I was squirming in my swivel chair as the hairdresser took the sharp tip of her comb and, with a look of what could only be described as disturbed concern, lifted a chunk of hair to reveal a scattering of wavy, silver hairs underneath.
“We have a 50% colour sale this month,” she whispered, combing the rogue strands and surveying the view. She looked at me; I looked at her. And, with a deep breath, I replied as I always do in this situation.
“You do?” I grinned. “Cool, I’m not interested – but I’ll pass that message on to a few friends who are.”
Here’s the thing about those wavy, silver hairs: I honestly don’t mind them. In fact, I’m rather proud of what they represent. I started going grey in my late twenties and, after the initial shock that followed their premature arrival, I began to appreciate the way they look in the mirror. Worn down, my pepperpot mane can actually look quite cool when I’m donning my dungarees. Tied up in a top-knot, one dramatic silver streak rockets over my head like my favourite Disney antagonist, Cruella de Vil. I like the theatre of it. It stands out.
In a world that celebrates ageless beauty, I’ve made my peace with the fact that my hair reflects a life lived, a body lived in – and the person I’ve become. The only problem I’ve encountered since embracing my transitioning hair colour is that, from time to time, and to flip this on its head, it feels like the world isn’t quite at peace with me and this philosophy. From judgemental advice to jokey quips (“Alright, Anne Bancroft?”) and even statements of fact (yes, I sometimes do get the “Did you know your hair is going a bit grey at the back?”), my hair has become publicly owned; a free-for-all discourse I’ve learned to steer myself through with humour and confident affirmations. Jokes like silver is the new black; affirmations like I love my streaky hair.
But, I do love it. I’m really not bothered about camouflaging it to merge into the crowd. And you know what? It turns out I’m not alone. There’s an Instagram account celebrating thousands of silver-haired women who, like me, are going grey and choosing to love it. Not only that, they’re submitting selfies of their natural hair in a bid to shake up the conversation – and turn it into a positive one.
Grombre – dubbed “going grey with (grohm)(bray)” – describes itself as “a radical celebration of the natural phenomenon of grey hair” and, I have to say, it’s a pretty joyous place to find yourself. Boasting over a thousand posts and followed by a staggering 48,000 Instagrammers, women from around the world have emailed in their photographs, captioning them with statements of resoluteness; statements of positiveness and intent.
Tied up in a top-knot, one dramatic silver streak rockets over my head like my favourite Disney antagonist, Cruella de Vil. I like the theatre of it. It stands out
“My mom [sic], my aunt, cousins myself...anyone with my grandmother’s lineage has had early grays [sic] and I finally stopped dying,” a fellow silver-streaker declared on the site. “It has been the best decision of my life. At first my grandmother criticised [sic] me but I said this was us. This was our hair. She finally stopped dying this year. And tonight, she complimented my hair. Hers is platinum white. She said I dyed it white. I said this was all mine. And she smiled. I’m 33 and she’s 78.”
Another backs up the celebratory chorus with her own affecting story:
“I started getting grey hair in college. From 2001-2015 I dyed my hair dark brown in an attempt to hide my natural hair,” she writes. “I’m not sure the exact moment I decided I was finished covering up the real me, but it was the best physical decision I ever made. I was so afraid it would make me look older, especially since my husband has such a baby face. I would argue that at 35 I look the best I ever have, and even if that’s not true….then at least my confidence is the best it’s ever been!”
The results of this feed actually do feel pretty radical. I guess, because, if we’re ever going to move the conversation on, we’re going to have to add to it in order to achieve a different kind of narrative – one that says, hey, it’s totally fine if you want to dye your hair. But this isn’t the only path to happiness. Ageing isn’t something women should feel pressured or guilted to conceal or temper if they’re actually OK with displaying silver and white and grey. Are you actually on board with embracing the process, without expensive interventions? Good for you. It’s certainly worked for George Clooney and Cary Grant. Does it really have to be such a big deal for women?
Reading Laura Craik’s column, why are we still talking about grey hair, earlier this year, I was struck by a Clairol study that “found that the women they surveyed described discovering their first grey hair or wrinkle as ‘comparable to when they first had their heart broken’.” As a modern-day “finding”, it made me feel incredibly sad. Because I felt the same way the first time I spotted mine. Then came another, and another. They became familiar. And I slowly came to think of them as a feature, not a curse.
What I’m saying, ultimately, is each to their own. I’m happy to rock those silver hairs. To borrow a Lauren Bacall quote that often does the rounds, “I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that."