Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Hillary, and I am a blonde.
Please note what I didn’t say: My name is Hillary, and I have blonde hair. The distinction is important.
As a child, I had authentically flaxen hair: a pure, delicious, baby-blonde shade that’s become the hallmark of fairytale heroines, from Cinderella to Goldilocks, Rapunzel to Sleeping Beauty. I loved that I visually favored my Viennese grandma (we called her Omi), with her patrician, Estée Lauder-like looks and trademark curly blonde mane. It wasn’t until around the age of 12 that puberty began slowly turning my proud blonde into a shade that can only be described as mousy, dishwater-brown. If memory serves, I referred to myself as “dark blonde” for years, resolutely refusing to accept the reality of the situation.
In my mid-teens, I decided to take the matter into my own hands with lemons and a bottle of Sun-In Spray, which left sad, orange/brassy blotches throughout my brown-ish hair. Once I hit college, I took the professional plunge and started getting pricey blonde highlights at a salon. That was, like, 35 years ago … and I’m still getting them.
I tell you this to explain that I’ve basically spent a lifetime chasing the color of my youth and declaring rightful ownership of that shade. In my mind, saying “I’m blonde” is no different than saying “I’m Jewish.” Always was. Always will be. So, when errant gray hairs began appearing at the crown of my head a few years ago and monkeying with the works, I simply did what I’ve always done: put the damn things under cover with the rest of the offenders.
To complicate the matter, those grays have an unruly texture that fight with the rest of my hair; they’re frizzy, dull, and disobedient. Which means, that in addition to coloring every seven weeks, I also subject myself to a hair-straightening treatment that blends those babies so they’ll lie down flat. (It’s called Cezanne—kind of like the Brazilian Blowout, but not as hard on the hair.) In all candor, I think it’s no coincidence that I’ve become a fan of South America in this stage of life: partial both to Brazilian bikini waxes and Brazilian blowouts. Strip away the gray, however you have to do it.
No Gray Days for Me
Despite this stance, I want to be very clear: I have nothing against gray hair. I’ve seen beautiful, shiny, silvery, regal-looking manes sported by women my own age, and to them I say, more power to you. But I want no part of it. Personally, I don’t need to stand on a soap box and use gray hair as a self-esteem power statement, like, “Dammit, folks … I’m a confident woman. See? My hair proves it!”
While others may say they don’t need the trappings to prove their worth, I believe that I don’t need to strip the trappings to prove my worth. Like a good Chanel suit, my blonde hair transcends the decades and never goes out of style. It doesn’t invalidate the wisdom I’ve gained at this age (nor the pounds, unfortunately); keeping gray at bay simply matches the youthful age I feel inside.
My Blonde Roots
I know that Omi, who at age 70 danced in her living-room to Tom Jones music, felt young, too. Yet I have childhood memories of sitting in her bathroom, watching as she donned plastic gloves and applied the contents of a Clairol bottle to her “light” hair. There’s no need to define those pale strands she was busy bleaching. To me, Omi was a blonde. Always was. Always will be.
So I’m staying true to my blonde roots. Just like her, I want to continue looking like myself, and myself is a 56-year-old woman with osteoarthritis in her knees, facial lines I fight with Botox, blonde hair, and the same style-loving spirit as my grandmother.
Hillary Quinn has worked as an editor at various magazines in New York and is a well-known beauty and lifestyle writer. Her work has appeared in Elle, Cosmo, Bride’s, Good Housekeeping, and many other publications and websites.