I am a redhead! I have always been admired for my hair. It was long and thick and a beautiful auburn colour when I was growing up. People always remarked on its lustre and colour. It was like a mane and I could do anything with it. I felt very lucky.
I am now 50 and my hair is grey. It happened very quickly. I blame the divorce! I tried for a few years to cover up the progression with henna home jobs, non-permanent rinses and finally the last resort of permanent dye and streaks at the hairdresser. It was an expensive exercise and when it got to the point that my eyebrows needed touching up also, I quit!
I have always worried about the chemicals in hair dye but that is not the reason I stopped dyeing my hair. I stopped dyeing my hair because I wanted my hair to reflect my face. I have a 50 year old face. It’s OK! I like it! I would even go so far as to say, I love it! My life’s experiences are written on my face; my anglo heritage, the sunburn and blisters from summer holidays as a child, the partying of my 20’s, the burning-the-candle-at-both-ends of my 30’s, the sheer exhaustion of older motherhood in my 40’s and my general lack of interest in skin care.
That is who I am.
Recently, my 9 year old son mentioned that two kids at school thought I was his grandmother and this got me thinking about why they would think that. Yes! I could be his grandmother, but I am not.
It isn’t the first time that people have thought I am my son’s grandparent. I was almost 41 when I had him. The first few times it happened I was incensed! How could they?!! Do I really look that old??!! I had a crisis of confidence and really had to push myself to stop feeling depressed about it.
Last week I went on holiday to Brisbane with my son, Henry. He wanted to go to a theme park and I wanted to go to Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. We did a few attractions in and around Brisbane catching public transport to get around. It was a lovely break, but I was asked if I had a senior concession four times!
I dress in a contemporary fashion, though I am not specifically a fashion follower. I am an energetic happy confident 50 year old woman with a good attitude.
So why? Why am I perceived, to people who don’t know me, to be older than my years? I put it down to my choice of hair colour. It is the ingrained public perception that grey hair means old and unfortunately it is seemingly less acceptable for women. We almost become invisible.
Advertisers and media promote youth is beautiful with lustrous hair, flawless skin and lithe boyish bodies, when in reality it is all Photoshop trickery. I am a professional photographer I do not believe any of it. I know the capabilities of what a photo-retoucher can do and don’t succumb to the beauty rhetoric of women’s magazines.
Is it the same for men, I wonder? I somehow doubt it. Men look distinguished, I hear.
Lastly, it is intriguing fact that since being grey the only people who have questioned my decision not to dye my hair have been women. Are we so brain-washed to think that we must do it, to feel beautiful? Beauty I am told comes from within! Why do we do this to ourselves?
If you want to dye your hair, please go ahead. I am certainly not going to judge you at all.
I felt liberated when I cut my hair short to get rid of the colour and have not regretted it one moment. However, I am yet to come up with an answer when someone asks me if I am my Henry’s grandmother, but when I do it’ll be said with grace, even though my inner redhead will want to jump down their throats!