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Posted February 23, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Chris Fordney: Going gray gets a little more cool


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Joanna, who cuts my hair, has now been doing it for more than 20 years.

These days, when she's done, the hair that's left behind on the cloak looks more and more gray.

Over the years, she has seen it turn from dark brown, to salt-and-pepper and now dirty silver as it heads toward pure white.

"I can do something about that," Joanna said a few years ago, when it was still more pepper than salt.

The other day, as she was lopping off yet another snowy thatch, I reminded her of that conversation. "Well, it's a little late now," she said.

That's just as well. I don't want to spend several hours every few weeks with my head stuck in some machine with little pieces of foil clinging to my head -- or whatever you have to do -- just to get a few shades darker and look a few years younger.

Even if I did color my hair, my eyebrows would give me away. They have become increasingly scraggly over the years with a few squiggly white hairs sticking out at odd angles. I'd feel pretty stupid coloring my eyebrows.

Still, it's not fair. Why do some people get up into their 70s with dark hair while other people go gray in their 30s?

And I can't stand it when someone says gray hair makes me look "distinguished." I don't want to look distinguished. I want to look cool.

And there's some evidence that staying gray is gaining some measure of coolness. If not, then why does Anderson Cooper of CNN, with his access to a platoon of hairstylists, retain his whitish crop?

Like Cooper, one must keep gray hair short and groomed. Letting it get long or seeking the "bed head" look gives one the startled appearance of the wacky scientist in "Back to the Future."

Even some women are giving up the whole hair-coloring hassle and going natural, which often means gray. It was headline news recently when Jennifer Aniston found a gray hair, and though she "freaked," she admitted it wasn't quite the end of the world.

The only other option is the "buzz cut," or even more extreme, having your head shaved.

I consulted a female friend about taking that drastic step. "Don't do it," she said. "It would make you look too militaristic."

Her comment reminded me of the quickest and cheapest (it was free) haircut I ever had. It was on the first day of Marine Corps boot camp and lasted 3.5 seconds.

"Do you have any moles or other irregularities on your head?" we were asked, and before we could answer, all our hair was gone.

The transformation was remarkable. I had made friends with a couple of other recruits on the bus ride down but now I couldn't recognize them.

Of course, not only military persons take the hairless approach. The buzz cut or total head shave has been favored by such personalities as Hulk Hogan, Telly Savalas, Bruce Willis and Britney Spears.

The other advantage of that approach is cost. I have told my wife we can save money by emulating my mother, who would pull out the clippers, put on the quarter-inch attachment, and shear my brothers and me while we squirmed and whined.

But Cindy wasn't interested in that idea and has little sympathy for my angst over going gray. "At your age," she said, "maybe you should just be thankful there's anything left on your head."

Contact Chris Fordney at cfordney@nvdaily.com

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