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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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In Living

Tania Taylor is not afraid of the gray.

In Living

Lucky Tomaszek started going gray in fourth grade.

In Living

Shirah Rachel Apple got the nerve up to go gray and never went back.

Staying gray: Local women who don't dye their hair


Younger women with gray hair by choice, meaning they opt not to dye it, used to be associated with granola crunchy feminists who didn't give a rat's coat about fashion. This wasn't true at the time, and it's even less true now, with many models strutting down the runway with a silvery 'do. The trend is so hot, in fact, that some models are now paying to have their hair dyed gray.

But women who are not models are simply choosing not to dye their hair anymore. According to stylist and educator Dominique Magno, women are choosing it because it saves money, it's easier to maintain and they are finding out their partner or spouse is fine with it.

"It seems most men are perfectly happy to have women go gray," says Magno, a stylist for SHE by SO.CAP.USA brand hair extensions. "Young men seem to think it's very sexy and I think most husbands would love to have their wives not spend so much on hair color."

Bay View's Chris Ward stopped dying her hair when she was 36, after more than a decade of dying it punk rock colors. When she finally decided to check in with her true color, she realized that she liked what she found hiding beneath the cover-up color and she decided to stay gray.

Ward was surprised by the number of women, not men, who suggested she had "given up" on being feminine and fighting the age battle. Ward was disappointed by some responses to her new look, but she stuck with it, not only because she liked it, but because she wanted to show her teenaged daughter how to be a confident woman at every age.

"Beauty has a billion definitions. The more we as women embody the billions of iterations versus conform to a narrow definition of beauty, the more we embody our best selves to model for the women who come after us," says Ward.

Tania Taylor started noticing gray hairs at 19, and today, at 39, she is 50 percent gray. She got tired of having to dye and "touch up" her roots all the time, so a year ago, she decided to cut off her brown hair and let it grow in naturally.

"Overall I have received positive feedback about my hair, especially from my significant other," says Taylor. "For people who don't see me much, they remember me being a brunette and now I'm a silver fox."

A friend suggested to Shirah Rachel Apple that she let her hair go gray, and reminded her she could dye it back if she didn't like it. Apple decided to try it while doing an artist residency in a small, desert town and the other students and artists responded so positively to the change that she decided to keep it.

It took her about two years to grow out the roots, but in the end, she is satisfied with the results.

"I'm in my forties, but it's pretty much salty now, not much pepper left. Once in a while I have thoughts of dying it, but if I really want something different I'll get a wig," says Apple.

Renee Scherck-Meyer has received both positive and negative feedback regarding her decision to go gray in her late thirties / early forties. Her father had gone gray at a young age, as did Scherck-Meyer, and she finally decided to give in to the gray. Turns out, she likes it, even if, at times, people make insensitive comments.

"Women with gray hair come up to me and compliment the shade of gray. Some have even asked if I dye it that shade. Others have said it makes me look more sophisticated and elegant than when I was a redhead. But, on the negative side, I have been confused as my husband's mother rather than his wife – ouch – and I was given a senior discount at a grocery store. So, the hair color must age me," says Scherck-Meyer.

Lucky Tomaszek grew a gray streak on one side of her head – along with random grays throughout the rest of her hair – in fourth grade. A stylist showed her how to part her hair differently to mostly cover up her gray. But by the time she graduated high school, there was so much gray she could not hide it.

One weekend, with the help of her older sister, she tried to dye her hair "Black Cherry Soda" but it didn't look very good, so Tomaszek never dyed her hair again. Today, at 39, she is 80 percent gray, but the only non-gray parts are beneath the top layer so she appears totally gray.

"When I was young, the gray hair definitely drew attention I didn't really want. People I had never met would try to touch my hair, kind of like what happens to pregnant women. They would insist that I was dying it to look like that, or feel sorry for me because I was so young," she says.

Tomaszek learned to chalk it up to another thing that makes her unique, like her first name and the fact she is under 5-foot-tall. Today, she gets lots of compliments on her hair.

"I still get stopped by strangers, but now it's to tell me how much they like it. And I continue to be amazed by this fact: Every person I've ever seriously dated has told me that my hair is the physical feature that attracted them initially. They noticed me because of all my white, curly locks," says Tomaszek.

Although Jessica Halverson Foor's gray hairs are less noticeable because of her naturally light hair, she believes her sales suffered because she didn't want to dye her hair. Customers, it seemed, judged her for it.

"For some reason people projected the attitude that if I was going gray I must be too lazy to take care of anything and unfortunately for me, my sales suffered. It actually took me several months to figure this out," she says.

Foor finally decided to part her hair differently to cover up some of the gray, and she added lemon juice to her hair while hiking this summer to lighten her non-gray hair to blend in more, but that's as far as she's compromising.

"I don't feel that this changes who I am. It's like any other role-playing game, only I get paid for this one," she says.

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