Crazy Cat Lady. Handsome.
What's your name?
Call me JD.
What do you do?
I am retired. It's pretty nice, I kind of dabble, I am the President of Pride, I produce women's weekend, and I'm a full-time housewife. My partner is in school full time so I make the lunches. I'm living a very different life from what I did before. For 19 years I worked for law enforcement. I was a state park ranger with California state parks.
So, your'e in a relationship?
Yes, I’m Currently engaged.
What does your partner think of your gray hair?
I have to admit I never saw this coming, but it's the whole look, I don't know if you know about the Silver Fox but she really likes it, she's younger than I am, and It's an attractive quality to her, so I'm all game.
When did you notice your first gray hair?
I noticed my first gray hair in my early twenties. It was pretty apparent, I had this wiry hair sticking out of my head. I thought it was something in my hair, but I found out it was attached. I started coloring my hair a few years after that, because pulling one hair grows 10 more. I've never been like a girly-girl or anything, but my hair was one thing that I cared about. I didn't start dyeing it on a regular basis until I cut it short in my early 30s. I had to dye my hair every time I got it cut, which was once a month. It got to the point where the week after I would color it, the roots would be out again. I didn't have it professionally done because I couldn't afford it, so I did it at home. The longer I left it on the more it would stain my scalp.
"It got to the point
where the week after I would color it,
the roots would be out again."
One time I went to the store and got the dye, dyed my hair, jumped into the shower, and went off to work with wet hair. I was on a law enforcement contact with two other people, and one of them finally turned to me and asked, “Why is your hair purple?” I said, “My hair is not purple I just dyed it brown.” They said, “No, your hair is purple.” I went and looked in the mirror and realized that I had accidentally dyed my hair the color of eggplant. My hair was purple. That was a really hard one to deal with. I had no idea. I've had more than a few mishaps with coloring.
I started dyeing my hair blond about four years ago. The first time I went blond, I actually went orange. I was using peroxide to lighten it. I was in Costco in Santa Rosa and these two little old ladies were pointing at me, and one of them said, "Can we ask you a question? Are you that guy from the cooking show?" They thought I was Guy Fieri. I don't know why they thought that, I don't really have the goatee for it. I hated to disappoint those ladies, I should have just signed his autograph.
How much did you spend dyeing your hair?
I usually bought a box of color for $7. I saved so much money by just doing it myself. I dyed it every month. Let's see, I've been dyeing my hair consistently for 17 years. ($1428)
When you were going up, did you follow any gray hair myths or superstitions? For example, the idea that pulling out gray hair makes more grow in.
Well, I didn't know that "Pulling 1 hair would make 10 more grow back" was a myth. I really felt like every time I pulled one out more would come in. As a kid I never did any of the hair tricks, I did put lemon juice in my hair to make it blond, but I never really paid that much attention to it.
There used to be a thing when I was working, and the boss would say to different people, "You're responsible for this hair gray hair and this hair and this hair." Because you associate new gray hairs with having more stress, but I have much less stress now and my hair is more gray.
It's interesting because you see men with gray hair and there is no stigma attached to it at all, it is associated with being distinguished, but for the women it is the opposite. When you're a women with gray hair people say you look so much older. It's the same as women shaving their legs. Women don't have to shave their legs, I do because I can't stand hairy legs, but women being forced to shave starting at a young age, I wish it hadn't been enforced with me at a young age, it's just like going gray though.
"you see men with gray hair
and there is no stigma attached to it at all,
it is associated with being distinguished,
but for the women it is the opposite."
How did your family speak of gray hair?
My mom didn't dye her hair regularly and she had natural gray hair. I didn't really pay close attention to her hair, but I remember it was brown for a while, and then as she got older she stopped going out as much and having her hair done. It was naturally gray. My mom has a healthy head of white hair and dark skin. I look the same, it's very obvious that we are related.
Did you have concerns about going grey?
Yes. Absolutely. The reason I started coloring my hair in the first place was because of my own level of vanity attached to my hair. From early on, I didn't want to be perceived as old. I'm such a kid at heart. I have this saying, “I have to grow old but I don't have to grow up.” Gray hair has an older image attached to it, and I didn't want that. Now I realize it has nothing to do with the color of your hair. I can still play, and be who I am, and have grey hair.
"I didn't want to be perceived as old,
I'm such a kid at heart."
Do you associate gray hair with aging?
Well yeah, it is something you don't see on people who haven't paid their dues in life.
I feel the age more in my joints in the winter time than anything else. Sometimes I forget I have gray hair, because I'm with someone who's a lot younger than I am, and that's who I see all the time. When I look in the mirror I'm reminded. I catch myself, "Oh that's right, I'm older." Sometimes she'll tell me -- when you were doing this or that I was still in high school.
But, there are definitely some benefits about being older, the best one is being able to collect a retirement check, and not having to worry about things as much, and having yourself a bit set up. Yeah, you can relax a lot more, you can take on things you want to take on. For me my life has become so much less stressful by just accepting things more, and not fighting against it.
What age do you consider old?
Wow no one's ever asked me that before. I would have to say when I was younger, I thought being in your fifties was old, but now I don't think of it like that. I just know it is a state of mind versus a number. How well are you taking care of yourself? How sharp is your mind? We stop looking at age as a number at a certain point. When you read in the paper that so-and-so died at such-and-such an age, I used to think it sounded like they had a nice long life, but now I think it sounds so young.
"We stop looking at age as a number
at a certain point."
I've got another story for you....
Back when I patrolled a nudist beach as part of my job, I had this gal I was dating. I decided I was going to shock her and take her down to the nude beach without telling her what kind of beach it was. We drove down there and she said, “Oh my God, that part goes gray too!” I was so embarrassed I couldn't even look. I brought her there just to shock her, but she’s the one who shocked me. So I have to check once in awhile. Oh no, I'm afraid to look, what am I going to do.
Did you notice a difference in the way you were treated as a gray haired person?
No, but I do have to say that just this last year when I got carded my mouth dropped open. I wondered if they were carding me as a senior citizen, but they were carding me to make sure I was 21.
I faced a lot of diversity on the job. I was constantly battling against women's rights and LGBT rights, and being treated differently. Now I am the President of Pride, and I run women's weekend. If people don't like the decisions I'm making, oh well. Recently though, I'm getting a lot of flak because we're moving the Pride Parade out of Guerneville. It has nothing to do with me. The board of directors made the decision, but as the president I have to hold up their decisions. I have to stand behind my board. The funny thing is, people say the parade has always been in Guerneville, but it's really always been in Santa Rosa since 30 years ago. We've only had it in Guerneville for the last 8 years.
So, you didn't notice a difference in how you were treated, or any negative reactions?
It's kind of funny because I had some friends that questioned me about it, but other friends thought it looked amazing. It was a back-and-forth. I was dating someone, and after we broke up I started dyeing my hair again, but I got to the point where it just couldn't figure out what difference it made if I did it or not. And I stopped working so, at first I did the blonde thing for a while to give it a try, but I can say for now I don't need to dye my hair anymore or do any of the crazy colors that kind of stuff. I have some friends who go out and put the Wild colors in their hair, and my own opinion I think it looks a little silly, but I'm all for whatever anyone wants to do. But for me I would feel ridiculous, it's not who I am. It's funny people in their twenties dying their hair White Once you have it you're going to hate it.
Do you think women should let their hair go natural?
The only advice that I can give, is to do whatever makes you happy on a personal level, because you have to be okay within yourself if you're going to let it go. When I look in the mirror I want to be happy with what I see. As far as the hair, I always keep it short because for me long hair is an issue, but when I saw my dyed brown hair I wasn't recognizing myself, it looked silly and it would be grown out within a week. The grow out was a little harsh, lucky for me I did it when my hair was super short. It took about 4 months to fully grow out. Sometimes people growing out, look like they've dipped half their head in something and you realize they're just growing it out.
"I wasn't recognizing myself."
What have you overcome?
I've overcome a lot of discrimination, for both being a woman and being gay. It is something I faced in a lot of areas of my life, but It was really prevalent in law enforcement and the state parks. There was a battle that I fought where I actually had to challenge them, and I became the leader of the LGBT and women's group. We got together and tried to make changes within the department. For example, when you are hired you're given a packet to fill out for your spouse, but if your in a same-sex marriage or domestic partnership you had to walk down the hall to a totally different department and ask for additional paperwork. Little ways that add up where you always had to "out yourself" whether you wanted to or not. I put a whole lot of effort and time into it changing memos and protocols. Unfortunately there were a lot of people that didn't like that, and it made it very difficult for me. I heard that as soon as I was out of the department they dismantled the whole group. I started an effort, but then they took it back.
It was only in 1972, when they even allowed women to be a park ranger. The first female park ranger was radically challenged. I feel like we are almost going back to those days right now. I see the whole political spectrum of hatred and racism, and it feels like we are going backwards. Women in general are going to be the last people to go back in time, and I think we have the power to change a lot more than just women's rights. We can be leaders in black rights and LGBT rights, and be an example of how to band together and move forward because nobody deserves to go back to where we were. We need things to believe in again.
"Women in general
are going to be the last people
to go back in time,
and we have the power to change
a lot more than just women's rights."
Is there anything you want to celebrate?
Sure, I get more respect with the gray hair, people treat me as if I have some authority behind what I say. I don't know if it's just how I'm coming off, or how I am now. My hair hasn't changed me I'm still the same and I still plan on getting in the best shape of my life for my wedding. you can only get better.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of saving someone's life on the job. Working with people and helping them. If I can do something to help someone out, I will. Also rescuing cats, I get great satisfaction from that. I know my proud moment will be getting married. At 52 I've never been married, and I'm so excited. I didn't think I would ever find someone, she came completely out of left field at a point when I was really down. I'm really proud of this relationship. Part of my age is knowing not to sweat the small stuff, and you get what a person has to offer without taking it for granted. This is something I've had to learn. You can dig your heels in and be defensive, or you can say, "Hey I'm sorry, it was never my intention, how can I make it up to you?" This is something that comes with the wisdom of aging, just let go of the small things.
"Part of my age is knowing
not to sweat the small stuff,
and you get what a person has to offer
without taking it for granted."