It’s Saturday afternoon, I have the flat to myself, and I’m sitting here at my kitchen table, with a coffee and my laptop for one of my monthly rituals. My hair is piled on top of my head and covered in chemical slime. If I move too quickly, the lot will come piling down and leave mud brown ooze tracers across my forehead. Yes, it’s the time to dye those grey roots and pretend to myself and the world that I’ve still got a full set of chestnut brown locks.
Other women, either with more disposable income (or different priorities) will perform this ritual in a salon, with the colouring performed by a professional, who will almost certainly not miss a bit. The hairdresser will undoubtedly NOT have started the process after a couple of glasses of wine of an evening, as I have done on occasion. And if your hairdresser does do this, change salons immediately. You’ve probably got a stripe at the back of your head that you won’t see until you’re in the three way mirror lift at work next week…
In an ideal world, I would be in the salon with them. I’m not one of those people that relish spending hours at the hairdresser, but I do enjoy it. If I had the cash, it would be worth it for the lack of mess alone. Rinsing the dye out is the worst. My shower head is fixed to the wall, so the only way to rinse is to lean in, hanging over the bath, filthy water spraying everywhere. By the time I’m done, it looks like the shower scene from Psycho. The thought of the after clean is one of the reasons I inevitably put it off by having a glass of wine first.
Sadly, with a monthly top up required, I just can’t afford it. A home kit costs about £5 whereas it’s about 10 times that in a salon. And although I do miss a bit now and again, I’ve been doing this for twenty years, so I do know roughly what I’m doing. I found my first grey hair aged 21, but when I was young, I mainly dyed my hair for fun and experimentation. It’s only in the last ten years it’s been all about the monthly root maintenance. A maintenance that has been causing the feminine and feminist inside me, to tussle away for the last year or so.
I expect you can imagine what the feminist might say. She would rail at the double standard that allows men, not only to be untroubled by grey hairs as they age, but be considered even more sexually attractive – the silver fox effect. Whereas his female counterparts, while they may still be considered ‘good for their age’, will generally be seen as older and less sexy. Famous older women that men still fancy, such as Helen Mirren, will have kept dyeing their hair into their 60s and 70s. They certainly didn’t have grey hair in their forties, although their handsome male lovers of the same age may have. And okay, men might have angst over receding hairlines and bald spots but it’s not the same. They still get considered attractive, without an age clause.
The feminist in me thinks ‘fuck this’. Why spend all this effort and time trying to push back the inevitable grey haired tide? It’s coming, and as the years creep by, you will need to do it more and more. I hate that inescapable examination of my roots in the lift at work, my concern over how big the ‘bird shit on the head’ effect is today. It has even led me to consider changing my hair colour to one of those ashy, blondey, browny, streaky colours that would hide the grey more. The irony is that it would probably require even more expensive maintenance at the hairdressers.
As a confirmed brunette (apart from henna type forays in my youth) I have never been blonde, or really desired to be, although I have always been curious about the allure for men. A while ago I lost any envy at this when I read an essay by Nora Ephron, about the effort involved in blonde hair maintenance. I was flabbergasted about the hours and money women spend to achieve that ‘natural’ tawny glow. NB I will use this moment as a shameless plug for Ephron’s essays. If you haven’t read them, do. They are funny, wise, witty and engaging. The one I read came from the collection (available for a song on the evil seller of books that I hate to plug) mentioned here. Despite this, I am probably a bit envious now of blondes, as I feel hiding or blending the grey will be easier, if no less traumatic for the women involved.
And the voice in my head that worries about white streaks and blending and so on, is the feminine voice. Yes, some may be surprised at this, but I do have one. One that might despair of the rules and try to change them as much as possible, but one who is well aware of them. And while it pisses me off that I feel I need to keep dyeing my grey hairs, it’s my own choice. I am not ready to go in the box that society has marked for silver haired women, even though I might admire those women from the sidelines.
For every woman it’s different, but for me, I suspect it’s a fifty plus transition. By then, I will hopefully be less preoccupied by sex, for of course, this is what this is predominantly about. Yes, there will be millions of grey haired people having sex all over the planet, some of them right now. However in my head, they are either male, or already coupled-up or married. You don’t get to see your own gender on Tinder so I don’t know for sure, but I’m betting there aren’t as many silver foxtresses to the pound as there are foxes.
Hair colour: it’s a feminist issue.
Until next time,