It’s official, my hair is going grey. I mean, it’s not all grey, but the grey strands are there, lurking in the background. And with each passing year there are more of them, demanding action, or something. So I colour them away and normality is restored for a few weeks until they reappear – ruining everything! It’s not exactly an existential crisis or anything, but it still begs the question, what am I supposed to do with them?
I think the feelings that grey hair induce are pretty much the same for men and women, but how we’re supposed to deal with them really varies. For men, grey hair is more culturally acceptable. It’s considered a distinguished look, they get tagged #silverfox and even salt and pepper hair is seen as sexy on men. Not so for women. It’s seen as careless – as though you’ve let yourself go.
But grey is having a bit of a revolution at the moment, and that is in no small part thanks to women like Sarah Harris, deputy editor of British Vogue. I was sure she must be having it coloured to make it look that even and soft, but she insists it’s all natural. She started going grey at 16, which is not so uncommon, and I guess if you are all over grey, you could consider making this kind of transition. But if you’re just starting to grey like me, you would have to dye the not-grey parts, which probably takes as much maintenance as dying the whole thing another colour. Still, it’s great to see someone in their 30’s not just embrace the aging process, but making it fashionable.
The beauty industry is built on giving us solutions to hide the stuff we are told is ugly. Our cultural definition of beauty is changing and becoming more diverse, but not quickly enough. And regardless of these changes, womens’ bodies are still policed and monitored in such a way that deviating from the norm is almost unthinkable. Remember when Julia Roberts was photographed showing underarm hair and everybody lost their shit? Not to mention the week-in, week-out magazine features that compare women in bikinis or how quickly a celeb loses their baby weight. But what if we just, didn’t? What if we gave these beauty standards the two fingers? Yes, grey hair can be dull and coarse and (God forbid) aging, but as you get older, the maintenance involved in keeping everything looking acceptable makes you wonder, who made these rules? And what will happen if I break them?
I sometimes feel like I’ve already broken a few rules, as a woman, by not getting married or having kids. And you know what? It feels great! There’s a real sense of freedom and dare I say rebellion in daring to be different. Which also makes me realise that happiness comes in all sorts of packages. No matter our individual choices, we all face challenges and have our equal share of joy and pain, so there really shouldn’t be any judgement. Live and let live is the only way we can all appreciate the rich tapestry of life. So if a woman chooses not to shave her legs or dye her hair or wear a bra, so what? More power to her! Defying convention gives other people permission to question their own beliefs and in these modern times, when do we even get the time to think about how we feel about things? Instead, we are just bombarded with images of beauty and sanctioned aging from companies who just want to turn a profit.
I loathe going to the hairdresser, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this new reality. I’m thinking the badger look won’t become a trend, so I’ll have to come up with something a little more creative! But I am so inspired by hashtags like #greyhairdontcare on Instagram (of all places!) and the women who are embracing their grey hair. Maybe I’ll chop it all off and go for the Christine Lagarde look, or Helen Mirren.
How awesome does she look? And there’s a tint of pink in there, if I’m not mistaken – my favourite colour! And it’s not just hair, every time I find a new wrinkle or age spot or hairs growing where they shouldn’t be, my first reaction is FUCK! But maybe that’s because we’ve been conditioned (especially as women) to see these things as ugly. Maybe there is beauty to be found there too. I mean, looking at that picture, how powerful does she look? Self-possessed and wise. Maybe grey hair is like a graduation to something much more profound. I’ll leave the last words to David Bowie – someone who never let convention get in the way of having a little fun with his image.
14 thoughts on “Shades of Grey”
I’m so with you Evie, I’m not a fan of the hairdressers either. Thankfully because I’m naturally light haired some highlights and lowlights have helped disguise the growing grey. I freaked out the first time I saw it, but the highlights have worked wonders and I haven’t had to redo them yet either. I had them done in February by my niece. I do think there is a lot of pressure on women to look good and stay looking good and I’d love to see where dying your hair wasn’t necessary. Unfortunately, I can’t see that happening anytime soon.
I used to love going, getting my coffee and reading magazines, but now I’m like a caged animal resenting every minute I’m held captive by the stylist! I was thinking it would be great to get highlights that make a feature of my grey bits, but I suppose I kind of resent having to use chemicals all the time as well. Well, it’s that or hats!
Totally agree on all points, Evie. I used to colour my hair red, not to cover grey but because I liked it. Because the colour was so different from my natural colour, the regrowth was very obvious and I had to top it up quite often. Imagine my shock when I decided to switch back to my natural colour and discovered that I had a few grey hairs! It didn’t take me long to grow to like them. When I was younger I used to bleach my bangs, a bit like Vogue in X-Men. Hers is actually grey (see here: https://assets1.ignimgs.com/2015/04/04/rogue-xmen-dofp-1280bjpg-f55350_1280w.jpg). Now I see my greys as I kind of funky highlight, like the blues and greens and purples that are all the rage at the moment. Plus, they’re thicker than the rest of my hair, which adds extra body! I don’t read magazines or follow fashion AT ALL – I have the same look (jeans and plaid shirt) now that I had in the early 90s. As for bras – I can’t stand them! You’re very beautiful, Evie – I doubt you’ll ever age – just grow wiser and more comfortable in your own skin! Here’s to ageing gracefully! x
June!! You know, I didn’t realise how important it was to have support from other women till I read your comment and it made me feel like everything would work out alright in the end, grey or not 😀 I think you’re right to just ignore the beauty industry and I love the idea of having grey bangs – in fact I remember a stylist on Irish TV who had a sweep of grey hair and it looked so cool. Maybe I’ll try something like that. And holy God we need to come up with some alternative for bras, like seriously, could they be more uncomfortable? You know, if the writing doesn’t work out, I can see a future for us in the anti-fashion business! But seriously, thanks for your lovely words that every woman deserves to hear and right back atcha, because we are all beautiful x Now I have to play this… and hang on, is her hair grey??? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAfyFTzZDMM
Woohoo for beautiful grey-haired women! 😀
David Bowie got it right! Despite the grey hair, lost hair, and gained weight, I feel like I’m more the person I’m supposed to be than I ever did when I was younger and less sure of myself.
Isn’t that fantastic?! It’s all a process of becoming 🙂
Love this post Evie! I’ve got grey hairs too but don’t dye them because I can’t be bothered with the faff and the expense. That’s not to say I’ve embraced it, just that I choose to ignore it. I wish I felt the same way about about leg hairs!! 😀
Oh thanks Nicki! This has been an issue over the last few months, so I thought I’d see how my girls were handling it 😀 I totally agree, it’s all the faffing that’s getting to me too. I just want to find a low-maintenance way to deal with these things. Like men! They don’t have to shave legs or armpits or wear make-up, unless they choose to of course. And I guess that’s the crux of it – I want the choice to not bother my arse!
I’m another who began greying in my teens. I couldn’t be bothered to dye it, in part because I was always too busy with other things, and also because I remembered the frightening appearance of my elderly first-grade teacher, who was apple-head-doll wrinkled, but who dyed her hair blue-black (and wore pale face powder and scarlet lipstick, to boot!). I think that dark hair surrounding the face of a woman who has begun to show her age just makes her look haggard, and that Mother Nature gave us grey hair to help soften the facial effects of aging.
Because I began to grey early, I hoped it would change fast, but unfortunately, it took until my 50s to get to salt-and-pepper, and then another ten years to get to where it is now (I’d estimate about 99% grey). Mine is the metallic shade, not the white variety, and I wear it very, very short (clipped to 1/2 inch every 3 or 4 months). That’s the style I adopted after cancer chemo, which spoiled me because baldness is so easy to take care of! When the hair first grew back, it looked like a shining silver helmet, and I loved the look. I keep just enough hair on my head to prevent my scalp from getting sunburnt, and if it’s draughty, I can always wear a stylish hat or headscarf.
So I guess I’m one of those militant greysters: Youthful hair shades? They’re “so yesterday.” 😀
Thanks so much for sharing your story Christine 🙂 Your hair sounds amazing and I hear what you’re saying, it would be so much easier if it went grey altogether rather than those awkward years of growing it out. I guess I’m at the start of my journey as I only have a couple of patches, but it’s great to talk to other women and find out what they do. While I might not be embracing grey, I don’t want to hide it either (like your poor teacher!) and I hate the thought of having to dye my hair forever. I also like the idea of becoming a militant greyster 😀 And I think the more women who rock grey hair, the less of a big deal it will be for the next generation.
Pingback: Links I’ve Enjoyed This Week – 02/06/19 – Secret Library Book Blog
I’m in month three of my transition, and it’s also my third go at it. This time it’s real. I’m seeing it everywhere now too, and I predict that in the future, women who dye will be in the minority.
Hurray! Yes, I’d imagine it takes a few goes because it just won’t cooperate and go grey all at once 😉 I’ll be camouflaging for a while yet because I only have a couple of patches, but of course they’re smack bang at the front of my hair. But the good thing is, I’m no longer worried about going grey and as you say, I think that’s because it’s becoming more normalised and mainstream.