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Gray hair’s in fashion, but what about at work?
“We only fool ourselves about how young we look with our dyed hair,” said the Harvard-educated Kreamer, a former Nickelodeon executive who helped launch the satirical magazine Spy before writing the book exploring her journey to silver.
When it comes to gray on the job, Kreamer said, context counts. The color might be easier in academia over high-tech, for instance, and in Minneapolis over Los Angeles. Job description and your rung on the ladder might also be in play: chief financial officer versus a lowlier, more creative and therefore more gray-tolerant position like assistant talent agent, for example.
Kreamer dubbed the largely unspoken phenomenon “hair-colorism.”
In 1950, 7 percent of women dyed their hair, she said. Today, it’s closer to 95 percent or more, depending on geographic location. In the `60s, easy, affordable hair dye in a box hit store shelves, changing the follicle landscape for good.
“When women were going to work, it was like they could reinvent themselves and say, `I’m no house frau anymore.’ Hair dye got kind of linked in there and we never looked back,” said Kreamer, who went prematurely gray and colored for 25 years. “It’s still very complicated.”
Sandra Rawline, 52, in Houston knows how complicated it can be.
A trial is scheduled for June in her federal lawsuit accusing her boss at Capital Title of Texas of ordering her to dye her gray hair in 2009, when her office moved to a swankier part of town. The suit accuses him of instructing her to wear “younger, fancier suits” and lots of jewelry, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Rawline, an escrow officer and branch manager, wouldn’t comment for this story. The newspaper said her superior called her lawsuit preposterous.
Weingarten, 62, began going gray at 18 and said she colored for years. She gave it up about 20 years ago.
“People would say, `Are you crazy? You have to color your hair,’” she said. “I had my own business. I was an entrepreneur. I could do whatever I wanted, but the truth is I know a lot of women who are petrified to show gray hair because it means they’re maturing.”
The new “gray movement” doesn’t keep tabs on membership, but blogs like Terri Holley’s Going Gray are proliferating, along with pro-gray Facebook fan pages and Twitter feeds.
“Society has boxed in women on what’s considered to be beautiful, and this defies how we’re supposed to look,” Holley said. “People say, `I’m so glad I found you. I’m so glad we’re having this conversation.’”
Dana King, 53, started going gray in her 20s, began dyeing in her 30s and went to work for San Francisco’s KPIX in 1997, rising to news anchor. In January 2010, she first approached her general manager, a man whom she had known for a decade, about her giving up the dye.
“He didn’t like the idea at all and he asked me not to do it,” King said. Soon after, she did it anyway, with the comfort of a no-cut contract good to May 2013.
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