Embracing the Grey
There is a saying ‘One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day’ but what about two swallows, especially if they are very famous and lots of fuss is made about their appearance?
I am talking about Jane Fonda and Sharon Osbourne who both debuted hair, which in Fonda’s case had gone from warm blonde to icy silver, and in Osbourne’s from henna red to pure white. Jane Fonda could not have chosen a more dramatically public outing for her fabulous new look. During the Oscars awards ceremony, Fonda presented the most highly regarded accolade of the evening: The Best Picture Prize, which was won by Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’. Literally millions of people around the world would have been watching and the 82 year old actress must have known that her new grey hairstyle would be much noticed and commented upon.
Why should this matter to you and I? Well, think about it. Hollywood is the epicentre of ageism. This is the one place on earth where growing older is not just unacceptable, but seen as optional as long as you have enough money to spend on ‘interventions’. This is true for both men and women, but George Clooney at 58 is allowed to look like a sexy craggy silver fox in a way that isn’t acceptable for a woman of his age, who is expected to look at least twenty or preferably thirty years younger if she’s to get any acting roles. At 82 Fonda is a beautiful woman (I refuse to say ‘still’ beautiful) but she would be the first to admit that her body and face is a work of art, thanks to skilful plastic surgery, rather than a work of nature. So, Fonda’s decision to spend 7 hours in a Hollywood salon whilst hairdresser Jack Martin skilfully turned her ‘three inches of salt and pepper natural roots and the tired warm blonde on the rest of her hair’ into a colour that is emblematic of old age, is a moment to savour.
Hair Is So Much More Than Dead Protein Sprouting From The Top of Our Heads!
I use the word ‘emblematic’ advisably. There is a brilliant and very funny scene in Phoebe Waller Bridge’s comedy series ‘Fleabag’ in which her sister has a truly awful haircut and colour. Fleabag is so horrified that she decides to drag her sister back to berate Antony, the hairdresser. Antony calmly shows Fleabag the photograph of the style her sister has requested and says: “Don’t blame me for your bad choices. Hair isn’t everything!’ To which Fleabag replies “HAIR IS EVERYTHING! I wish it wasn’t because we could think of something else sometimes. It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day. It’s a symbol of power, a symbol of fertility, some people are exploited for it and it pays your (expletive deleted) bills, Antony. HAIR IS EVERYTHING!”
I can totally identify with this as I am having some ‘bad hair days’ myself at the moment and am in a complete quandary about what to do. My problem is almost the reverse of Jane Fonda’s. I have always admired grey, white or silver hair on other people and have wanted it for myself for a long time. So, around ten years ago I started to have ashy, silvery highlights added to my mousey brown hair. I really loved the effect and for a long time all was well. Because it was highlights rather than a solid colour, I got away with visits to my hairdresser for a cut and colour every 8 - 10 weeks. It was expensive but at least it wasn't the weekly colour that Sharon Osbourne has apparently been submitting her own hair to. Gradually I could see that the top and back of my hair was turning a really nice grey, so I started having fewer and fewer highlights added at the front. The trouble was that the dyed hair was a different ashy grey colour to my natural grey and sometimes a few really ‘warm’ (actually reddish brown) strands would come through in the dying process, which I really hated. It was starting to look like a really weird mish-mash of real grey, dyed grey with the odd brown strand.
So, about six months ago I decided to stop all colouring and see what my natural hair would look like. I was really hoping that there’d be a fairly uniform overall natural grey. However, I have discovered that the hair which frames my face has relatively little grey in it and is a darkish pepper and salt, with considerably more pepper than salt. I’m used to having a light, bright silvery ash colour around my face and I am not sure that I like this darker stuff.
So, my quandary is the one faced by many women when they decide to ‘transition’ to their natural hair colour. Do I keep biting the bullet and adjust to the fact that this is how I am supposed to look, and it suits me just fine, or do I give in and go back to my hairdresser and ask for a few nice bright streaks at the front to brighten me up a bit. I honestly change my mind about ten times a day! I love the fact that I am saving loads of money on hairdressing bills and time wasted at the hairdresser, but I am having a hard time adjusting to this new look which, ironically, no longer feels like the real me.
I know that there are lots of women out there who are caught in a similar dilemma. There is very strong pressure in some cultures (Italy, the USA) for women to maintain the hair colour of their youth and there are plenty of husbands everywhere who gently persuade their wives that a soft blonde is less ageing than their natural grey. Like me perhaps you have got used to one look and, despite the hairdressing bills, you are worried that ditching the dye will be a big mistake. The best part of the Jane Fonda story for me was the fact that she was fully committed to the change. Hairdresser Jack Martin suggested that she try a wig first but she said no - she was ready to go the whole hog.
I truly believe that she has sent a powerful message to every older woman who would secretly like to embrace their own grey. If a famous, high profile 82 year old Hollywood icon can finally come out as a grey-haired woman in front of a worldwide audience of millions, then maybe we can all start to wear our own naturally grey hair, not as a badge of shame, but as a badge of age pride.
How about you? Have you ditched the dye and now glory in your grey locks, or will you ‘dye until you die’? Tell us the story of your own hair - after all - as Fleabag says HAIR IS EVERYTHING!’
Note: Following the hair concerns I wrote about in this blog, I decided to do what I do best and create my own range of products! See below for my line of volume boosting, nourishing haircare products for mature hair...