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Shades of grey

“Actually mum we prefer your hair the way it used to be.”  No, this wasn’t in response to a perm gone wrong or a ropey cut; this was about me having grey hair.

I’ve been working in  PR for decades, so I know how important image is and I also understand and empathise with the pressures some women feel to look younger to hang on to their jobs, their men even.   Apart from staying trim, dressing well and having a great cut, most women have been disguising their hair colour for decades.  And I was one of them.  In fact for many of those years, I didn’t know what my true hair colour was, but I knew that one day I’d have to face being grey and was dreading it.  Well, getting breast cancer and having chemotherapy meant my decision to embrace the grey was sort of forced on me.  I lost my hair and, when it started to grow again, steel grey in places, white in others, I decided NOT to reach for the hair dye.  As much as I wanted to go back to the security of Medium Golden Brown (with-caramel-highlights), I thought I should take advantage of my situation and turn a potentially ageing hairstyle into a short, funky look.

As I was getting used to the close crop and the new colour, which I thought looked good on me (despite the double-takes and instinctive kerb falling reactions from friends and acquaintances), my teenage kids admitted that they preferred my hair colour the way it used to be, and perhaps I’d think about growing the hair a little longer too.  Were they concerned that their friends might think I looked like a granny?  Yes.  Did they think I looked a lot older?  Yes to that too.   Then my sister took me to one side and said that someone at the school fete thought I was her mother and my children’s grandmother.  All this could have made me fall off the wagon completely, but I held my nerve until I could get a more objective view.  I confided in a friend who, sadly, agreed with the kids.  Being grey was just plain ageing.  To top it all I saw a picture of Jane Fonda at 72 looking fabulous, with the style and hair colour I used to have.  To say I was depressed would be an understatement.

My confidence knocked, I started studying grey-haired women in their 70s and 80s and wondered if that’s how I looked; I even stopped doing SuDoku in public as if that might mark me out as being older than my years.  Then I felt angry that the colour of my hair should become such an issue.  I’ve always been used to people enjoying my company and taking my advice because of what was going on inside my head, not on it.  Clearly grey was more than just a colour, it was a sort of litmus paper that indicated I was, in some way, ‘past it’.

Now I wear my greyness like a badge of pride.  I hope, despite the views of my nearest and dearest, that I’m making it a little easier for other women to follow my lead.  Until they do though, I shall enjoy making an entrance and cutting a dash wherever I go, because, believe it or not, my greyness is making a statement and I’m enjoying it.


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Edward Young