Me, My Hair and Dating

Walker-Thornton-Senior-PlanetSome months ago, I decided to conduct a survey, albeit a small one. I like to date, and I wanted to know what men are looking for in a woman’s online dating profile: I consulted a 20-something blogger and a 68-year-old ex-lover. Both of them suggested that my long, graying hair would be a turnoff to men viewing my profile. The young guy apologized for sounding ageist or sexist. The ex said I might be mistaken for one of those religious types who never cut their hair and wear mesh caps.

Really? This from the man who found me hot enough to buy me sex toys?

At some point in her life, every woman contemplates her face in the mirror and notes the signs of aging. How do we handle this when it comes to dating? I know the standard advice for senior women: Get a dye job. Get a makeover. Buy new clothes. What I read is, Change everything about your self in hopes of finding a man.

Does gray hair make us unattractive? Less likely to find a man?

I want to date – I also value authenticity. As we age, where is the balance between being comfortable in our own skin and wanting to appear attractive?

Women choose to dye their hair for a variety of reasons from vanity to a need to be competitive in our youth-driven society. Entire blogs are devoted to the topic of gray hair. It’s a subject that polarizes people. Just check out these opinion pieces from the New York Times and Oprah.

My Take on Gray Hair

I’ve chosen to embrace my long graying hair. I’m happy with how it looks and when I look in the mirror, I see a confident woman who’s not afraid to show her age.

But what do men see when they find my online dating photo? I could be driving away hordes of them. Should I follow my mother’s advice of 30 years ago to wear more makeup so men will want me? Maybe if I dyed my hair, I’d have more success finding Mr. Right – wasn’t that what my two survey respondents were telling me?

Then the following week, two men contacted me through the dating site, both complimenting me on my “sexy” long hair. Survey be damned. The long gray hair was staying.

I want to look good on a date – maybe I’ll wear a touch of mascara and lipstick. But if I add much more, I’ll feel so self-conscious, it could negate any wow factor the makeup might have conjured. I pick clothes that enhance my figure or camouflage features I don’t like (flabby arms). But I’m not trying to hide the essence of who I am. I want to present myself authentically – graying hair, age spots and all.

Those things don’t make me who I am; they’re just looks. And I’m pretty confident that there is at least one man out there who will appreciate me for my sense of humor, intelligence and mature outlook.

There are no universal rules, no quick fixes for finding the right man, and as women growing older, we all feel different about the way our looks are changing. A new dress is not guaranteed to make dating any easier – it might, it might not. Whether it’s a red lipstick, a dye job or a facelift, the decision is yours. When you show up feeling good about yourself, looks and all, you radiate self-confidence. And that is attractive.

What are your thoughts about graying hair and aging as they apply to dating?

Walker Thornton blogs at The Diva of Dating and The Huffington Post, and is writing a memoir based on her online dating experiences.

  • Jay

    To dye or not to dye? I think women have a tougher time to answer that question as MOST of them not only dye their hair (many starting in their teens), but they change their hairstyles faster than the seasons change. As a guy, I can tell you both are turn offs – it signifies uncertainty and insecurity.

    As for women dyeing their hair or going au natural, I think most women will have a tough time about going grey in the 55+ years of age as almost ALL their counterparts colour their hair to look younger – it’s the norm. I think with (most) older women, salt n pepper is best reserved for food, not the mane.

  • Annamay

    Great, well written piece. A “dirty blond” since youth, I blonded my hair most of my life and if I didn’t I got complaints. Now at 87 and my hair thinning and that great silver coming in around my face, I’ve at long last, quit the coloring and everyone loves it. I’ve heard a couple of times, “Silver is the new blond!”

    • Walker Thornton

      I think silver is a lovely look. I’ve seen a number of women who have stopped the dyeing and been amazed at the compliments they received. Sometimes natural really is the best look!

  • authenticsilver

    My locks began silvering, to salt & pepper, to platinum over the past 35 years.
    Once in awhile during that time period, I succumbed to outside pressure from friends, salons and my own weakness, to colour, lowlight, dye my hair etc. which resulted in painful periods of upkeep, hair turning orange, and growing out to natural. Now, I am content with my authentic self and have no desire to look artificial with hair colour!
    The media and hair colour suppliers are cruel and greedy; they are relentless in decrying that the notion of aging with grace is beauty, as it will affect their multi billion dollar profit lines.

    • Walker Thornton

      I absolutely agree–the media and the beauty industry is only interested in creating a sense of need in its viewers/customers. Add to that the issue of aging and they’ve tapped into a gold mine of insecurity and over exaggerated concerns about a natural process!
      Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Mimi Dueber

    Vanity sounds so harsh. I look better with my hair colored. Simple as that. I see you wear make up, jewelry and stylish clothes that are very flattering. Your hair color looks good as well. I look anemic and washed out with greying hair and it just isn’t flattering. Maybe you’re over thinking the whole thing. Women should do what they feel compliments them and makes them comfortable. I don’t think that’s vanity.

    • Walker Thornton

      We each have to figure out what works best for us. I happen to be fortunate to have hair that looks pretty good at this point.
      There are no rights or wrongs here-as you said, it’s about doing what makes you feel comfortable.

  • Marielle

    When I was a child, my mother told me how she looked forward to long, silver hair that would come with age. She wanted to look like my great-grandmother, a natural beauty who wore little makeup, but would wear her hair up in a French twist and always had style.
    I know that her positive attitude and appreciation for a woman’s essence carried on to me (I am 28 now). Now I look forward to long, silver locks as well.
    I think what matters most is that you take care of yourself, i.e get enough sleep, drink water, care for your skin. To keep your femininity, it helps to throw on mascara and lipstick/tint, keep your hair trimmed, and SMILE. That’s the key to natural beauty, I believe.

    • Walker

      You were fortunate to have such a role model in your mother.
      I love being gray–it feels great and looks good. Part of this is about being content with aging. Sounds like you’re on a great path. Love the SMILE!
      You’ve made me smile! Thank you.

  • Lynne Rodd

    So many women think I am letting myself go because I have gray hair. I say this is me and I’m proud of it. I am married and my husband encouraged me to go gray. He prefers natural and so do I!

    • Walker

      That is fabulous! I think that embracing one’s gray is not letting one’s self go but rather being bold and comfortable!
      Thank you so much for sharing

  • Minsk

    I recently joined an online dating site. Had started a nice conversation with one of the men which ended abruptly right after I sent my pics. I have curly grey hair – I definitely look my age but I still feel I look good. Funny thing is – I warned him in advance that I had gone natural and it didn’t seem to bother him-obviously he was surprised! I then took a quick survey of the women’s profiles. Searched at least 100-not a single woman with grey hair! I started to feel really old – how can I compete with that? Reading your blog has helped me to get some perspective – thank you!

    • Walker Thornton

      Minsk…I’m so sorry that happened to you. Best that you knew in advance…he’s either not willing to face aging or thinks a younger woman will somehow complete him! So, what you saw was a group of women working hard to ‘look’ younger…but what happens when we deny who we really are? Do we really want to alter our appearance to attract a man? I suspect that you’re like me in that you aren’t afraid to show the real you! And, that’s pretty far out in my book. Thank you for sharing your story and for the compliment.

  • saretta

    I think grey hair is perfectly fine, on you or on anyone. Perhaps what people are reacting to is the clash in expectations between your hair’s color and its length. Society tends to associate long hair with youth and grey hair with a mature age…hence the image you convey may be confusing.
    Personally, I feel that anyone worth getting to know will be willing to get to know you despite the length or color of your hair…

    • Walker Thornton

      I think people are confused about what to expect of women, and men, of a certain age. And, I agree with you that hair and other physical attributes shouldn’t be a factor in getting to know someone.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Mi

    Notwithstanding what men think, a woman (especially a mature one) who doesn’t invest in her looks comes across as letting herself go. Like you, I oppose facelift. I began highlighting my hair in my mid-50’s (I’m 60 now). But I do believe that pampering yourself, at least with treating your hair, nails and applying a subtle makeup make a big difference in the impression a woman leaves. This is more than about “being yourself” and “natural” but it’s about aesthetics. I still look 60 but I know also that there’s more edginess to my looks. And as far as men’s perspective, they also prefer a woman who invests more time and effort in herself.
    I think your hair has beautiful texture but it needs more pizzazz..

    • Walker Thornton

      Hi Mi,
      Thanks for your perspective. I agree that aesthetics are important as long as the focus is on personal satisfaction not a feeling that one has to conform.
      More pizzazz huh?

      • Mod

        If I may so too myself… You look lovely and have a clear and youthful complexion but your hair style might look better with some bangs – will look more attractive on you and more youthful on your lovely and thick natural hair. My two cents.

  • Kimberly

    I’ve had some gray hair since childhood, which perhaps makes it easier for me to accept getting more as I grow older. I just hate other people’s reactions to it – especially the fairly common accusation of me of “not noticing it” (as if I would have pointed it out to them??)! I think it’s beautiful and unique at a young age, and much more beautiful at an older age than artificial colors. I have nothing against fashion, but in my opinion there is a special natural beauty in silver, gray or white hair…

  • Mindy

    Beautiful hair, in any color, is still something to be admired! And yours is beautiful. Mine is thinning, graying, and wavy. A deadly triumvirate as I like to call it. Courage and confidence trump color, and you’ve got ’em.

  • Lori Jo Vest

    I’m with you. Letting the gray come in and saving thousands in hair color appointments. I don’t think it’s really gray, either. It’s silver and it adds value. So there.

  • Lee

    I think you have to be who you are, because in the end, the person doesn’t date what is on the outside, but what is on the inside!

  • Emily

    Good for you to embrace the gray…and BTW, it IS beautiful hair!! I am a slave to my colorist…every time my gray roots grow in, I go running to the salon in a panic. But, I think my hang-up is that I was prematurely gray — I’m talking 20 years old — and that was tough. One of these days, I’m going to say “screw it” and go completely gray. I’ll be saving myself a bundle of $ when I do!

    • Walker Thornton

      When you do take the plunge, do a little research…there are some interesting stories and guides on going gray. I have been blessed with thick, ‘good’ hair, it does make things easier.

  • Carpool Goddess

    Well, you might remember my post about how I feel about my gray hair, but I think you have great hair and look awesome! A little lipstick and mascara never hurt anyone, and won’t hide the real you. Besides, it’s a nice touch and just shows that you cared enough about your date to take the time to spruce up a bit.

    • Walker Thornton

      CG- each of us has a acceptable, unique approach to gray hair… Thank you for the compliment. And, you’re so right about a little touch of makeup giving us that sparkle.

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