I have a bottle of ‘Merlot’ sitting on the side of the bath waiting for me. No it’s not the drinkable kind, it’s the wash-in-wash-out in 2-15 washes kind. The kind of stuff you stick on your bonce, leave for 30 minutes and hope it turns you into an irresistible siren.
The last time I dyed my hair permanently was early 2019. I had previously tried to grow out hair dyes and reveal my natural strands of ginger, mouse, silver and pure white about thrice before this time. The three times I had succumbed, I was pulled in by advertising, younger ladies on the telly, in the supermarket, my same generation friends and older women that had really bright or deep coloured hair. The message was always the same:
bright/deep coloured hair = NO GREYS BECAUSE GREYS ARE SURELY THE BANE OF YOUR LIFE AND WHY YOUR LIFE IS GOING SO SHIT AND WHY YOU LOOK OLD AND COMPLETELY UNATTRACTIVE AND GROSS!
Even though I liked the colour of my hair, the urge to dye it to become acceptable accordingly with the blind mantra above was so strong, it completely overrode all common sense and my own self esteem about it.
In truth, I just couldn’t be arsed with buggering about with my hair anymore. Having to keep doing anything chore-like on a regular basis is a no-no for me and I was damn sure I wasn’t going to be dictated to by my hair of all things! I was very sure I was strong and intelligent enough not to be taken in by this bullshit anymore but became frustrated with comments online and in real life and the worry that I would be treated ‘less than’ because my hair wasn’t ‘young’ anymore.
Another interesting and completely maddening factor which might be relevant to you, was the realisation that twice a month (and I looked it up on the calendar), in line exactly with my ovulation and pre-menstruation, I would be fighting the urge to dye my hair the most strongly. In fact I don’t think I ever thought about dyeing my hair apart from at those times. If you are having strong thoughts about doing mad shit with your appearance, check your cycle dates and try to defy this silliness because advertisers know about this phenomenon even if you don’t!
So I’m fighting biology am I?
In a way yes.
Why not just go with it and dye it then?
Because your hair does not define you.
Yes it does.
NO IT DOESN’T.
YOU DEFINE YOU
Not your ovaries, not your friends or family, not people in the street, not hair dye advertisements AND DEFINITELY NOT WITCH-HUNTERS.
Let’s go back abit so I can explain…
The earliest recorded incidences I can find of sex-based age discrimination against women occurred in the 1400s, at the time of witch hysteria in Europe. This doesn’t mean it didn’t happen before then, but I want to postulate that, before the bringing of other religions that denigrated women as leaders with wisdom and power, we didn’t have to worry about being old. Back then, alot of people would then die well before their 50’s, so apart from that, there was no reason for women to worry about being old before this time. Despite the natural occurrence of disease, pestilence and famine, many women would nevertheless live beyond their reproductive years to become midwives, advisory wise women, leaders, early doctors/pharmacists and prove themselves honourable warriors if need be.
When the witch hunters arrived, to show glory and power and throw their male dominated religious weight about, it became extremely dangerous for a woman to be ‘unacceptable’. Unacceptable might mean ‘deformed’, not able-bodied, ‘argumentative’, clever, ‘ugly’ and old. Unfortunately, people used to get very excited by the thought and sight of an ‘unacceptable’ woman being tortured (and still do shamefully). With that in mind, the stage was set for ‘unacceptable disagreeable women’ to be wiped out completely.
It was literally in our physical interests to always be acceptable so we didn’t get murdered.
Many older women hid completely in isolated places so as not be found and hounded. Many tried to make themselves more agreeable in other ways which may have included attempting to alter their behaviour, religion and appearance, trying to hide whatever was disagreeable about them. With regards solely to appearance, much of what we know about natural plant dyes for hair and face make-up come from recipes from this time. Obviously modern stuff has added chemicals in but you catch my drift here.
So far, we’ve had 700 years of not being allowed to be in the slightest bit disagreeable and, with each new generation, we have the same story passed down from mother to daughter, from friend to friend, from grandmother to teenage girl. It’s like a fairy or folk tale but with added nastiness. LOOK GORGEOUS, GET A MAN, KEEP A MAN, YOU’LL NEVER GET A MAN LOOKING LIKE THAT, DYE YOUR HAIR OR YOU’LL LOOK OLD, YOU’RE MAKING ME FEEL OLD WITH THAT GREY HAIR, WHY DON’T YOU JUST DYE IT, YOU LOOK TIRED, THAT MAKES YOU LOOK YOUNGER/OLDER….
Stop telling me what to do, I thought you were a feminist! I expect you’ll be saying make-up and cosmetic surgery is bad next!
If I could tell everyone what to do, not only would that make me a maniacal dictator (MWAHAHAHAHA) but I would have nobody to argue with and that would make the world a very boring place!
You do what you want with your body. I mean it, having body autonomy is right up there on my list of human rights necessities. BUT, you know what is ABOVE that? Brain autonomy – the right to think for yourself, to make decisions about your actions based on what you want and not what is filtered into your brain by the negative thoughts, judgements and comments from other people. True brain autonomy is where it’s at. If you bloody love the colour pink and you want your hair to be pink for no other reason than that you are obsessed with the colour, then to me that makes total sense. Or any other colour for that matter, as long as YOU LOVE IT and not because you are trying to hide something natural about ageing then I think that’s fine.
Same with make-up. Cosmetic surgery and botox treatments trouble my feminist crone loving self – medical reasons notwithstanding obviously. Again you must have body autonomy and be completely within your rights to decide what you want to do with your face and body, but please remember your BRAIN autonomy at all times – ask yourself why you want it? Was it your brain that thought of it, or was it from the brain of someone else? And then ask yourself, will your brain be really happy when you’ve done whatever it is you want to do? Or will your brain still need the reassurance of more work because other people’s brains in society are still spouting other negative comments?
Well sue me, I’m a woman and I can’t be blamed for society making me want to do this shit!
No you can’t be blamed for this individually but you CAN individually take responsibility and do your bit to stop these nasty fairy tales pervading your daughters, your friends and family and wider society as a whole.
When seeing your grey hairs makes you feel ‘old’, ask yourself why? Who said that? Did it come from you? And why would that be a problem anyway?
Or does your brain actually secretly enjoy seeing those silver magic wires and wisps coming through. Because they are YOU and you are special but they also link you to your ancestors, your familial wise old ones, the ones that have gone before. The women that were brave and didn’t dye their hair to be acceptable, the ones that loved themselves despite society telling them otherwise. These women are you and you know it and deep down you love that!
You CAN go forward and choose not to moan about your greys, your fat, your face or other things you deem ‘unacceptable’. Because every time you don’t believe you are acceptable and voice it, another fairy dies. Not really, but another piece of another woman’s self esteem does.
Brain autonomy. That’s all you need to remember. And autonomy is political, especially in this minacious political climate where governments around the world are trying to tighten women’s autonomy.
We will NOT have witch hysteria ever again!
That is why I wrote this piece. That is why that bottle of dye is going back to the chemist for a refund right after I’ve typed this up. That is why I rejoice my natural colour hair and my wrinkles and my fat and my squinted eye and my dodgy knee and my wonky womb and my anxious brain. They are mine and I have autonomy over all of them!
Anyway, me just as I am, without the falsities and fairy tales, I am an irresistible and very dangerous siren indeed 😉