BLUE HAIR: a pejorative comment about an older woman

When I was a child my grandmother would send me to Grants Department Store to get a bottle of “bluing” rinse.   It was a rinse that grey- or white-haired women used to give a little color and life to their hair.   It was applied after washing the hair.  She would let it set in for a while, and then rinse it out.  The longer it set, the bluer the hair.   The idea wasn’t to get the hair really blue, but to just give it a tint.   As women age their hair can take on a natural yellowish color to it, particularly if the woman is a smoker.  But the blue rinse covers that yellow.

No, that is not my grandmother in the picture to the right.

Anyway, it was pretty common among middle class, older women.

As a result, the term “blue hair” came into existence to denote an older woman.  She doesn’t need to have used blue rinse; it is a more generic term these days.  Fewer women use the blue rinse these days (except in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.)   It is more common for older women to dye their hair these days, a practice that would have been seen as scandalous in my grandmother’s day.

Blue Hair is just one of  a number of euphemisms  used to identify older people.   Geezer is a word that is usually, but not always, applied to older men, and conjures up a picture of a man in oversized clothing he has kept since before he lost weight.  Thick glasses and a cane complete the picture.  “Senior” is another euphemism which indicates a person is of advanced years.   And most of us who are over 60 have long ago discovered that the so-called “golden age” term is completely irrelevant.   There’s nothing “golden” about the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices and clinics.   Arthritis is nobody’s best friend.  There are other descriptive terms which are uncomplimentary and don’t deserve printing here.

It points out the struggle people have in describing older people without offending them.   While septuagenarians are fully aware of their age and accompanying symptoms of aging, they don’t want to be called “elderly.”   That is a term reserved for people in their late 80′s and 90′s.   When I was a kid I thought anyone over 50 was elderly, but times have changed and people are living a lot longer.   Fifty is more middle-aged in today’s market.

Some aging  people are very sensitive about their age and don’t want it to be identified at all.  They might question as to why the term “older” needs to be included when identifying a man or woman, much in the same way that the terms “Asian” or “Black” need not be used unless absolutely necessary.  For some people aging is a curse and to be avoided in any case.   Denial of aging is accompanied by face lifts, hair transplants, and other masking techniques.

The ideal, I suppose would be to live in a setting in which age reference is not important.   The respect given older people is welcome and humor about aging is not inappropriate.  But if the only thing someone can say about me is that I’m a “geezer” or a “blue hair” then there’s something wrong.

 

Photo Credit: holidaysgolightly.com

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