“When you get to 50,” my mother said, “you won’t care what people think of you.” At the time I thought that her words came from a place of having given up, not caring. But now I know that they were said from a place of strength.
Our fifties are a time of reflection and introspection. We find strength in ourselves as women. We observe the world from a place of wisdom. Years ago, people valued this feminine wisdom, until being eternally young and beautiful took its place. However, today women are standing proud and speaking out, voicing their opinions and their truths, unashamed to be who they are.
Perhaps for this reason we are beginning to see more women going grey gracefully (as people say).
In June 2018 I decided to let my hair go grey. I had been toying with the idea for a while as I had noticed that the time between dyes was becoming shorter and shorter, until only two weeks after my last dye I noticed the telltale white line begin to peek through my hair. The contrast was horrendous. I had been dying it since my first grey hairs appeared so I no longer even remembered what my true colour was. I had been going lighter and lighter in an effort to disguise this telltale regrowth, but all of a sudden it was no longer enough.
I’d read a book about going grey the previous year but hadn’t plucked up the courage to take the plunge. But one day I decided that it was now or never – I would take advantage of the fact that I was working from home and just go cold turkey.
I then searched online and looked at before and after photos of people who had gone through the process. Those with dark hair had the hardest job but people’s bravery made me determined to succeed. If they can do it, so can I, I thought.
“Oh, no, you’re going to look so old!” said my mother. My sister said that I would look like the eccentric writer that I am. I gritted my teeth and ploughed on regardless, ignoring the voices of self doubt that crept into my mind.
It was a hard but ultimately rewarding experience.
To begin with my hair looked as if I had just given up and wasn’t bothering to go to the hairdresser. I noticed a few glances at my hairline, but nobody said anything and nobody bought me a packet of dye. As it grew out a bit more it became more obvious what I was doing. For a Christmas meal I sprayed some L’Oreal colour on the silver skull cap of hair that I now had and prayed that it wouldn’t rain.
My hair looked a mess. However, when the growth reached a certain point I was able to tie it back into a pony tail which disguised it. Then I got to the stage where I had a salt and pepper top part and blond pony tail. At this point I curled the pony tail into a bun so it didn’t look so obvious.
It was a character building experience. Instead of walking around town wondering what people would think of me, I learned to stand taller, shoulders back. It was almost as if I was challenging anyone to say anything. Nobody did. Perhaps I looked too scary.
My hair was growing longer and reached shoulder length. My hairdresser told me that I would look better with shorter hair and the transition would be quicker, but I resisted.
Then, finally, in January of this year I’d had enough of the pony tail and hair dragging on my shoulders. I knew that if I cut my hair shorted all the straw coloured brittle hair would be gone. So I looked on Pinterest for a suitable style and booked an appointment with my hairdresser, Monique. I told her that I wanted a style that I could just dry and go.
She listened carefully and nodded., then set to work. It was quite dramatic. Classical music was playing as Monique chopped and chopped. Hair was flying everywhere and there was an unnerving amount on the floor. But instead of feeling scared I felt liberated – finally my hair would be my own after all these years.
I was so pleased with the result. I hadn’t had my hair so short for years. I asked her how to style it properly and she explained how in her wonderful French accent.
My journey was complete.
Since then I haven’t looked back. I wash my hair, towel dry it and finish it with the hairdryer. It’s the first time that my hair has ever looked so neat, every day. And above all I don’t have to worry about the colour. My hair is softer, thicker and more manageable.
This was my experience of going grey, not so gracefully. It’s not for everyone, but I’m glad I’ve done it.
Do I look older? Probably. Do I feel older? On the contrary.