Grey Is Not A Four Letter Word
Redefining the aging process & taking ownership of my authentic self
I‘ve been dying my hair since I was 14. From big blonde 90’s streaks to box blacks all the way to sharp cut green bobs, weaves and flowing pastel waves, I’ve had it all. It’s been a long and colourful hair journey, but for the first time since I was a little hen, I’m finally letting my natural hair grow through and turns out, the whole lot is turning grey.
Hair crowns the head and mine is currently showing me that maybe it’s time I put the dye down and just see what happens. In all honesty I’m a little confused about what leaving my 20’s means to me and this grey epiphany has come and an interesting time. Surely if I’m going grey that means I’ve become a fully fledged adult and somehow that time stamps everything. Surely I should have achieved more by now? Maybe have some children beneath my apron, or know what I want to be when I grow up at the very least. To add to the confusion my aesthetic identity has gotten a little lost since my recovery and weight gain and as a result I’ve been really unsure of how to present myself, how to dress and asking the question what tribe I really belong to? Who even am I? In short – I think I’m having an identity crisis. However, that’s okay and this is why.
We associate ourselves with aesthetic signifiers in order for us to show what tribe we belong to, or would like to belong to. When we are children so many things can define our social status, like our lunch boxes. I always wanted a Dennis the Menace lunch box. At school when I rocked up to the table with it and the rest of the girls had Barbie and Sky Dancers I knew I’d royally fucked it. I knew I’d fucked it even further when I had to get changed for P.E. and my underwear was a little baggy on my teeny tiny tush and everyone said I wore underpants and therefore I was a boy. Not that being a boy is a bad thing I’m just not a boy. Props to my super-star mum for rushing out to stock up on barbie knickers and some cute things to help me fit in – because honestly it was hellish trying to fit into a Welsh first language primary school looking like the poor scruffy kid who had English speaking parents and a Dennis the Menace Lunch Box. Kids can be cruel. Although admittedly what I needed more than trying desperately to fit in with my peers was a super cool kid to come along and stand by me and my non conformist food receptacles, or a devil may care attitude brimming with self confidence, but this isn’t a Jacqueline Wilson book and I’ve always needed validating on some level so, here we are.
This might sound a little self indulgent, even a little vain to write about my hair. However, did you know that hair is considered one of the most powerful signifiers of identity, coming of age and personal growth in countless cultures and countercultures across the globe? There are hundreds of stories and moments in history that show us that hair gives us power. The power to rebel, to become androgenous, to exude femininity and to demonstrate ownership of one’s self as well as to deceive, to seduce and to remove power entirely. True power comes from choice in times of change.
It’s drilled into girls continuously and consistently throughout their lives that hair is a sign of youth and therefore a sign of beauty, if we’re adhering to conventional beauty standards.
Ask yourself, how many hair dye adverts do you see a day aimed at covering grey hair in women and then tally up the dude’s products. Permanent, non permanent, in-between-hair-dresser-visit-spray. The list is endless. That being said I buy into vibrant hair, doing crazy things, simple things, fringes, extensions… Essentially whatever the heck you like. It’s your head and your crown and how you polish it is entirely up to you. We’re operating in a judgement free zone.
The metaphorical bee in my bonnet comes from a lack of agency and a force feeding of the “grey meaning old and old meaning bad” rhetoric that is exhausting and expensive and as of this moment right now, I’ve thrown the towel in, but this doesn’t mean I’ve given up on myself.
Grey, is NOT a four letter word when it comes to your hair and isn’t an indicator for ageing. It’s more likely to be tangled up in your genetics than a representation of a haggard or hard life.
While we’re at it though, age is not a bad thing. It is not a good thing. It just is a thing that is happening, to all of us, that is wildly out of our control no matter how we choose to doll it up.
We as a society need to do better than thinking that surrendering to the ageing process is us letting go of ourselves, if anything it is embracing ourselves in our most organic form.
Whether we choose to age gracefully or disgracefully is our choice to make, neither of which is inherently wrong or right. We do not owe it to ourselves to conform to beauty standards, because they do not actually exist. They only exist in the same way the greek gods did. Pray to them and they grow powerful, ignore them and they become dethroned. As humans were naturally drawn towards pretty things, sexy things and youthful things because they have signified life, fertility and wealth – but only by neanderthalic or medieval standards and is certainly not representative of contemporary culture where the average age of death is 81, in the UK at least.
Capitalism has a lot to answer for when it comes to praying on your instincts. But, we’re as adaptable as cockroaches so I suppose there’s hope.
The side note is; we ain’t in the middle ages no more, needing to get wifed up and babies out in order to survive. We have the ability to shag for pleasure until we’re arthritic and that to me is a blinding success for the future of mankind.
To me this process, this one surrender is my coming of age story. This is an ownership of my authentic outward facing self and accepting it as part of my inward facing self, joining the two together on the level. This is the first step of many I’m sure I’ll take in figuring out who the bloody hell I am.
But, for now I choose to show off my grey hair because I have decided that it is beautiful.