Adventures in Hair

My hair has had many incarnations. It's been white-blond and curly, straight and mousy-brown, pony-tailed, plaited and cropped super-short. It's been orange and frizzy, black and bobbed, and poodle-permed. It's been hidden in turbans a la Simone de Beauvoir, fringed, scraped back with combs, and piled in a messy bun on top of my head and secured with a thousand bobby-pins.

Ultimately, nothing could disguise the disappointing genetic fundamentals of thin, limp texture and boring brown-ness, and I settled for a no-nonsense, no-fuss bob.

Then, a couple of years ago, my hair took control. It decided to turn grey - inexorably, steadily, irrevocably grey. And to my surprise, I'm rather liking it.

My head is turning slowly silver, in slender streaks. It actually looks kind of stylish. I've always loved the look of proud silver-haired women: Helen Mirren, Betty Churcher, Robyn Nevin, Judi Dench, two mothers at our school, one of the yoga teachers at the ashram. They look strong and confident, unapologetic and serene. Unashamed grey hair is becoming rarer. I always notice other women with grey hair; I feel drawn to my silver sisters. I don't mind looking my age, I hope I'm comfortable in my skin. I don't want to rub out the lines I've earned in my forty-something years with Botox, I don't want to pretend I'm still twenty when I'm clearly not. Not that I've transcended all body anxieties, I have plenty of other imperfections to fret about.

I've been thinking about this issue a lot lately, as I'm planning to write part of a book set in the 1970's. That decade might have been the last time in Western culture when women were truly encouraged to celebrate the huge variety of natural beauty we're endowed with - buxom or skinny, hairy, fleshy and glorious, we could let it all hang out, whatever shape we happened to be. "Natural" was gorgeous. (Of course it couldn't last because no one could make any money out of "natural.") How wonderful it would be if we could all feel comfortable and confident with our bodies. How much energy we would free up for creativity and action and enjoying life, if we didn't spend so much time worrying about what we look like. Hardly an original observation, I know, but one that's on my mind.

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