This past weekend, while visiting grad school town, I popped in to my old hair salon to say hi. Then, because I was long overdue for a cut, and I happened to be there, I asked if there was an appointment available. I didn't expect it, but there had been a fortuitous cancellation at precisely the right time, so I called it fate, plunked myself down in the chair, said "It's shaggy and messy and driving me nuts, and I don't want to go short-short, but other than that, I'll leave it up to your judgement." She took six inches off, and I walked out with shoulder-length hair that's much more manageable.
I also walked out with hair that, for the first time since about age 15, is my natural color -- a much darker shade than the one I've been sporting and maintaining (at great expense!) all my adult life.
Now, here is where it gets interesting (at least to me): I've been mulling the dye-it-natural transition for several years now, and for a reason that I find even more compelling than the expense: I've been starting to see some gray hairs (I am in my forties, after all). Not a lot, but not just the stray one every four months or so that marked my late thirties. And I dreaded the monthly maintenance that it would eventually require to keep myself from having a gray stripe down the middle of my head, come five or ten years down the road. So the plan has always been to dye it back to natural at some point, and just let the aging process happen.
But at least once when I shared this plan, I was met by something that could only be described as an intervention. Deep concern. Let me emphasize: This is a decision for me. I in no way disdain anyone else's choices to the contrary. I'm just tired of keeping up with it, and I'm thinking that this might be a nice way to ease myself into the second half of life. But I'm wondering how widespread the idea is that we, as women, should strive to not show our age, even in academia? Or is this just the product of the image-conscious place I live?
And do you think that going gray (which I anticipate will take plenty of time before anyone but me notices) has professional consequences for academic women in general?
UPDATE/CLARIFICATION (from one of my own comments, but I thought it bore repeating here): there are aging-related changes -- a new one every year, it seems -- that I'm emphatically NOT excited about. But at the rate of one a year, I've found I can adjust to each one before the next one hits. If/when they start coming more quickly, I may change my mind about this whole "aging" thing.