A Response to an Article in the Wall Street Journal

February 12th, 2014

So this weekend, some guy had an article in the Wall Street Journal about how he doesn’t want his wife to stop dyeing her hair, because he’s worried that he won’t feel as attracted to her if she’s gray-haired and also that her looking older might age him. He’s received some fairly negative comments for this piece. One commenter called him a jerk and a narcissist.

I might have agreed with her, but he is very good about getting the oil changed in my car.

Since I’ve been married to the author of the piece for almost 25 years, I feel like I should defend him against his critics, or at least against the one on Twitter who responded to his article with “Damn you, middle-aged men and your porn-star aesthetic.”

Honestly, honey, if Rob clung to a “porn-star aesthetic,” would he really share his bed with someone who wears old cotton sweatpants and t-shirts to bed every night? (Home Depot chic.)  Trust me, I’m no Marilyn Chambers.

The article is fairly accurate: I really did ask Rob how he’d feel if I let my hair go gray, and he really did say that he’d prefer I didn’t. That, I believe, is the strongest opinion he’s ever offered about my personal style, which is impressive when you consider the fact that I walk around in thrift store cargo pants and hand-me-down t-shirts from my teenage sons and rarely wash my hair. Trust me: if he wanted to find fault with how I present myself, he could.

Oh, wait: there was one other time when he felt the need to speak out. When I was pregnant with our oldest son (now 22), I cut all my hair off. It wasn’t a pixie cut–that might have been cute. It was more of an Ugh, I don’t even care anymore kind of a cut. He didn’t say anything but the next time I went to get my hair cut, he said, “Please don’t get it cut too short,” a plea he’s repeated every time I’ve gotten a haircut for the two decades since then.

But there’s nothing dictatorial about that little plea. There’s no underlying threat–I know he’s not going to leave me because I cut my hair short or stop dyeing it, and I hope he knows I’m not going to leave him if he gains a few pounds or his hairline recedes. But we both want to be attractive to each other. Call me crazy, but I’d like the guy who has to look at me over the dinner table and join me under the covers every night to be physically attracted to me. And I don’t mind if he gives me a little guidance in that direction.

A little guidance. Which I can ignore if I want to.

No one should ever be made to feel insecure by a spouse or partner. That’s unacceptable. Someone who undermines you, who tells you that you don’t look good, that you’re too fat or too old or too ugly to be attracted to–that’s not someone you want to be with. Rob’s never made me feel bad about myself. If I did let my hair go gray, he would still tell me I was beautiful. But if I’m going to ask him which he prefers, he’s going to be honest and tell me he prefers me with brown hair. And I’m going to listen. Until the day when I just really really really don’t want to dye my hair anymore. And then I’ll stop. And he’ll get used to me with gray hair.

A side note: I know plenty of men who prefer that their wives not dye their hair. The dyeing or the not-dyeing is ultimately irrelevant to my point, which is that it’s okay for one member of a loving partnership to care about looking attractive to the other, but in the end, the decision belongs to the one whose body it is.

Anyway . . . Happy almost-Valentine’s Day to couples everywhere! May we all be honest and kind to each other, not necessarily in equal measure, but in the exact right proportions for marital bliss.