Western North Carolina Woman

funny, isn't it?
by jeanne charters

My oldest daughter is letting her hair go grey!

She lives in Santa Cruz, CA, a town much like Asheville in its dedication to all things natural. Cori is a beautiful young woman and will remain so whatever color she decides her hair should be…but, but that means that I NOW HAVE A DAUGHTER WITH GREY HAIR! This is a passage that catches me totally unaware.

After all, here I am her mother with dark chestnut hair. Granted, I’ve been coloring it since it started to turn in my late 20’s; but I like to pretend to myself that I’m fooling people. Of late, I must admit it’s a real pain in the butt because I have to touch up my roots every 3 weeks or so. Fortunately, I do my own color or I’d end up spending an inordinate amount of time at the Peoples Place Hair Salon on Wall Street. I have a deal with my haircutter, Heidi Segar. She is sworn to tell me when my dark hair begins to make me look like a desperate hag. She promises that she will. I trust her to do that because, after all, she doesn’t want her clients walking around looking like something out of Sunset Boulevard.

Anyway, back to Cori. She’s a lovely entrepreneurial woman and mom to two great kids; and I guess she’s old enough to make this important decision without input from me. However, Heidi tells me that going grey will make Cori look 10 years older. Is that a bad thing? I guess not, IF she has developed her inner self enough to watch the perfect women on Desperate Housewives without resorting to an extra glass of wine or sleeping pills. I aspire to Cori’s wisdom but just haven’t quite acquired it yet.

I plan to have lunch tomorrow with a good friend who is suffering the same quandary as I. She moved to Asheville from Puerto Rico, where Centenarians are still ravishing bottle brunettes. I came here from New York where the only place you see a grey head is in Wal*Mart or church. She, too, has noticed that in Asheville those of us with dyed hair are much in the minority. Perhaps, together we will be able to make this monumental decision. I just thought of something weird…wouldn’t it be tricky if we both agreed to go grey and then one of us reneged? Man, that would piss me off the next time I saw her.
Cori gave me a wonderful book for Christmas. It’s called Wise Women…a celebration of their insights, courage and beauty. The cover picture is of Christine Lee who is 76 years old. Christine has pure white hair. She says, “The most important thing is to enjoy life—because you never know when it will be gone. If you wake up in the morning and have a choice between doing the laundry and taking a walk in the park, go for the walk. You’d hate to die and realize you had spent your last day doing laundry.”

You convinced me, Christine. Screw the laundry. However, it should be noted that I am notoriously easy to convince to blow things off in matters related to house work.

Marian Seldes at 73 says, “You have to start each day again—you can’t repeat what you did. When I let my hair go grey, I felt an enormous freedom. All those years of having my hair dyed—why did I do that?”

But then, I turn to the page featuring Gloria Steinem at 67. There she is glossy brown hair long and loose, a tiny bit of cleavage apparent and wearing a pair of leather pants that I could not fit one leg into. Here’s what Gloria has to say,

“Many of us are living out the unlived lives of our mothers, because they were not able to become the unique people they were born to be.”
How true is that?? I always said that my mom, Dorothy Hackett, could have run General Motors blindfolded while baking a perfect pie in her immaculate kitchen. I’m so grateful that I don’t take after her.

Kitty Carlisle Hart’s picture has her hair dark and bouffant. She is displaying her glorious legs in a dress with a slit cut nearly to her hip. She looks mighty beautiful at 90.

Kitty says, “I practice singing every day. I worked with all the greats—Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers. They are all dead now. I’m the only one left who knew them and can still sing. I tell younger people to keep working, so when they get as old as me (sic), they have something that keeps them in the game!”

I think I’ll go vocalize some. The dust on my furniture is beginning to look kinda homey.

Brooke Astor’s hair looks lightly frosted, as though the grey has settled on her dark hair like snowflakes. She is wearing a magnificent pearl bracelet and cuddling her brown beagle dog. She is 98 years old. Brook’s quote goes like this, "I grow more intense as I age, and I am more passionate about the projects I believe in. I still enjoy getting dressed elegantly in the evening and making an ‘entrance’ at a party.”

After lingering with this lovely book, I have come to realize that hair does not really the woman make. These women are certainly mature, elderly crones. (Sorry, Julie…I still hate that word.) But they are vibrantly alive and involved in their world as much as when they were young. I think that’s probably the secret to youth and beauty, no matter what your age or the color of your hair. Funny, isn’t it, that sometimes wisdom comes from our children? When did that switch happen?

The best quote in the book is the one on the fly leaf. It says:
“Merry Christmas, mom! To the best role model I have of a wise and wonderful woman. I love you so much. Cori”
I love you, too, sweetheart.


Jeanne Charters is a former V.P. of Marketing for Viacom Television. She started her own award-winning broadcast advertising agency in 1990. Jeanne lives in Fairview with her husband, Matt Restivo.
[ charmkt@juno.com; 828-628-0023 ]


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