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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