Midlife Thoughts

Are you embracing your Greys?

Photographed with William Shakespeare’s statue in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge

“Damn you, don’t mock and sneer at me. I’m not a doddering old fool who brags about the things he did when he was young, and what he would do now if he weren’t so old. Claudio, I’m telling you right to your face that you have wronged me and my innocent child. I am forced to lay aside my old man’s respectability, and with my grey hairs and my aching body I challenge you to a duel….”

Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5 Scene 1

As a Gen X-er, my relationship to Grey hairs is heavy with memories of elders trying to find the right quality of hair dyes. There weren’t good quality hair products in the 1960s and 70s in the part of Asia where I grew up. I remember tiny rivers of black flowing down the sides of their faces after the dye had been applied. As a child, I laughed at this. Looking back, this was a cruel thing to do.

There was something rather emotional about the process. This was probably because there was a desperation involved with people frantically camouflaging the visible signs of ageing. I don’t ever remember anyone challenging anyone else to a duel but my elders weren’t Leonato, The Duke of Messina, a character from a Shakespearean play.

They were ordinary folk living in a world which did not view ageing positively. Remember the time when 50 was seen as a reasonable retirement age because you were deemed ‘too old’? How times have changed. There is a whole movement on social media which encourage and feature women embracing their Grey hairs. Unlike Leonato, these women may not conflate Grey Hairs with physical strength but, instead, use their Greyness as a milestone marking the passing of time which bestows a great store of emotional strength.

Not dyeing your hair has become the new Midlife ‘F..K You’ movement.

Elderly old long-haired grey cat with yellow eyes and a friendly expression lying on a wooden railing in a garden

My ‘F..K You’ Midlife mojo has not extended itself to my partly Grey mane. I cannot wait for my hair appointment at the end of the month. The photo was taken at the weekend and my white strands are just about visible. One’s relationship to one’s hair isn’t linear. Nor is it objective. Just because they naturally appear doesn’t mean that everyone is quite at that stage of being happy with it. To me, they represent the unwelcome relative at a family party.

Let’s face it, in this day of age reversal (face creams, Botox etc) hair is not exempt. While I am more than happy to proclaim my Midlife status and embrace the strength of character that comes with it, my hair is going to be subject to the hairdresser’s hands very soon. Perhaps there is something Freudian about this all. Any thoughts?

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