January 20, 2011

To Color or Not to Color

Posted in Breast Cancer, Family, Women tagged , , at 8:01 am by Liliana

My sister Branka

My sister Branka

I am fifty one years old. I have streaks of gray hair.

My hair is naturally dark brown, almost black. It has reddish overtones. Streaks of gray appeared when I was in my late thirties and without really thinking much about it, I started to color my hair. No matter what color I used, it always turned washed out red. I didn’t like the look, but coloring one’s hair seemed to be the thing to do.

Every woman my age colors her hair, right?

After my breast cancer diagnosis, I decided to let the gray grow out. And I have. For the last five years, I have not colored my hair.

My hair is very fine, very straight, and does not have much body. If I could choose any type of hair that this world has to offer, this would not be the type I would choose. But it is what it is

The fact is, even thought I have lots of gray, it really isn’t that obvious. The black, brown and reddish overtones seem to camouflage it naturally. So, people hardly ever bring up the topic, and I have been able to stay under the radar.

My sister, two years younger than I, always had thick, wavy, gloriously rich honey brown hair. When we were young girls, Branka had long, thick braids that I pulled mercilessly because I was jealous of the admiration they incited.

Now, Branka’s hair is still thick and rich, but it is also gray. Last year she decided to stop coloring. She got a short, snappy, modern haircut.

Wherever she went women complimented her and thought that she looked fabulous. Women admired her courage.

The men thought she looked old. They didn’t like it. They told her she looked better with her hair colored.

Our family from Europe was relentless it its assault. “You look old and sick,” was the consistent message buzzing over the ocean.

She resisted for months.

My sister works as a part time interpreter and patient advocate at a large university hospital. She is hoping to get a full time job and she goes to a lot of job interviews.

She felt that people talked to her differently and that her chances of getting a full time job diminished with her hair gray. Tired of all the fuss and all the commentary the topic fermented, she finally capitulated.

She colored her hair.

She claims that her hair will be gray again the moment she can do what she really wants to do.

I think she looks fabulous either way.  I just wish the choice of whether to color her own hair, or not, was left entirely up to her.