Here's one conversation from the late 90s I've never forgotten.
Boyfriend: Do you have a problem with grey hair?
Seraphic: No, I think grey hair can look very distinguished.
Boyfriend: Because you have one.
When I said "distinguished", I meant "on men" although I suppose it can look distinguished on women too. At any rate, I had not seen my premier grey hair, so this news was a tremendous shock. I knew theoretically that I would grow old and die, but I had never pondered that my hair would too. My hair has ruled my life; how could the tyrant die? Possibly that weeping and wailing in North Korea this year was not entirely artificial.
Anyway, one of the good things about being a ginger, as they call us in the UK, is that the grey isn't that visible. I suppose the day will come when I sit damply in front of a hairdresser's mirror, like Cher in Moonstruck, and say "Get rid of the grey." However, that day has not yet arrived for me. Many of my dark-haired contemporaries have been dying for years and years. Sometimes your first grey hair shows up in high school.
There is no reason to look old until you are old. Uh oh. I can hear some Early Church Fathers (especially St. Jerome) clamouring in our little library, demanding to be let out so they can tell us that it is terrible for women to think about our appearance at all. I will beat them back with a volume of St. Thomas Aquinas, as St. Thomas Aquinas states clearly that people should dress according to our station in life. He doesn't like make-up, except to hide deformity, but I bet given enough time we could convince St. Tom that grey hair counts as a deformity. Quaeritur: Was there grey hair before the Fall? Respondeo: Nooooooo.
Anyway, there is no reason to look old until you are old. I am not a fan of the over-40 set turning in desperation to knives and poisons to freeze our faces into smooth masks. However, I am not a fan of young things dressing in an elderly fashion, either. This can mean sloppy sweatsuits or this can mean black lamé. Lamb dressed as mutton is simply not good.
There is no particular virtue in dressing dowdily. I know a very holy young woman, with a very deep prayer life, who before her marriage studied In Style magazine with great concentration and applied what she learned to her wardrobe. After her marriage, she soon became pregnant, so now, although she still reads the magazine, she doesn't study it with the same application. She still looks marvellous, however.
Uh oh. I'm about to say something I have to preface with a lot of qualifications. Okay, we're all on the same page that attracting guys is not the most important thing in life, right? So we know that the most important thing is having a good relationship with the Most High, and next making sure we are well-educated, virtuous, useful women who will be able to support ourselves financially, etc? And we that should put worry about attracting guys right at the bottom of our priorities, way down after "Be a good friend"? Okay, good.
The thing is that guys tend to be more attracted to young or young-looking women than to old or old-looking women. Yes, there are some very young guys out there who are apparently looking for the Earth Mother, but all the Earth Mothers with much younger boyfriends I've ever met were knock-outs who dressed young for their age. They all--listen up--were slender and had long hair. But never mind them because I am not talking to the over-40 set today but to the dewy young. The Searching Single dewy young. The Serious Single dewy young can ignore me.
Listen up, Searching Single dewy young. If people keep thinking that you are older than you are, you must do something. If you have grey hair, dye your hair. If you have sensible short hair, grow it out. If you wear skirts to your ankles, hack them off at the knees. If you wear spectacles, get contacts or fashionable new frames. If you wear a black mantilla to Mass, good heavens, girl, put on a white one. If you wear no make-up, apply some make-up. If you do wear make-up, consult the lady at the make-up counter about a more youthful look. If you never smile, remind yourself to smile. If you wear black and grey, switch to mauve and pink. If you smoke, quit. If you are insomniac, see a doctor. If you're stiff, consider yoga classes. Okay, fine. If you think yoga is inherently pagan, try Pilates.
Yes, of course it is much more important that you are intelligent and have a good character. I once came up with a brilliant elementary school science project that should have gotten a much better grade than it did ; my teacher marked it down because it looked boring. And I guess it did look boring, consisting as it did of a small white bristelboard and red lettering and little jars. It stood in the gym between behemoth science projects featuring huge colourful bristelboards and displays with engines and wires and flashing lights. Nobody looked at my brilliant science project long enough to see how brilliant it was because most of the other science projects looked much more exciting. The prizes went to clever projects which also looked good.
Don't be like my science project.
I'm in a bossy mood, so I will go farther and vent about my personal pet peeve which is Single women cutting their hair too short too soon. This particularly bothers me in Poland, fabled land of beautiful women. Nuns cut off their hair for a reason, and this is not just so their heads are cooler under their veils. It is a way of announcing that they are simply not interested in attracting men; the men can push off. In Poland, I saw way too many Searching Singles with short hair.
My cries that Searching Single women should not cut their hair short always elicits answering cries from girls saying they honestly look better with pixie cuts. I have to respect this because I have unusually thick hair and have no idea what women with thin hair have to put up with. However, I have seen 30-something women with beautiful hair who have simply had it cut short, and I think this shortsighted. If you haven't given up on love, don't look like you have.
Incidentally, I just found "How to Dress Like an Old Lady" on the internet. I think it illustrates in an almost frightening way what I'm trying to tell you. Clothes, hair, make-up and posture really make a difference.