Former First Lady Barbara Bush has passed away at 92 years old, after battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. During her time in the White House and beyond, Bush earned admiration for a variety of reasons, including her sharp sense of humor, surprisingly liberal views on social issues, and her trademark white hair and fake pearls. But it turns out that the former first lady had a reason for not dying her hair — and it’s so relatable.
According to CNBC, the former first lady began to go gray at 28, in part due to the stress of losing her young daughter Robin to leukemia. When she and her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, entered the White House, her white hair contributed to her reputation of being “America’s grandmother,” and it also earned her the nickname “The Silver Fox.” Bush also reportedly said that dyed hair simply didn’t suit her. But in a 2015 interview on Today, she revealed that there was another reason she’d kept her natural hair color.
“The white hair was because I wanted to play golf,” she told host (and her granddaughter) Jenna Bush Hagar. “I wanted to play tennis. I wanted to swim and my hair turned, as I’m sure someone else will tell you, orange, green, yellow, depending upon how much chlorine in the pool. So I decided to go white.”
In the same interview, Bush also discussed the reason for her signature pearl necklace, telling Bush Hagar that she used it to conceal wrinkles on her neck.
By choosing not to dye her hair, Bush showed women that it was okay to embrace getting older, even in a culture that tells women they need to look young forever. And the fact that she kept her hair white in part so that she could continue to be active is incredibly relatable. We have a feeling that, years from now, Bush will be remembered for her snappy quips and willingness to flaunt her age just as much as she will be remembered for her beautiful white hair and pearls. Our hearts go out to all of her loved ones today.