As my regular readers will know I am currently 'trapped' in a watershed, I can't make my mind up about anything, except, with absolute determination, I am not going to dye my hair anymore! On that I am absolutely resolute, and I have now said it publicly, yikes.
I have always spent an inordinate amount of time and money on my hair and, despite my sins, it remains as tough as old boots and still does pretty much what I tell it to. And it has been through much, from the time I dyed it black as a teenager and spent an entire day in the hairdressers having the colour stripped out. Black hair and freckles, really not a good a look. I spent the next year buying highly priced specialist shampoo from an alchemist shop in Covent Garden to soften the strawlike texture.
Then there was the time I decided to go blonde and another full day in a hairdressers chair. Fortunately the damage was not as great as the first time around, but the result was still more brassy yellow than ash blonde. But the ending was a happy one, over time with regular cuts and highlights added, it became divine. Almost too immaculate, I was teaching at the time and one of my students asked if she could touch my hair, and was it real.
Then there was the world's worst haircut. I had at the time found a wonderful hairdresser close to where I worked, she cut my hair exactly as I asked her to. My confidence in her reached such an extent that I allowed her free rein. Ok, the world's worst haircut began with the world's worst decision, and I recall it here as a word of warning, never, ever, let anyone with scissors do what they want! The horror dawned on me when she asked if she could shave one side of my head. I then looked more closely at her own man like haircut and stature, and thought oh feck, she's going to turn me into a punk rocker (it was the 80s') and I had to go back to office!
The haircut was awful. There was absolutely nothing I could do with it to make it look feminine. It reminded me of a time in childhood when my brother cut a clump of hair off the top of my head. Nothing could be done, I had a 'tuft' thereafter. People who knew me didn't know what to say, people who loved me said it will grow out. Even now, I shed a tear as I recall those miserable months with terrible hair. Sadly, I am shallow enough to equate bad hair with misery and good hair with happiness. Bad hair days are accompanied by 'I can't go out looking like this' and 'I don't want anyone to see me'. Neglecting my hair and letting my grey roots show is my first obvious sign of depression. From photographs taken over the course of a lifetime, I can tell, simply from the hairstyles whether I was 'up' or 'down' at the time. When I lost my dear old Dad, my hair grew to waist length, I just couldn't bear the thought of going to the hairdressers because I always used to go show him my new 'do'.
But returning to the grey. For the past few years dying my hair had become an unpleasant chore. And it was becoming more and more frequent. Within days the grey around my hairline would reappear, and within a week, the white line down the middle would become obvious. I have reached that stage of the battle where it really is time to surrender. I colour my roots with light brown or dark blonde, but regardless my hair is dark brown and shades thereof, due to the layers upon layers of dye it has had over the years. There will be no subtle difference between the badger line and the dyed hair!
I am now at the two month stage, or thereabouts, I didn't record the exact date, but it was shortly after a haircut where my hairdresser recommended that I embrace the grey, it's currently very fashionable! I began mulling the idea over from then on. Actually, I did more than mull, I began to watch every 'going grey (or gray in USA)' video on YouTube. I was looking for a quick, easy way to transform. The 'day in a hairdresser's chair' is an option, but it involves continued dying and upkeep, something I permanently want to ditch. I feel as though my hair has kept me hostage to boxes of dye and hairdressers for more decades than I care to remember. And that includes my fringe - I have no option but to have my hair cut regularly because my own efforts at fringe cutting would make a good comedy montage.
Saying 'feck you fringe' has been one of the most liberating moments in this process. I have been teasing it up and back, going with the cow's lick I have fought all my life, so I have a wonderful half platinum, half brown quiff where the fringe used to be. I am actually pushing all my hair back so my white hairline is exposed. I have gone from hating it, to loving it, and wishing it would grow faster. I am examining it each day with a microscopic mirror to see what colours are coming through. It seems to be predominantly white, as expected, I'm almost 62, but I am thrilled with that. Nature is taking that extra platinum step, that I was too much of a wuss to take! I'm finally going to get that Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe look, I have always secretly craved, albeit it's going to take about a year and half!
People and I include myself, often equate being grey, or white, with images of cauliflower perms or abandoned tresses. The badger line gives an unkempt, too busy or too depressed, to care look. Wise women understand that they can do just as much with their grey/white hair, as they can with dyed hair, and then some! I am quite liking the stark white 'Morticia' streaks and am looking at the purple and blue shampoos - Mrs Slocombe eat your heart out!
I have watched many videos of women who have kindly and thoughtfully, shared their going grey journeys on YouTube. They all share a kick-ass confidence that I have found inspiring. From a feminist perspective, they stand alongside their male peers, in saying 'yeah I'm going grey, so what?'. There is nothing I admire about Theresa May, except perhaps she didn't appear to hit the bottle (dye). Ms. May was part of that small demographic of academic and wizened women who have never bothered with such trivialities as plucking their eyebrows or painting their toenails. Admirable for their confidence, they achieve their ambitions au naturale. Sadly, having discovered at a young age, all the fun things I could do with my hair and face, I was never going to go down that route, so my transition will be slow and painful.
Funnily, reaching that level of acceptance has alleviated much of the pain. So too, has simply stating, 'I'm letting the grey grow out'. It has, psychologically at least, taken a load off. I don't want to be carted off to the psychiatrist again. I jest. But seriously, people do seem to be staring at me more than before. Being a nut, it's hard to know if it is part of the paranoia, or maybe it's just because I am staring at them, especially those who have embraced the grey, are thinking about embracing the grey, or those determined to dye until the end.
But I'm not quite as confident as I may now appear. I have to confess, I dived into charity shop one day last week and bought a sun hat. True, it was sweltering hot and sunny, but it was the glimpses of my sweaty, white/brown head in the shop windows that sent me running for cover. Unfortunately, it didn't fit my fat head (I think it was child size) so I had to re-donate it elsewhere. I have now invested in a variety of headbands. Not to hide the grey but to enhance it, I push the dyed hair back to let the grey show, using the hairband to create a white pompadour quiff, 1940's style. Voila! I am surprised at my own boldness - I have hidden behind a fringe for my entire adult life. It started off as hiding perceived wrinkles (age 16), and remained as a shackle from then on. For some reason I saw pushing my hair back off my face as too open or too vulnerable, as though I were revealing my flaws to my enemies.
Now the simple act of pushing back my once fringe to expose the white, gives me a feeling of empowerment. It kind of says 'yeah, this is the new me, and I like it!', lol, maybe not quite so aggressively.
Should I give in to the grey? is a question we all ask ourselves, men as well as women. And it is a question most of can't avoid, because colouring, hiding and masking is the norm, opting out and choosing to be grey, is the exception. It is a life altering decision, fundamentally it is making the transition from middle to old age. We can, with our dyed hair, cling onto our middle age status ad infinitum, especially if we chuck in botox and surgery, but the fixings are cosmetic, they can quickly be washed away in a shower of rain or a hot flush. We get to a point where we are fooling no-one. I should perhaps make that realisation more specific to myself, in that I have reached that point, where even I, very brutally I might add, am asking myself, who am I trying to kid?
Ps. It is two months (or thereabouts) since I wrote the above, and I have caved! Red faced, shamed emoji! Or at least I am on the way to caving, hair appointment booked for Wednesday, lol. Unfortunately, my retro 40's, headscarves and headbands do not make me look like Lana Turner, they make me look like Mrs Bush, the elder. The stark contrast between the dark, dark, brown of my growing out dyed hair against the bright white of the incoming roots is ghastly, it looks like an intertwining of Elaine Paige singing Memory (in full costume) and Phoebe's Smelly Cat. A kind vet would put me out of my misery.
I am going to have most of it cut off! Yikes! What's left will be bleached mercilessly and toned to match my natural Platinum (I have to pinch myself when I say that, I could not be more excited!). I have tried blonde before (and loved it) but I have never gone full 'white white'. I am not expecting the full 'Jean Harlow' at the first attempt, but I feel I am within touching distance.
I will shortly catch up with the latest pics. Apparently I did not ditch the dye in April, just after my last haircut, my last haircut was in March, so I am a good 5 months in. This is the stage where most transitionees cave! Either, a pixie cut, highlights and lowlights, or as I am doing, bleaching the colour out. I have nothing but admiration for those who choose 'cold turkey', and I gave it a good try, but whilst browsing at grey wigs, I realised it would be a lot cheaper to blend (with bleach or whatever) what I have with the 'incoming' than going all 'Beyonce' for the next year.
Anyway, I hope the 'video' works, my knowledge of technology remains abysmal. Apologies for getting away from the McCanns and politics and devoting an entire blog to something so trivial as going grey. My lifetime's saving from total insanity, has been my ability to be so easily distracted. Brexit blah! Maniac Trump blah! the end of the world, blah! My incoming grey hair, stop the press, hold the front page, feck, I have lost forever, the attractive, formidable, young(ish) woman I once was. With white hair I am officially old. Hey you, go join the 'grey' vote over there. I don't feel relevant any more. I am part of the past, not part of the future. It feels so weird, because, it literally feels like yesterday when the Beatles were singing 'Yesterday'.
But I will end on a happy and tad drunken note (I am drinking pink gin). Ditching the dye has been ffffing hard, my hair has always been my crowning glory. It is the one thing in my life that I have never scrimped on. It came above groceries and mortgage is all you need to know. Every woman, and maybe even many men, know how great it feels to walk out of a hairdressers with a stylish new 'do'. My dear old Dad, bless him, would always reach in his pocket and say, go get your hair done, to bring me out of a depression. He was ahead of his time
My anthem, if I have one, is, I get knocked down, and I get up again. And nothing helps me get up again like a new 'Do'. Watch this space! I feel forever blessed that I have readers who have stayed with me, even during this 'tumultuous watershed' where I don't know where I am going. I am kind of hoping that my new look (whatever it might be) will take me into a new 'wise old woman' stage. I won't be expected to look cute and gorgeous, but I will anyway, (I'm going to be such a bitch when I am a platinum blonde lol). I think I am going to push the boundaries I would never dared when I actually was young and gorgeous, lol. Jeez I would so much love to have a convo with my 16 year old self. I'll have to make up for it by having a convo with 16 year olds everywhere, especially those who are my blood relations.
But please, stay tuned. I have, after much pontification (is there such a word? I'll risk it anyway, lol), decided to share my going grey journey, with you with my much appreciated readers. I have done, nothing much at all lately, but bless you, you have stayed with me. When I started my blog I vowed to continue even if I had only one reader. I just love writing and I feel immensely privileged that there are other people who want to read my scribblings.
I don't know what the feelings of my readership is towards me, I'm going 50/50 love hate. I'm being optimistic here. My postbox suggests maybe, 30/70 hate. The 70 being mostly Dave, who is outraged by everything I say. Z, by the way is the outraged 60+ former alpha male here, who still thinks he can put me in his 'little woman' place. If I were a 'She Wolf' from the days of Olde, I would slay him!
But chuckles. I am a little bit drunk now so going off to listen to 'Honky Tonk Angels' and Elvis being so lonesome he could cry.
And that is a major ouch for a self confessed narcissist. Oh Lord, the gift yea gi us, to see ourselves as others see us, as Robbie Burns once said - or thereabouts. I'm pretty sure he wasn't referring to the difference between the gorgeous young thing I see in my dressing table mirror and the rather odd, aged looking woman I see in the selfies and pictures I take, but his words are strangely applicable. I fear the camera is more accurate than my own lying eyes! It reminds me of an incident not so long when I caught sight of myself in my son's wing mirror. 'Good heavens', said I, 'I'm not half as good looking as I thought I was'. 'Finally!' said SAS (Smart Arse Son), implying he had been trying to tell me that for years. Fortunately, I found it amusing, like the time he told me my body dysmorphia was quite justified.
On the home front, my rebellious decision to embrace the grey has not gone down well. Those who know and love me (a very small circle) are finding it harder to accept than I. They fear I will no longer be the person they know, right now I'm more mumsy than nanny-ish, I'm not ready (they say, bless 'em) to move into the nan group, to settle among the placid, cauliflower permed knitters of breakfast cereals. I'm not sure that patronising advert represents any nanas these days, most are just as vibrant and fashionable as their offspring and are just as likely to have long, well-kempt, flowing locks. The long hair grey hair transitions I have watched, have been spectacular, true they too have to go through the awful ugly duckling stage longer than those who cut it all off, but their incoming grey adds unique highlights to the styling of their hair.
Among many of the grey videos, were women who gave in to the urge to have all their dyed hair cut off pixie style. Pixie style is another option for the impatient, but a drastic step and a horrific way to discover short hair just doesn't suit you (see tragic tale above). There is nothing to hide behind. Unless you have the exquisite features of Audrey Hepburn or Mia Farrow, I would say avoid.
I find actually, that I have a new admiration for those women who embrace the grey, whatever route (no pun intended) they take. Each must have gone through the transformation one way or another, through highlights, or cold turkey and their patience has paid off. One of most exciting parts of the journey, is not knowing what colour you will end up with. I'm not religious, but I do believe in nature. It has far more sophisticated colour palettes than L'Oreal, I look forward to seeing what it throws at me.
Going grey really is a case of 'mind over matter'. On the one hand we can see it as a permanent enemy at the gate that we have to go to war with every two weeks ad infinitum, filling in the holes with spray paint and polyfiller or we give in to the biblical glorious crown. The bible holds grey haired folk in high regard, one of the few things I agree with. It is strange how one day you can look at some things, the dreaded badger line, with sheer terror and shame, and another day, you can see it as a symbol of empowerment.
The truth is we are all acutely and unrealistically thinking that others are scrutinizing us with a magnifying glass. This is entirely in our heads, even in the heads of those we consider sane. It makes us painfully self conscious, paranoid, even though we have no need to be. Most people think about themselves 99% of the time. Unless you have gone out in your pyjamas, or if male, are walking around with your fly undone, everyone you encounter will instantly forget you. It is not even a memory to forget, you simply didn't register. Whilst we may think the whole world is watching us and looking out for any flaw, they're really not. When the grey kicks in, they will treat you as an old person, that is, exactly the same way as they did before. See 'you're fooling no-one' above.
Ps. For anyone still here, apologies, I'm trying to cut/delete a former blog that was abandoned, but seem to be lacking the cognitive abilities, hic, oops, sorry!