On Sunday evening I set about my six weekly ritual of dying my hair. Over the past year in particular I come to realise that this is now a necessity rather than a bit of decadent pampering to try something different.
How I long for the days when I would wash a “wee colour” in to try a new look- sometimes with more success than others. There was a very dodgy experience with a home bleaching spray in the mid 90s we must never, ever talk about again and there was also bad black hair experience which left me looking like Morticia Adam’s younger sister sometime in the late 90s.
But now, I can deny it no longer. My hair is turning grey - at a galloping pace. And it’s not just one or two odd wee greys poking about here and there. Indeed as my roots start to grow out, it isn’t long before the huge swathes of white of my freshly grown hair start to give me the look of a balded Barbie doll - with my darker coloured (dyed) hair appearing to hover an inch above my head.
So every six weeks or so I don an old towel, slap on the wee plastic gloves and set at my hair to put right a great wrong. The husband looked at me quizzically this week as I slapped on the dye. “I don’t understand why you do that,” he said. “You should just grow old gracefully.”
I glared at him, reminding him I’m only 35 and set about adding even more of the gloopy red foam to my head while the toddler sauntered in and looked at me as if I was demented. I gazed down at her gorgeous, thick, chestnut brown hair and thought - yep - one day my child you will understand.
I should say I hate dying my hair. The whole sorry escapade puts me in bad form. No matter how (increasingly) experienced I have become at it I still manage to create a whole mess around me. Towels are ruined. Bed clothes wrecked. Pyjamas stained with various colours, depending what look I’m going for. With a current red hue to my locks, the rinsing out procedure looks like a scene from Carrie as blood coloured water sparks the entire bathroom. I spend a day or three trying to take the colour out of my scalp, rub it off my ears and and my hairline so that it’s not entirely obvious I’m not a natural redhead.
But althought it is a task I detest, it is one I can’t see me willingly giving up any time.
I don’t consider myself to be particularly vain but I admit I’m starting to baulk at the reflection in the mirror and the fact that a “proper grown up” face stares back at me.
The wrinkles I can kind of cope with. The tired expression is one I have become used to since becoming a mother but the grey hair.... no. I am not ready for grey hair.
My husband may be right - that I should accept the passing of time with grace. But, as I have told him, it is so much different for a man. Take the case of George Clooney - a man who looks better with the passing of the years. The wrinkles, as they become more pronounced, look more distinguished. The greying of his temples add a certain charm. That tired look on his face? Well it just makes us love him more.
As much as it pains me to admit this and as much as it feels like a betrayal of some feminist pact or other, it is just isn’t the same for women. Generally a woman won’t get complimented on her silvery locks. No one has ever told a woman she looks more distinguished, more gorgeous, more attractive because of the spread of her crow’s feet and the tired look spread across her face. While men tend to look distinguished with the passing of age, we women (and perhaps me in particular) just look a little more haggard.
So we try and a little harder - and not just because we feel we should, but because we want to. Again it may go against every feminist principal in the world, but women want to look good. We want to feel attractive and yes, while we cannot stop the march of time right across our faces, we do want to look as young as we can for as long as we can.
There is no doubt there is a good deal of external pressure out there to look well as we age as well. It’s hard to find an actress in her 40s or 50s who doesn’t appear to have some sort of work done to maintain her youth. At best, she will be perfectly groomed - grinning at us from the pages of magazines showing off her svetle size 0 figure and her mane of glossy hair. She may well be posing at us on our TV screens telling us we’re ‘worth it’ and flashing a box of hair dye as if it will cure all our ageing ills.
We women aren’t stupid. We know that slapping on some dye, no matter how nice and easy it may be, won’t transform us back into 20 somethings with naturally glossy hair but it will make us feel just that little bit better about ourselves and perhaps a bit more confident as we face the world.
That may be a little vain - but sure it hurts no one. So I will dye my hair with pride and if that means I’m growing old disgracefully then so be it.