What Would Nefertiti Do?
Embracing the grey, battling the social norms and being ok with getting older
Fancy a break from politics and all the shenanigans in the news? I certainly do! So I trundled off to the hair salon last week for the next step toward embracing my grey roots and for those who are following the journey, posted a reel explaining what we did next, and since then, can’t believe the number of comments and messages I’ve had about the desire to embrace ‘the grey!’
Someone even said to me I was brave. Brave! Really? How far have we gone in demonising getting old that we think it takes bravery to show it? I mean, maybe I’ll feel differently in a few months’ time, but I want to give it a go. I don’t want to miss the process, my process of ageing. Do we really rate our value so heavily on external youth and beauty? I hope not... But fear we do.
What is beauty?
One of the oldest questions in Western philosophy is what is beauty? Culturally there are huge variations in what is considered to be beautiful, across the ages too. According to Aristotle, you could measure it, beauty had symmetry and proportion. And Keats, who I studied many moons ago said, ‘Beauty is truth. Truth beauty. That is all’ - I can almost hear him saying ‘End of!’ But I’m not clear if he’s talking about truth, or beauty, or an amalgamation of both. Endymion begins with ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.’ …they’re all utterly vague and so the definition continues to evade us. In Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes, ‘Beauty is a form of genius, is indeed higher than genius as it needs no explanation’ which I think is a bit of a crafty cheat Mr Wilde. You’re circumnavigating the need for an explanation, by pretending there isn’t a need in the first place, sneaky.
These greats are no help!
I think I like Pablo Picasso’s honesty ‘To me, it is a word without sense because I do not know where its meaning comes from, nor where it leads to.’ I can get on board with that but my favourite is from Chanel:
‘Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.’
And that is why I am embracing the journey of going grey. For those of you who have followed me over the last 20ish years, you’ll know that I’ve changed my hair a fair amount (apologies for the photo bombing, I had a blast of memories putting this together).
Throughout my 30s I sported the pixie cut and had various colours ranging from orange, to purple, to black and white. Then as I turned 40, decided I wanted a change. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact I was also going through a divorce, who knows? I was finding myself bored of the cut and no longer inspired or excited at the prospect of a new colour. The change was bubbling up and letting me know that the time was coming and when I hit 40, I knew.
So, throughout my 40s my hair has been long and I’ve really loved the more natural look, although I’ve had to colour it because of course, the inevitable happens - grey hairs abound! So here I am approaching my 50s and yes I intend on going back to the pixie cut one day, but I’m not quite ready for it yet. I do think I’m ready to let the grey come through though.
So, this week, I returned to my natural colour, which will make way for the 30%ish greys to come through and more as and when they decide to ‘grayce’ me with their presence. ‘No don’t do it!’ Some have said to me, but many MORE have said, ‘Yes! Go for it! …..and I’ll do it with you too!’
Look at the gorgeous Mary Portas. She looks amazing since letting the grey come through doesn’t she? Yes, she might have put some blonde in there as well, but it’s so much more natural looking and she looks radiant with it! Perhaps that’s evidence enough. By the way, her new book Rebuild: how to thrive in the new kindness economy is an inspired angle on how we can get out of this financial mess, but I did say I wouldn’t go there today, so back to hair …
The straw that broke the camels back…
When I was watching Glastonbury this summer, I found myself looking at the male artists, 40+, slightly wobbly around the middle, going grey, and all freely sporting their ageing selves. I found myself pondering…
Why are they allowed to go grey, but it’s frowned upon for us?
Beauty is a multi-billion dollar industry that says if you look good, you will feel great.… but will you? Is that a given? Isn’t it more likely that if we feel good we will look great? True beauty comes from the inside, after all, we know that to be true. So, why are we so obsessed with how we look? And does it matter that we are? It’s in the balance, as always. I mean come on, of course, I like to do my face, but I can hand on heart say that I don’t feel the need to look younger. It’s been pretty a tough road at times, why would I want to pretend I’ve not survived it?
I think I’ll always love make-up, that’s more my thing and perhaps that’s why I am up for embracing the grey. Pre-teen I had a Girls World and loved giving her blue freckles and pink eyes. It was very much along the David Bowie lines of self-expression and art when I first started. And let’s face it, it was the 80s and my two pin-ups were Adam Ant and Boy George so you can see where I began - perhaps I’ll end up like Iris, she makes me smile every time I see a photo of her, she turned 101 this week!
But let’s trace back to Nefertiti, Egypt’s most famous Queen and global icon for feminine beauty. Back in these ancient times men and women wore kohl eyeliner both for hygenic reasons and also to protect their eyes from bright sun in the desert. In the 19th Century, women powdered themselves to look more white as it was believed that the more affluent could shelter from the sun. IN those days, eyeliner was reserved for the use of women who sold sex. But then as women secured more rights and a sense of power in the 20th century, eyeliner came back for us all. There’s a journey for all these things.
So what about going grey then? Someone said to me this week ‘but you’ll look older!’ Yes!! Because I’m getting older!! And that has to be ok, doesn’t it?! I’m happy looking my age. It’s about what we are comfortable with. I have friends who have no intention of stopping colouring, ever, and that’s ok too. It’s about listening to our inner voice, and being true to ourselves, not an industry voice or what social media happens to be peddling, but to the still small one inside.
So what would Nefertiti do? We will never know because she didn’t make it past her 50s. Neither have some of my friends. Bloody cancer. So I’m going to find out for myself what it’s like to go grey. Because I can. And because I don’t want to miss the process or feel that I need to fight it. I want to look well, but I don’t need to look young. And perhaps that’s where we come back to Chanel ‘Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.’
Thanks for reading, I hope I managed to keep it under the 5-minute mark (if things are too long, I tend to shelve them and then forget about them so I try to keep this manageable). I hope you have a wonderful week whether you’re grey, natural or pink; whether you’re wearing a full face or completely naked! It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re being yourself.
Love first, (and guess who's at the front of the line?*)
PS - *it’s you!
PPS - thanks for subscribing and for following my blog and podcast. Do get in touch if there’s anything you’d like me to write about, or equally, if you are or know someone with their own story that would be willing to come on the podcast to talk about finding their brave, please do drop me a line or comment below.
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