harold and Maude.” And then take a look at Bud Cort in “Pollock.”

There are ads everywhere that promise years will be taken off if only particular salves and creams and pills are purchased.

I am not interested.

I would rather spend my money on books, and feed the inside of my head.

Cosmetics are not going to improve my appearance or my life.

Maybe it’s somewhat easier to say these things because I’m a man. I don’t know. You tell me.

All I know is I prefer hair that looks like hair, and not hair that looks like an attempt to hold off the calendar.

Ironically, I know someone half my age who dyes her hair gray. Or blue. Or green.

Hair isn’t quite the statement it once was. Remember: “Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen”? But it’s still has its place in our perception of how we appear to others.

Finally: Please, please, please re-evaluate that comb-over.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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