Going grey is a fact of life. Do we embrace it or try to hide it and pretend it’s not happening? Gail is about to embrace her grey, but not without personal cost.
Today, I was nearly killed because I was totally disloyal to a woman I’ve known for 25 years. I saw her and she knew instantly that someone else has taken me in hand. She looked past me like I was a stranger.
My hairdresser, Fiona has seen me through many pivotal life moments. Pregnancies, birth, post-natal fraughtness, an affair (not mine, my ex-husband’s), teenage terrors and the odd romance. She’s even bought some of my pottery, commissioning me to create a large bowl decorated with curlers and pins. But it is me who has been unfaithful.
I decided to get my hair cut because really it has been the same colour and style since Fiona Fitzpatrick of ‘A Cut Above the Rest,’ first laced her fingers through my mop. My style is a kind of flexi-bob, sometimes with a fringe and sometimes without, sometimes touching my shoulders, sometimes my ears; like a pair of ageing curtains slowly rolling up and down. My hair is also fine, straight, limp as lettuce and rapidly greying. I take vitamins purely for hair colour and it isn’t making a shred of difference. It’s the roots. After 25 years of monthly visits for highlights, top-ups and all over cover-ups, I require urgent retouching every two expensive and tedious weeks.
Someone sent me an Instagram photograph for women who were embracing ditching the dye for the ‘Grombre’. And you know what? The women looked gorgeous. Sleek, sophisticated and completely freed from the shackles of root exposure.
I was in awe, as I saw that my one parting yet again demanded about £70 worth of salon-action. Fiona though took one look at the thin grey army and shrieked at the hideousness of natural hair. It would also lose her business if I just let myself go as she called it. With frightening speed, she twisted my locks in foil and in between strands slathered on chestnut-coloured dye. My head looked like a mud-pie.
I suddenly had this Revelation. Not just one but a thousand light bulbs blazed. I realised that all the money I would save on hair appointments could be used for much better things. Clothes, facials, a new pair of really good walking boots.
I left it after Christmas and week after week, the grey seam became wide enough to resemble a shaft as it crept over my fading chestnut locks. The Silver Sisters Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/Silver-Sisters-1067254390070944 gave me loads of ideas for how I could manage my skunk stripe. I wore a hat throughout the winter and even got a call from Fiona asking if I was ill because I’d missed so many appointments. I revealed what I was doing.
‘You’ll be back,’ she sighed. ‘They always are. There’ll come a point where you can’t bear to look in the mirror. You’ll buy your own cheap dye and then make such a desperate hash of it. Then you’ll call me in the dead of night.’ Her voice sounded very experienced and slightly weary
‘You may be right,’ I said, as I guiltily glanced at the packet of chestnut home dye guaranteed to make your hair glossy and lush. ‘But I’m going to keep going a little longer.’ Fiona practically laughed when she put the phone down.
I kept looking at pictures of glamorous, greying women and wondering why men never seem concerned about going grey – if they still have hair left. It’s a mystery to me. Meg wasn’t supportive either but then she’d starve rather than miss a hair appointment. Harry never mentioned my hair. Probably because I’d only been out with him when it was cold so I’d worn an assortment of concealing hats. Even in the pub. Now it’s spring and my bob resembles two entirely different colours at complete war with each other. And texture. The grey is in great condition but the dark is dry and frazzled.
It was time to take action. My research criteria were simple. Trendy salons where the stylists looked like they’d just left school were out. I also ditched any that looked as if you had to wear curlers and sit under one of those retro-driers. Salons with stupid names were a no no. I jettisoned ‘Cutz and Curlz’, ‘Hay Stack’ and ‘Hedge Fund’, to name but a few. The list of possible places was worryingly small. Undeterred, I rang each one and explained in a whisper what my issue was. Greying, If the reaction was negative that was the end of that. Only one woman at ‘Strand’ salon didn’t flinch. And sounded young but was also in love with grey hair.
‘Oh please, I’d love to see it. I can’t wait for my hair to change and never touch dye again. Of course, I really shouldn’t say that working here but I love natural hair and silver catches sunlight so beautifully. If you like, I can show you all the products you’ll need and only ever see us for trims.’
It was music to my ears. Seated in the leather chair I faced the best lighting possible. The sort of lighting I should install at home and in fact, carry with me at all times. My skin gleamed, hair shone and I looked a decade younger.
Cassie, the slim, blonde stylist had tasteful floral tattoos up each arm, a simple loose bun and long golden earrings that dangled prettily. She made me feel completely at ease. We leafed through magazines and she asked me how long I’d had the same style and what she thought would suit me.
Turns out a pixie cut does. I left the salon practically light-headed, freed from dye forever in one well-styled fell swoop. My hair was silver at the front and sides and still quite dark and peppery at the back. I had cheekbones and my eyes looked larger. My next stop was to the make-up section of the department store, followed by the acquisition of racing back gym top and three-quarter sweat pants. In black of course.
I was on the way back to the car when I spied Fiona. There was nowhere to hide. Instinctively, I turned and put my foot on the busy road. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the car, which swerved around me and beeped so loudly that everyone in the whole street looked at me. Including Fiona who glanced briefly at my hair. In that small moment, all my past confidential sharing was lost. One woman nearby asked if I was OK. I nodded, self-consciously touching my newly shorn locks which I really love but it’s a cost me a lot more than I thought.