Lifestyle

Those aren’t grey hairs - they are strands of glitter

By Sandy Lloyd

SANDY LLOYD IS ON A WINNING STREAK

I was asked if I had a Seniors card last week. Again.

“Do I look old enough to have a Seniors card?” I asked my friends, perplexed.

“Of course not,” they assured me.

And yet the woman at the supermarket checkout had asked me if I had one.

“We’re not supposed to ask,” she confided in me. “Someone complained, and we’ve been told not to.”

And yet she still asked.

“Of course I don’t mind,” I replied through politely gritted teeth. “And no, I’m not old enough to have a Seniors card.”

Older women at supermarket checkouts and young women (teenagers, I suspect) in franchised food stores are the culprits.

I assume the former are trying to be helpful (and possibly have Seniors cards themselves). And the latter — I can only guess they are basing their entire judgment of a person’s vintage on one thing.

The colour of their hair.

Which in my case is grey.

And not just a few salt-and-pepper strands here and there — I am way past greying around the edges and am rapidly turning white.

Or as my (incredibly kind) friends say, silver.

I like the idea of my hair being silver — of having a rippling, shimmering, shower of tresses as beautiful as a unicorn’s mane.

But I think white is a more realistic description.

My journey towards grey began in my 20s. That’s when the first strands began to show.

For many, many years I judiciously highlighted and tipped and dyed the offending grey hairs.

By the time I was 40, I was pretty much completely grey — dark grey, but grey. Hidden under brown dye that had to be topped-up every few weeks. Because more than anything, I hated that giveaway grey stripe on the top of my head as my hair grew.

That’s when I started thinking — why am I doing this? I didn’t enjoy the expense and the chemicals and the fight to stop the grey roots emerging faster and faster.

And more importantly, I asked myself — who am I doing this for?

I certainly wasn’t doing it for myself. My sense of identity and self-worth were not intrinsically linked to my hair colour.

My kids didn’t care (although they were amused when I was mistaken for their grandmother, another side-effect of people’s ageist ignorance).

There was no man I wanted to please or impress with my ‘youthful’ brown locks.

But I was still conscious of an unspoken but pervading cultural rule: brown hair equals youth, grey hair equals age.

Would I be ‘giving up’ and ‘letting myself go’ if I dumped the dye bottle? After all, women in their 70s and 80s still dye their hair. Did I want to look ‘older’ than them because I was grey?

And don’t get me started on society’s double standards that men are considered more attractive as they go grey, while women become invisible. A man gets to be a ‘silver fox’ while a woman is asked for her Seniors card.

In the end, none of that mattered. My last recorded photographs with brown hair are my brother’s wedding about 13 years ago, and then I embraced the grey.

The worst part was growing out the brown dye — an understanding hairdresser, shorter hair and some helpful grey highlights at the right moment eased the passage.

For the first time in my life I truly got the hang of ‘product’, enjoying my short, grey, sculptured style.

And other women were incredibly supportive (apart from the aforementioned shop assistants).

I felt empowered. And the evidence is growing that I’m not the only one.

I may have been an early adaptor — partly forced on me by my premature greying — but it seems the world is catching up.

More and more women in their 50s are embracing their natural hair colour and proudly allowing the grey to shine through. I see the evidence all around me in Shepparton.

Google ‘going grey’ and you just about break the internet. Pages and pages of comments, sites, articles, blogs and books pop up.

Even style bibles like Vogue magazine are publishing guides to going grey. And powerhouse hair care company L’Oreal declared silver the hair colour of 2019.

Then there are the celebrities, surely the last bastion of desperately-held-onto youthful looks. Yes, many of them are still dying their hair, but some beautiful women are not. Jamie Lee Curtis, you are my silver hero.

And now I’ve come full circle — my hair is longer than it was before I ‘went grey’ and I’m fearlessly ignoring one well-meaning warning that “long grey hair makes women look witch-like”.

Where’s my broomstick? I can happily live with that.

I AM INSPIRED...

By strong, clever women as we celebrate International Women’s Day.

One woman who stands head and shoulders (even though she’s tiny) above us all is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now 86, RBG has broken the rules and made a difference her whole life.

She studied law in the 1950s when women had to fight for their place at university and in the workforce, she led the legal battle against gender discrimination in the 1970s and was only the second woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court.

She is amazing.

Find the documentary called RBG — all women (and men!) should watch it.

I AM READING...

My regular email update from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health. I subscribed to this free newsletter years ago, after discovering the Jean Hailes website when I was looking for a reliable Australian source of information about menopause and other women’s health issues.

Jean Hailes for Women's Health was founded in 1992 in honour of Dr Jean Hailes.

Jean had a far-sighted vision to improve the quality of women’s lives and give them practical information based on the best available evidence.

She is credited with being the pioneer of menopause management in Australia.

I AM WATCHING...

Les Miserables in concert on the big screen. This beloved musical has been on a London stage, uninterrupted, for nearly 35 years until last year when its theatre was closed for renovations.

In that four months, Les Mis moved next door for a specially staged concert series, featuring two of the greatest former Les Mis stars Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, as Javert and Valjean.

Plus the wonderful Carrie Hope Fletcher and Matt Lucas. One night was filmed and it screened in a few cinemas in Melbourne last weekend.

I’ll be storming the barricades to get the DVD when it’s released.

I AM EATING...

Breakfast at Frank & Harri in High St, Kew. It turns out people in Kew have more in common with Shepparton folk than I realised.

Just as Sheppartonians flock to the opening of any new eatery, so do metro-dwellers.

This charming little French-inspired café is on the corner of my daughter’s street and has been packed out for breakfast and lunch since it opened a few weeks ago.

It’s a far cry from its predecessor, The Roast Kitchen, which served well, roasts. Simple and tasty, but certainly not house-made raspberry granola and the best ricotta hotcakes I’ve ever had.

Great coffee too.