Personal Choice

As much as it is on the tip of my tongue to rant about the idiotic and infuriating brinkmanship playing out in Congress today, I will refrain. Hearing the announcement that “Boehner balks at the Senate deal” immediately made my head start to throb. Try googling “Congress balks at deal” and have fun reviewing the 1,500,000 results (0.23 seconds).

So I will save what will surely be a Congress rant for later in the week. Consider it part of the War on Christmas.

Instead I am compelled to write about a deeply personal choice that has come up in conversation four times in the last week. Whether or not women should color their hair.

The most recent discussion was a mini-rant by a craggy old woman at my gym. She does not wear a bra while working out, does not color her steel gray hair and looks as if she never understood all the fuss about moisturizer.

She was hectoring some of the middle aged women that they should just let nature take its course and not bother with hair dye. Her tone and her “pioneer woman” appearance was having the opposite effect on her audience. From the look on their faces I imagine they dialed the salon as soon as they got in their cars.

I was just contemplating some highlights to subtly blend the increasing gray in my dark hair. My husband says he likes the gray and he is the one who has to look at me after all, but…we will see. Having spent 10 or so years as a bleached blond, which was fun when I was 22 and clubbing, I wouldn’t do total color again.

For me hair dye is in the category of personal choice. Like abortion or keeping your name after marriage. It is easy for folks to forget that it is current societal norms that determine if a personal choice will be condoned or condemned. And those norms become shorthand for categorizing people.

Single pieces of information that seem to make people think they now know Everything About You:

  • If I say I have had an abortion
  • If I wear makeup, dye my hair or paint my nails
  • If I say I like historical romance novels
  • If I say I am a feminist
  • If I say I like Harold & Kumar movies
  • If I keep my “maiden” name
  • If I say I like The Red Green Show

There are endless examples – if there weren’t who would need Marketing Executives?

I know that personal choices help define us, but its a shame they are also the boxes we use to sort people. I really don’t care if crabby Jackie at the gym has never worn a bra or dyed her hair. I do care that her choices make her judge my choices as wrong.

Now if I could only work up some tolerance for the choices of people who keep trying to shut down the government, outlaw abortion and teach creationism in school, well then I would be a saint wouldn’t I?