The moment I turned into a teenager, the first thing I wanted to do was dye my hair. It represented rebellion — what can you do to assert yourself in an Italian American family that prizes long, dark, feminine, traditional hair? Dye and shave parts of it off, naturally! It also represented creativity — I didn’t only want to make works on canvas or paper, but wanted to embody them. It was the 1980s — did I want Nina Hagen red? Siouxsie black? Something else? By the time I was in my 30s, I had dyed my hair many varieties of red, burgundy, black, and plum (the bleached streaks were a one time thing, never to be repeated! SO not a blonde).
Sometime in my late 30s this changed. My life was what I made it into — no need to rebel. In fact, I was reveling in it! I was so immersed in making and doing that dyeing my hair seemed like a total drag and waste of time. Rebelling at this point in my life would be to stop doing the thing I lost interest in. I still felt the need to express myself through my appearance, but what I wanted to say changed: I felt impelled to communicate that aging was a natural, beautiful, and valuable thing. I was also becoming concerned with the environmental and health implications of commercial dyes. Did I want to continue to put these chemicals in the waterways and on my body?
What changed everything was my train commute. I get horrible motion sickness, and can’t read. So, I sit and daydream and people watch. There I observed the Silver Fox.
She wasn’t always a Silver Fox. She was once a Reddish Brown Fox. She wore beautiful, creative clothing, always carried a bag full of books and work over her arm, and had a competent, stately air about her. One day as I sat behind her, staring at the back of her head as commuters with motion sickness do, I noticed the telltale silver line in her part. As the weeks progressed, it got bigger and bigger. Pretty soon, the crown of her head was silver! Within a few months, she bobbed her hair, and just a few inches on the bottom retained color — it looked pretty cool. After a few months of that, she got some layers and cut it a little shorter, and her transformation into a Silver Fox was complete. Now, her hair is back to shoulder length with bangs, gloriously silver.
I admired the hell out of her — she made the transition with style and completely without apology: she wore her metamorphosis proudly. I had a secret mentor and this dyed little caterpillar was ready to become a silver butterfly! I stopped dyeing my hair two years ago and never looked back.
Alas, I am not a Silver Fox yet. I have grey strands throughout the front of my hair. I have some killer cool grey streaks on the sides of my head. My bangs are pepper with some salt. I’m still rebelling and communicating with my hair, each silver strand I earn as time passes allowing me to say things louder and clearer: aging is a natural, beautiful, and valuable thing. I care about what goes on my body and in our waterways. I honor how I feel, instead of covering it up in a socially acceptable way.