Wednesday 22 November 2017


We women love our role models -- why else do we collectively spend so much money on glossy magazines other than to pore over possibilities of our future selves? Not quite as much money as we spend in hair salons, of course, but then the latter has the advantage of being full of free copies of the former, along with the seductive promise of realising our heady aspirations.

For years I had little time for either, which was handy in terms of freeing up money for other pursuits such as holidaying and partying and buying shoes and the likes. My hairdresser friend would trim the gruaig over a catch up, and if we did discuss our holidays we were both genuinely interested. And as for the role models? I found them elsewhere.

For most women that first grey hair is a potent symbol: a coarse, kinky, pigmentationally challenged capsule of all sorts of unspoken fears which we've been carrying around in those little invisible knapsacks we keep handy for storing up all sorts of one-size-fits-all baggage.

You know the kind of thing. That we won't be young and dewy forever. That we do all turn into our mothers. That there will come a day when we actually miss turning heads at roadworks. That this signals the beginning of the end, the slow drip of our vitality, our lifeforce, our very mojo. And that when that goes, we will be left drained, tired, spent and invisible. That we're going to grow old, lonely and unloved, and then we'll die, just like our dreams of all we could be died around the time we plucked our first white hair.

Like most unspoken fears, the torrent of neuroses unleashed by the sight of that crinkly washed-out hair are largely unfounded. Well, okay, it's true we'll all get old and die. But the fact of the matter is that having grey hair doesn't make you old. Time and age do that all by themselves. And dying your hair won't arrest the inevitable process.

But does having grey hair make you feel old? It's a subtly different question, and one that involves an element of personal choice. I don't just mean choosing not to let it make you feel old, although that's one possible response; but so also is choosing what to do about it if those early grey hairs manage to make you feel less than fabulous.

I found my first one when I was 16. To my good luck, there happened to be at that time a very sassy looking woman who would get off the Dart at my stop.

She was fascinating, with shapely legs, a sharp dress sense and spritely pace that didn't tee up with the colour of her free-flowing mane.


She looked to be somewhere in her early 30s, and yet her hair was a pale, pale grey, just off pure white. And do you know what? She looked great.

When I noticed my first grey hair, it did not strike the fear of God into my 16-year-old soul. It didn't make me think I might be turning into my (albeit ever-elegant) grandmother. It didn't make me feel old. Instead, I hoped that I would go fully grey young enough to look as fabulous as my sharp-dressed role model.

For years, I didn't dye my hair -- to the horror of the odd gay friend. The only other comments I got made me feel great.

Random men and women would stop me on the dance floor to ask if that was my natural hair colour, and to commend me on wearing it so.

Then my hairdresser suggested it was time for a change, and because she was my friend, and because I was about to jack in my job and was ready for change, I took the plunge.

The truth was that I was looking tired, that the grey was draining my face in a way it hadn't done before, that I needed to find my mojo again.

After a good 20 years of proudly sporting greying locks, I discovered the fun to be had with choosing what colour to sport. That my new style of hair was not dissimilar to the two-tone style of Imelda May and Caitlin Moran was more good luck on my part. If I was looking for new role models, either would do a fine job.

The change made me feel great, and reminded me every morning of the bigger changes I was capable of.

Beauty and natural hair colour might be a matter of biological fortune, along with dress size, chin volume, proportion of ankles to calves and the likes. But sassiness is a state of mind.

As the fabulous George Eliot once said, it is never too late to be what you might have been -- even if that's a young-at-heart grey-haired sharp-dresser.

It's never too late to find your mojo. Just remember that it can be found in all sorts of unexpected places, from a dancefloor or a Dart ride to bucking expectations or embracing a bottle of hair dye.

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