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Featured Stories Self-Identity and Image Stories About Women

It’s only hair

Harri150 March 14, 2020
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My first grey hair appeared in 1982, when I was 20 years old. It was my boyfriend Sean’s fault. I thought I loved him; he was tall, blonde, wore a scuffed-up leather jacket and had a motorbike. We both worked for an A-V production house in Birmingham and had made plans to leave and live in London where he’d been offered a new position as a sound engineer; more money, better hours – it was an easy decision, for him.

We’d argued the week before, after dinner at his parents’ house.  He was desperate for me to move to London with him, but wanted me to stay at home, sort the flat out, buy the food, cook the meals, get pregnant, be happy.  He wanted me to be his Mum.  I told him I wanted to get a job and at 20, I wasn’t ready to start a family.  He rang Deborah, his previous girlfriend and offered to take her instead.

He turned up the morning we were due to leave and left a note in my letterbox.  I heard the motorbike outside and ran to the window.  Deborah was riding pillion; leather trousers, matching jacket, her blonde hair peeking out from underneath her helmet.  They roared off down Harold Road, turned right onto Hagley Road, heading towards London.

I turned from the window to look in the mirror and there it was. My first grey hair. Not hiding away at the back or snuggled underneath its dark brown siblings, but long and straight and white and right at the front.  Shit, I thought, I might as well have gone to London. I look just like his mother.

It didn’t take long before that one grey hair was joined by many others.  It’s as if Mr Grey had gone on ahead like a cuckoo, scouting for a new place for his family to live and found the perfect location; clean and warm, nice neighbours.  Before I knew it, his family and friends turned up and the Greys took over.  And it’s been a battle ever since.

I worked out if I’d saved the amount of money I’ve spent on dying my hair over the past 30 years, I’d have a deposit for a small flat. And that got me thinking about finally…. letting   them   take   over.

I come from a long line of Scottish women all with very dark brown, almost black, thick hair. My three girls have long, dark brown, thick hair.  It’s in our genes.  When I suggested going grey, they were against it.

You won’t look like us anymore, they said. We won’t look like a family.  I’m not leaving you all, I thought.  I can always go back to being dark if it looks awful… it’s only my hair…

From the minute I’d made my decision all I saw wherever I went were women of all ages with stunning white grey hair.  50 shades of grey had become a fashion statement.  Young women in their late teens, early 20’s, were all reaching for the silver shampoo and they looked fantastic!  Easy I thought, if they can do it….

I was told I couldn’t just go grey; after years of dying my hair, layers and layers of colour had to be stripped back. This involved numerous trips to the hairdresser, 18 months’ worth. My hairdresser stayed strong throughout the process even when I wanted to give in and go back to my dark-haired roots.   It would have been quicker to have had my head shaved and start from scratch. I just didn’t fancy that.

So here I am. Grey from root to tip.  There are still a few blonde bits left over from the transformation process but most of my hair is now my natural colour.  How do I feel? Elated that I’m no longer a slave to L’Oreal. But also a little strange.  I look in the mirror and see someone else. I see my mother. I see my grandmother.  I thought I’d feel free, having wrenched off the shackles of constant hair attention, but I feel displaced, as if the DNA has been sucked out of each strand.

Perhaps I need a sharp, modern haircut.  Yes, perhaps I should spend a bit more money; to make myself feel better, younger, ‘worth it’…. or is it me that needs to change? Embrace my new look.  After all, for the first time in years I don’t need to worry about those tell-tale white lies that used to appear at my centre parting.

Perhaps I’ll go out and buy a scuffed-up leather jacket and ride pillion on the back of a motorbike and let my white hair fly behind me in the wind.

It’s only hair after all…..


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