Time was when the gray lady in Times Square was the New York Times. No more.
The gray haired ladies that took over Times Square this past weekend were the Silver Sisters – and they consider this a movement. About 66 of them took to the New York City streets to proclaim that their gray hair is their crowning glory.
The rumble began at the West Bank Café's Laurie Beechman Theatre where the program included lots of talk on how they transitioned to gray hair, Jhirmack gift bags, and Pro-age revolution champion Cindy Joseph, creator of BOOM sticks, who called this gray-haired movement "history in the making". She said: "We are the women that we wished we would have had in our lives, if they weren't busy off getting their hair dyed."
Roberta Jensen, who'd traveled from Wisconsin to join the march, told me what a thrill it was: "One man yelled out, 'What's going on?' and we said 'We've stopped dying our hair!' and he said, Great!'" she laughed.
I met up with some of the most beautiful women I've ever seen at the Spice Market (a lovely downtown restaurant that, alas, can't handle big groups), including Diana Lewis Jewell who inadvertently kicked off this "movement" by writing Going Gray, Looking Great in 2004. "I had no idea how big this is," she said, but when she launched the website in 2008 "I was starting to get an inkling."
Now her private site, Café-Gray.com (it's easy to join) has 3,600 members and the book's Facebook page nearly as many. What does it all mean?
We don't need dye in our hair to have affirmation of our lives," Diana says.
Most of the women I spoke to echoed some version of that. Having an outlet to share transition stories, societal difficulties, even getting hand-holding through the initial decision to go grey and the transition phase bond these women in a unique way that impels them to want to meet.
Mother/daughter pewter/platinum team Mary Ann Welsch and Mary Jean George said they "convinced each other to come" for the camaraderie. (Mary Ann is one of our rule-busting long-haired Silver Sisters).
Veronique, a neuroscientist from Canada, said she went grey in her early 40s for a bit of gravitas because she looked so youthful for her profession, but she got a lot of pushback from her family. "In my [Mediterranean] culture no one ever goes gray." She finds Cafe-Gray a source of solace and support.
So does the willowy Cordelia Dietrich Zanger, who admits to still wavering about her decision sometimes, but her husband was a big supporter, and early gray runs in her family, so there's an honoring of her heritage there. She says she's a frequent visitor to Cafe-Gray, taking advantage of the warm group dynamic and myriad tips there.
When Dawn from Massachusetts developed an allergy to hair dye several years ago, the discovery of Diana's book, she said, "was a lifesaver."
Kay Brooks of Birmingham, Alabama only found the book and website 2 weeks ago and impulsively decided to come to NYC, bringing along her friend Maryanne Dalton, who explained,
It's great that we can be who we are."
Danica, a New Yorker in real estate, said her colleagues where horrified about her decision to go gray: "'People won't like you; you'll ruin your career,'" she was warned. "They wouldn't say that to a man." When she was ready, she says she "jumped in with both feet!"
Jayme Porkolab, whose angular steel bob suits her to a tee, said the book made transitioning so much easier. Even though she got a lot of resistance to going gray, "the people who harassed me the most are now my biggest fans," she says triumphantly.
There are as many stories as there are shades of silver — and that's a whole lot more than you may think.
Susan, an artist from Georgia, offered to help me whenever I decide to turn over a silver leaf "because curly girls require special handling."
I'm not ready to go gray yet, but I know that whenever I do, there will be the most glittering and gorgeous safety net to catch me.
More stories of triumphant grey ladies:
- Shades of Grey: Redefining Beauty as We Age
- Brighten Up Gray with a Hot Streak
- Do You Dare Wear Super Long Gray Hair?
- Want To Go Gray All the Way?