Grey lady

Hair has been looming large in my life recently.

First I was tearing it out because I didn’t get the job and I didn’t get the lodger – you can read about that here.

And one of my lovely followers has glorious white curls. We got chatting, and I realised how much our hair matters to us, and to other people!

Then I got another interview, and it coincided with a hair appointment. I had to rearrange the appointment, and my wonderful hairdresser managed to squeeze me in the day before the interview.

I have grey hair these days, although it hasn’t always been.

What colour is your hair?

I mean, what colour is your hair really?

Once upon a time I had very dark, almost black hair. My eyebrows still are.

I got my first grey hair at 19, and they gradually increased in number during my 20s. I used a henna-based shampoo that was supposed to cover them up (it actually just turned them a sort of fluorescent red…). Then I tried dyeing my hair myself (described disparagingly by one hairdresser as ‘patchy’). And then I decided that actually I didn’t mind the grey after all.

Ah, then there was the ‘number 6’ phase. OH and I were having something of a cashflow crisis, so we decided that haircuts had to go. We invested in a pair of trimmers and cut each other’s hair. I did his on a number 1, he gave me a number 6. I loved it. It was intensely liberating. No need for fussing (not that I fuss much with my hair anyway – but fussing was reduced to zero). I wouldn’t rule out doing it again if money got really tight.

Anyway, the cashflow crisis eased, and I went back to having a ‘normal’ do – still a bit spiky at this stage, but relatively ordinary!! Then suddenly, one day, having grey hair bothered me. I don’t know why. And my husband (who despite the fact that he walked away from the marriage is actually quite bright) said, ‘Why don’t you just have it dyed like everyone else?’ So I did. I went for the ‘dark with a hint of red’ option, and it served me well for years.

And then I met Bev. Bev has been my hairdresser for the last 6 years. Bev knows what she’s doing, and she gives advice which it would be foolish to ignore. She suggested that if I toned the colour down a bit, the roots wouldn’t show through so quickly. Fair point well made, so I toned it down a bit, and we carried on quite happily for a little longer. Then she suggested, everso gently, that the time had come to move away from the darker colours entirely, and see what life would be like as a blonde.

So I did. Not sure if I had more fun – but I certainly had less obvious roots!!

Then about a year ago, and for a variety of reasons, I ended up leaving my hair about three weeks longer than normal between cuts. As it’s short anyway, we were getting to the point where the ‘growth’ was longer than the original hair. And I started to wonder. I’d been dyeing my hair for the best part of 20 years. What do I look like now? How grey is the grey? I asked her to cut my hair before she coloured it, which she did – she basically cut all the colour off. And I liked it!! It’s on the whiter side of grey (thanks Dad!), and I liked the look.

She cut it short, and sharp, and I loved it.

But the decision to go grey was a big one. We’re bombarded, day in and day out, with people telling us that we have to look young. Grey hair certainly doesn’t fit into that way of looking at the world. I remember hearing a song when I was a child, with a chorus that went

Keep young and beautiful
It’s your duty to be beautiful
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved

I’ve just googled it, and it turns out it was written in 1933 for a film called ‘Roman Scandals’. But I remember hearing it on (brace yourselves) The Black and White Minstrel Show in the 1960s. Sexism and racism neatly packaged and broadcast to the nation as family viewing!

The Black and White Minstrel Show may be long gone, but we’re still expected to Keep Young and Beautiful. Every magazine article ever written is a variation on the same theme. When I decided to start this blog I googled ‘Blogs for Women over 50’ – and they are invariably about how to Keep Young and Beautiful, and they invariably tell us that we’re all doing it wrong. It’s something I specifically try to avoid over here in this small corner of the internet – we all get enough of it everywhere else. Let’s give ourselves a break

There’s a whiff of ‘letting yourself go’ in the idea of letting yourself go grey. Giving up, giving in. Getting old.

Or maybe there’s a radical side to going grey – something that says, ‘I know the world expects me to look a certain way, but I reject that. I will look the way I look, not the way you think I should look. Get over it.’

This is me. This is what 58 looks like.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. anglosvizzera says:

    I absolutely agree with the ‘radical side’ of getting older, like that poem that you often see about the old lady wearing purple.

    I’m guessing that your comment about “glorious white curls” might be about mine! That’s very kind of you, and for once in my life I’m actually happy with my hair – after being told regularly, almost from birth, how ‘lucky’ I was to have such wonderful curls.

    I hated them with a vengeance, my mother probably hated having to brush them (my older sisters having relatively straight and ‘normal’ hair) and as a teenager I spent hours trying to straighten them with various chemicals and heated tongs and so on. My mother had always had my hair cut short so as to not have to struggle with it, and so I never knew what long, flowing locks might have been like. It always had a Jimi Hendrix look about it when it got to any length.

    However, when it was straighter (artificially, I mean) I did manage to grow it to about shoulder-length, but lived in dread of wet weather which meant it would shrivel up immediately (like one episode of “Friends” where Monica’s hair kept turning more and more bushy) until such time as I embraced the curls. Actually the best time for my hair was when I was pregnant – it was glossy and curly rather than tight and frizzy – how does that work?

    As for the grey thing, I noticed my first grey hair when I was 26 and studying architecture. I blame the all-nighters that we students got into the habit of and the stress of the ‘crits’ where we had to stand and justify our designs to the rest of the year group, and various tutors who were all practising architects. I hated having to do that.

    The crunch eventually came when I was waiting in the school playground for one of my children, on a day when the weather was pretty damp and, by then, my hair was more ‘salt’ than ‘pepper’. One of the mums (one I’d considered ‘a friend’) came up and said to me, “Oh, it’s you! I was wondering who that granny was over there!” I think she thought it an amusing comment, but I was devastated. I knew my hair resembled a Brillo pad at times, but that was the final straw. The hair-dyeing began. And, as you know, it was a pain in the backside as, like you, my hair was very dark brown and roots stood out boldly as they grew through. I had a pathological dread of visiting hair salons for hair cuts (ever since my mum took me, at the age of 5, to a barber in Italy who cut it like a boy’s…) and I certainly couldn’t afford to pay for them to colour it. So it was even more of a nuisance to do it myself.

    The dark hair made me look younger, I think, and probably helped with the various job interviews (and meeting nice men when I was single again) but eventually I decided that I would go back to grey for sure when I became a granny. That wonderful day happened just over 2 years ago and I was surprised to see how ‘white’ my hair is now. Husband no 3 loves it (he went grey gracefully years ago, before I met him) so all is well with the (hair) world.


    1. ‘When I am old I will wear purple’ – love that poem. And yes, you are the lovely follower with the glorious white curls!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Claudette says:

    There’s quite a few over 50s on my blog who like and commemt regularly who certainly reject the whole ‘must dye my hair to look young’ idea. I’m just 50 and have fast growing, long hair which is also dark and I just can’t, just yet, let nature take its course. Weekly almost I cover those roots with a box (can’t afford salon, or I’d be going for a lighter shade)…

    But it’s an ongoing topic and many over 50s are letting their greys shine through, and then blog about it! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we all have to do what feels right for us – for an awfully long time it felt right for me to dye it. At the moment it feels right not to!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. anglosvizzera says:

    Claudette, I empathise completely. I had read a lot of people’s opinions on how to get back to grey, but was also concerned about how my hair would look with my face once it was done. I was tempted to try on some grey wigs to check things out, but never did.

    When I was ‘ready’, I started to use the new grey hair dyes that are around now in various (but not 50) shades of grey, just using part of the bottle/tube contents at a time (by intricate weighing on some ‘diet’ scales!) to touch up the roots and then let it ‘grow out’ more grey than brown. Every few months I’d use a slightly lighter shade, and also read somewhere that to accelerate the process of getting rid of years of accumulated brown hair dye, “Head and Shoulders” was effective in removing some of it, which it was. The summer sun also helped.

    So gradually the brown was replaced by grey – and at some point, faster than I’d expected, it was grey/white enough to stop the hateful touch-up process. Then I had a whole load of boxes of grey hair dyes that I had bought in anticipation (when on special offer) that I had to get rid of – thank goodness for eBay!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. oldhowie says:

    Grey turns silver turns white falls out! I’m at white/falls out!

    Liked by 1 person

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