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    Old Gray Mare is Getting There...Maybe!
    by Beth Boswell Jacks

          "By common consent, gray hairs
          are a crown of glory - the only object
          of respect that can never excite envy."
                    - George Bancroft

The question came from nowhere -- or, more specifically, the backseat -- as I headed for "Old McDonald's" for milkshakes with the grandkids. "Bebe, are you getting old?" The questioner was 4-year-old Wilkins, the family philosopher.

"Yep, honey," I said, "every day I'm getting old-ER."

"Are you gonna get white hair?"

I sighed and reluctantly admitted to the child: "Uh huh, I imagine one of these days I'll have white hair."

"Well, when you have white hair, will you still be Bebe?"

I assured him I'd always be Bebe and he was satisfied, moving on to more interesting topics of conversation like poochie Pharaoh's chewed up toy duck. ("Why'd he do that, Bebe? A toy don't taste good.")

Later, I was thinking about the hair question because such a "ponderation" is very important to those of us of a certain age. At least, it is to some of us.

Hubby G-Man gave up long ago. His fleece is white as snow -- and he's never tried to dye or darken it with special shampoo, rinses, gels or mousses. The man's a real silver fox. I hope when I get old I'll have the same self-confidence to turn gray with dignity (she bravely says, knowing he'll be off on a trail ride when this column is printed).

Another confident gray-head is that cute Taylor Hicks from Alabama, the "Soul Patrol" singer who recently won "American Idol" on television. Remember in the early weeks when the growling judge, Simon Cowell, told Hicks he could never win this talent show of talent shows because of his gray hair? Reports flew that the 29-year-old, prematurely gray Taylor was going to dye his hair so he'd look younger, but that never happened.

Good for him!

Alexandra Seuthe, who covers all kinds of hair in her online blog called "Badhairday," was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article by Robin Abcarian, saying that Taylor's "hair and his talents are authentic -- and that's why he won."

Abcarian goes on to celebrate the good looks of Richard Gere, George Clooney and Anderson Cooper. Ummm, may I ask? Where are the women?

Well, says Abcarian, one of the best looking is Emmylou Harris, 59, who's been gray for years. Emmylou says she's earned that gray and she's not changing it. She added that if she's an inspiration for other aging women, great!

But then Abcarian adds: "If you look like Emmylou Harris or Richard Gere, perhaps letting your hair turn gray is an easier step to take than if you look like, well, you."

Lots of folks agree. The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association estimates that "close to 2 out of every 5 American women and a smaller number of men dye their hair." I guess that's the temporary fix. English writer P. G. Wodehouse once wrote that there's really only one cure for the gray. "It was invented by a Frenchman," he says. "It's called the guillotine."

Ouch. I believe I'd take "snow head" over "no head."

And L'Oreal, the company that produces hair dye in a thousand different shades, claims more than 55 million consumers buy their products, including many teenagers who change their hair color like lipstick shades. Vampire Red, Manic Panic and Lagoon Blue are some of the favorites.

Maybe Mr. Wodehouse has a point.

I may have to eat my words, but I'm thinking I won't go the dye route. I may be on the other side of my sixth decade at the moment but, as I've said before, I'm still 19 in my head. I don't want anybody telling me different -- not my best friends or the mirror.

So, yes, little Wilkins, your Bebe's hair will turn white some day, maybe soon, and she'll still be the same old Bebe. And, in the words of Bill Cosby -- she'll be mighty, mighty proud of this crown of gray -- "God's graffiti"!


Editor of USADEEPSOUTH, Beth Boswell Jacks is the author of 3 books (Grit, Guts, and Baseball and Snippets I and II) and is also a weekly columnist for a number of Southern newspapers. Readers and editors may contact her at bethjacks@hotmail.com.
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