beauty

'From "exhausting and expensive" to empowering: Why I'm finally embracing my grey hair.'

When I was around 20, I caught little glistens of grey flecked through my hair in the car rear vision mirror.

It made me think back to a family holiday when I was around seven or eight years old. Passers-by remarked to my parents, “It’s so nice of you to look after your three grandchildren.” Mum and Dad both laughed it off. It was the best that they could do.

The thing was, they did not look old. It’s not uncommon to go grey, but it astounds me how rude people can be about a few silver hairs.

When my father was in his 20s people used to tell him, “You’re going grey, you know?”

going grey father daughter
Sinead with her Dad. Image: Supplied.

The audacity of this is astounding - like grey hair is just good conversation fodder. It seems to me like an invasion of decent courtesy, these insensitive personal comments shared without warning.

Of course, when the greys first begin to sprout, we notice. It is change and it's a one-way trajectory. As a young person, you think on it and about it.

I look at my older brother, his black hair peppered with grey, his handsome face, his kind eyes. It suits him; it is part of him. I swell with pride.

People make remarks of his grey hair and I feel a lion within me beginning to roar. Don’t tarnish his beauty, I think. Do not make him feel lesser, or different, for being who he was made to be. Others admire him and instead remark on his charm and sophistication.

For women, it’s harder in a different way. We're sculpted by the marketing monster, enforcing that we buy to maintain: skin, hair, hair-free, high bust, perky bottom, lean but not too lean, curvaceous but not in the wrong places.

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It’s exhausting. And expensive.

My grey cloud approached one morning in the middle of the year. Wisps of the sun fell through the side office window and any contentment I had was quickly dashed as a colleague hollered in my face: “Oh my god! You have grey hair! Did you know?” I paused and said...nothing. I was flattened. My self-esteem took a whack.

Now six months have passed, and we have grown to know each other in different lights. Long hours spent side-by-side will do that. Layers have been shed.

She has endured hardships in that time. Her dark mane of hair is now littered with white long strands and they continue to gather like flowers in spring, bursting up along her hairline and around her face. All I see is beauty.

I have known grey hair since I was a little girl; it was a part of the people I loved the most. They were not bothered about what the outside world thought too much, because their love was so strong.

Real love loves imperfections and authenticity. It loves the nuances that the outside world might deem to be flaws.

I look at my mum outside, reading the papers on the back verandah, her hair glimmering in the morning light. She rocks a silver-grey pixie cut. I am grateful for her beauty and for her passing down her "I am who I am" philosophy.

going-grey
Sinead, pictured with her mother. Image: Supplied.

My partner puts an arm around my shoulder as I tell him I have discovered yet more grey hairs. It is always in the bright light of the car as I am hurrying somewhere, dashing my confidence, fearful that someone will make a remark.

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He always kindly says, “Where? I can’t see them. Grey hair is cool anyway. Sophisticated.”

The thing is, I have known death and suffering and these grey hairs don’t come close. The grey hairs are a sign of living. We need to do away with the trepidation about ageing and appearance. It’s not worth it.

Recently, Missy Higgins wrote an encouraging message about her greys on Instagram.

“Inspired by some beautiful friends of mine I’ve decided to let my natural grey hairs run wild and free," the musician wrote.

"I’ve been going grey since my mid-twenties and it’s become tiring, expensive and counter-productive trying to hide them with dye every six weeks.

"I also think they look beautiful. And perhaps this is a step closer to loving myself for who I am?"

I believe that being unique and attuned with your own sense of style is empowering and beautiful.

Every time I get a grey hair I think of my dad and all I have inherited from him. The grey hair reminds me of his gorgeous cloud of hair, his halo in a crowd that allowed me to find him, to find safety and familiarity. I wear it with quiet pride.

To quote Missy, every silver strand tells a story.

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