‘Does anyone else really care if your roots aren’t done?’
That was what my husband said to me the other day. I had to have a new photo taken for my publisher. She needed one of those author photos, pronto, for the back of my new book. ‘But I haven’t had my hair done for months’, I protested. ‘I’ve got that skunk thing happening on the top of my head, and the greys are all growing around my temples!’
‘Stop being so vain!’ M chided me as he whipped out our digital camera – although I had a sneaking suspicion that he just didn’t want me to spend any more money at the hairdressers. ‘Just give me a big cheesy smile and I bet you a hundred to one, no one will even notice your hair!’
Well, maybe he’s right, I thought, as M took a close-up shot of my head. Maybe I am being vain about my hair and maybe, for the sake of the sisterhood, it’s time to take one for the team. After all, I don’t believe that we all have to be perfect. I’m a real person. I’m forty-two years old. I wear reading glasses, I have three kids, I’m slightly overweight, and according to my latest Oprah mag, I have ‘cankles’ where my ankles should be.
But I also have a big confession to make. For all that I value authenticity, I am a bit precious about my hair. I’ve been dying it since I turned thirty because that’s when they began to appear. They being the grey hairs – which are actually white hairs – as my hairdresser once calmly informed me, each one produced when the pigment cells in that hair follicle irreversibly shut down.
The greying process can begin surprisingly early. It’s not unheard of to go grey in your twenties, or even earlier. But, apparently, there’s no going back once the greys start to come in. Then, the only feasible solution is a bottle of hair colour.
Not that I have a problem with looking like a grandmother – when I am a grandmother, which I’m not! It’s only that all those grey hairs keep reminding me that I’m straddling the bridge between youth and old age.
M says I’m just not brave enough to challenge the dominant youth obsessed culture. And, in a way, I know he’s right. Because it’s true, isn’t it? We live in a society that sidelines women who actually seem to look their age. Why else would we have a burgeoning cosmetic surgery industry in Australia? Why else would regular Botox injections be as acceptable to the women of our generation as the jars of Pond’s cold cream were to the women in the generations before? It’s all to do with the ageism inherent in our society, which brings me back, in a roundabout way, to colouring my hair…