Wednesday, September 07, 2005

All those shades of grey

My hair is grey. I call it silver, to avoid the "old and grey" tag, but to a sensible person looking from the outside, it's grey. Why am I telling you this? Because it's more than hair colour, it's a whole Big Thing. (An "issue", just quietly. I hate that word.) Probably most people experience The Onset of Grey sometime in their lives, unless their hair goes the other way and falls out. Then you have to decide what to do. Should you colour it? Should you leave it? Should you - if you've lost it - replace it? It might not sound like a big deal, but for some of us it is.

The grey thing started when I was just a teenager, which seems (a) unfair, and (b) premature. At the time I planned to do nothing about it, which is still my first and favoured option in every situation. But then the grey got patchy, so I coloured it for the next few years. Then I got sick of the money and time and effort (and the very annoying conversations at the hairdresser's) and stopped again. Then came the year of growing out the previously-coloured-and-now-faded bits, which is not something I can recommend: you look like a fool, though I don't know the alternative, especially if you are a fool.

Now, years later, it's back to natural colour. And I actually like it most of the time. It makes me look weird, which is what I am, though natural hair colour is not as unusual around here as it might be elsewhere (I live in the land of hippies). I've seen a few stunning-looking heads carrying loads of grey hair and I'm always on the lookout for role models, but there just aren't very many - not women, anyway.

Unfortunately, the problem with grey hair is that it seems to highlight bad skin and teeth... yes, yes, guess who. So for anyone in the public eye, I understand the colour thing. It's easier for me, because I spend my days in the company of trees and cows. They just don't care. They just don't notice.

When appearance isn't a primary concern though, I think it's probably good to go natural: grey or bald, whatever the case may be. I'm proud of myself for doing so, put it that way. This is me, this is what I look like, and I want to live with it, struggle or not. And it is a struggle - sometimes I look pretty damn ugly, and the grey probably makes me look older, which I don't want to be. But at heart it's my own private (and hitherto unexpressed) way of fighting those messages that tell us we have to be different, be better, in order to be who we should be. There are lots of ways to be different and better, and they don't always involve surface treatments to your appearance.

Sometimes they do though, of course. How to decide? I think I've settled with the grey now, and I'll probably be staying that way. But the topic (silly as it might seem) just illustrates the ongoing dilemma of living, the uncertainty that kills me every time, having to ask this persistent question about every damn thing: