Grey hair don’t care

Why I stopped dyeing my hair – Aging however the hell you want.

Let’s start out by saying I was born in 1970. At age 48, I have Cruella De Ville style swathes of white, that started out as grey temples. The rest is a mix of salt and pepper, with some golden tip highlights thanks to the intense sun of an Italian summer.  My crowning glory is a melting pot of tones, just the way nature intended them. No color, no dye, no chemicals. I’m going with, grey hair, don’t care as my new motto.

I am not a model.

God knows I am guilty of cruising Instagram for grey haired inspiration. Here’s one thing I’ve learnt. Those who are grey haired and stunning and getting work as models, were most likely younger and not grey haired and stunning before. You’re welcome. It doesn’t work that way for all of us. There are times when I catch a glimpse of myself and wonder who the old lady is.

Around 40 I went through the ‘grasping at the younger me’ phase.

Lose weight, gain muscle, buy new clothes, get a skin care routine and DYE YOUR HAIR. I remember the break through greys and how much better I felt about myself when they were gone. I struggled to embrace them, though I felt I should. Insert second layer of guilt. I changed hair styles, got a fringe and got coloured at the hairdresser rather than DIY from the supermarket. Anything to feel younger.

It was a conversation with my daughters about the grey that got me thinking.

The philosophical discussion went like this. If nobody dyed their hair to hide the grey then nobody would have to. It progressed to ‘what age do women usually start dyeing their hair’ and ‘at what point do women generally accept the natural color of their hair and stop dyeing it.’ It got me more than thinking. It got me acting.

For my daughters, I chose to accept myself and reject a society that disrespects aging and glorifies youth.

It was the week my father died, and a few days before his death I was at the hairdresser for my 6 weekly visit.

I realised when I walked in that I wanted to end this cycle, and had an overwhelming desire to become completely white. My darling hairdresser of 16 years did not indulge me, but the seeds were sown. As I said goodbye to my dad in those coming days, I embraced the real me with a kind of intensity not felt before, and have never dyed my hair again. I found the strength in that time to cast off the bullshit and embrace the truth. In so many ways. (Thanks dad)

Are there times when I think about dyeing my hair?

Yes, there sure are. I know I would look younger and feel younger. But I ask myself, why is that important? Why don’t I just feel how I feel. Why don’t I just be me. And if there were more of us embracing the grey would we feel better? It reminds me of those breastfeeding days where I felt encouraged by seeing other women feeding their babies whenever and where ever. If we just went grey when it happened, it would seem more normal for everyone. I do feel like high fiving my silver sisters when I pass them in the street. 

It’s inevitable that we age, but it is optional that we cram ourselves into the expectation of all those around us

For me, ditching the dye has been a way of (well just one of the ways) giving the finger to expectations. That, and I bought a bikini in Italy for my imperfect body, but that’s another story.

Embracing minimalism, knowing what you really need and ditching the rest, is at the forefront of my vision as I career towards 50. Aging has given me an understanding of the difference between the things I need and things I want. The truth is, most of them are not things. Leaving behind others expectations of my appearance was happily jettisoned with the hair dye.

 I stopped dyeing my hair for my daughters, for myself and for anyone else out there who wants to offload the baggage of looking a certain way because they are expected to. Feel free to high five me if you see me in the street.

Rachel Parkinson

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