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Marilyn Heltzer column: Going gray is more than a fashion statement

Let's talk hair. Let's talk gray hair. Better yet, white. Mine's white, don't you think? It's been that way since my late 30s. It is a gift of the genes, from my Finnish grandma Ida. Those genes, that also gave me the small eyes and small nose - have shown up in my cousins as well. I look more like some of them than I resemble my own brothers and sisters. And the genes have held down to the fourth generation in this country: Grandma, my dad and several of his siblings, myself, and two of our daughters. Who knows where it all started? Maybe some Finn whose hair came in white at birth?

As to our going-gray daughters, it's happening a whole lot slower for them. Again, it's the genes, the gray-countering ones that came from their dad. My husband Jim's father had only a brush of gray at the temples when he died at age 93. We always assumed that Jim's mom colored her hair. But even when she was "in care" with dementia in her 90s, she remained a steadfast brunette. Of course, we'd figured that she colored her hair, all those years. .

I've been thinking about white hair because I've been noticing all the guys on TV who are gray, or going that way. WCCO's Don Shelby, soon to retire, has a fine head of silver hair. My favorite is David Gregory of NBC. He's only 40, and has been gray almost since he came on the scene. I'm waiting for Katie Couric to let some gray streaks in amid the blond. A couple of weeks ago Carol Browner, the White House Energy and Environment advisor, was on Meet the Press talking about the disastrous BP oil spill. Of course, I paid attention to what she was saying. But I also noticed the attractive streaks of gray. Cokie Roberts (ABC) has them, too. I'm waiting for Nancy Pelosi (age 60) to give up her dark helmet and let the silver shine through. Then again, maybe she got genes like Bernice's.

Now I am not out to bash the hair coloring industry. They're going strong. Our granddaughter, who is 16, may single-handedly keep them in business. And the products that were hard on the hair, back in my brief foray into the Clairol world, seem to have greatly improved.

So, just what is my point here? It's simply this: to give encouragement to any woman who wants to accept the hair that God gave her, including the almost inevitable change of hair color. Somehow guys don't seem to worry about it. Except for a few Congressmen. But for women, gray hair means old, and old means decline, and decline means - well - whatever.

I'd rather think that gray hair is a mark of wisdom and maturity. And a person saves a lot of money by not doing that coloring business. We older married women are long past the age when we were in the market for guys. Even Demi Moore and Madonna, the most famed of the Older Women Who Marry Younger Men, will eventually take up with the bald and gray. I'm assuming they won't stick with their young husbands, being they're in the biz that rarely celebrates 50-plus marriages like we commoners do.

So here we are. Old and gray and having a swell time. Let us encourage the boomers who are coming along behind us to take it as it comes.

And when it comes, kids, enjoy the gray! You've earned every one of those shining strands.

Marilyn Heltzer also writes a blog titled Sunshine at under Area Voices.