Grey hair is seen as a physical confession – a particular type of sadness.
Katie Trotter: Ditching the dye is still a grey area
There are certain things, even in a world we fought so hard for, that a woman keeps to herself. Take grey hair, which most of us lie about as easily as breathing. My first came last week, a tiny twinkle in the light; so tiny, in fact, that I almost tricked my subconscious into pretending it was a natural highlight. But there was something in the texture that persuaded an extra look. And there it was. Proud as a button, a parasite, and one that made no apology whatsoever for its newfound position: a single strand of silver.
Grey hair is seen as a physical confession - a particular type of sadness. It's society's fault, perhaps, for viewing its onset as an exterior manifestation of the loss of youth. Yesterday's hopeful climb quickly becomes tomorrow's descent. Nobody asks permission, of course. Nobody warns us that something that hadn't belonged to us before (I later understood as age) will soon take over.
So what do we do? Sit back gracefully in submission as we watch the grey hairs creep further and further along the hairline, or adopt a newfound preference for ignorance? Neither, of course - we lie. Why? Because most of us are too wrapped up in assumption, projection and conformity to do anything else. Heaven forbid any of us look exactly like we are meant. But men wouldn't lie. In fact, men don't. They ruffle their feathers, singing about salt and pepper and a newfound ripened maturity - "silver fox", they collectively call it, perhaps adopting the feeling if they talk enough about a problem, it will create the illusion of mastering it.
You see, it is a subject that most of us choose not to mention, the silence, I suppose, proving it is still something of a taboo, something we don't particularly want to own up to. Which is a strange old thing, because surely we become more accepting of the world as it really is with age? Surely everything is open for negotiation? We talk freely now of things we didn't in the past - waxing, threading, peeling, buffing, shrinking and removing - just not about going grey. But, it seems, as we age we become scared of standing out, of making a fool. Our once outlandish, brave and curious self slowly begins to tire, and so it seems easier to emulate those around us.
Yet, on the flip side, once we do decide to hit the bottle - of dye - we are signing up to something much bigger, embarking on a long and rather expensive career. A bit like Botox, or getting your nails tended to, or any kind of self improvement, in that once you start it's somewhat alarming to stop. Not to others, of course, because I can promise you they won't notice (people are far too wrapped up in their own worries) but because it becomes something of an addiction, and one you have to keep up. It unnerves us to feel vulnerable, to send out the raw, untouched version for people to pick apart. We need a model of resistance, and we need to find some sort of a balance, a place we are comfortable in - working out the tough trick of being on trend without being trendy. Timelessness, when it comes to matters of style and taste, is often a misguided virtue. Nobody actually wants to look timeless; we want to wear pieces that will take us from season to season, and to feel comfortable in our physical projection.
Most of all, I'm afraid, it's simply to do with brand management; not an obligation, but a given. To stand out asks of far too much energy - the battle serving only as a reminder of what we once had versus the hint of what we have left. You see, in a world that firmly favours youth and all that goes with it, accepting Miss Havisham's grey hair with a sombre air is simply too much to ask. And if that means growing old disgracefully - so be it.