Meditation on hair (profound, me..)

Sometime around September 2012 I got fed up with dyeing my hair. I have been dyeing it since I was 15, it is naturally a lightish mouse colour which was never quite anything. So I have had it red, blonde, very dark brown and most shades in between. If I didn’t have a lingering worry about posting pictures of me left over from the pseudo-stalker earlier in the year I would post pics, they are diverse!

It is very grey at the front, a gift from my father (the genes were about all he was willing to stump up) and I had got bored of having to dye it. Dyeing for fun is good, dyeing because you get fed up with worrying if people are looking at your hair-line is bad.

So I stripped as much out as I could with one of the home kits. The rest wouldn’t shift as it was henna, so I waited, cut bits off and waited. And round about last summer it was complete. I was mouse with badger grey patches at the front and salt and pepper all over.

It was ok. I have a pinterest board with pics of inspirational grey-haired ladies. None of them appeared to look like elderly mice (I have used this description before and been told off by someone for having low self-esteem, I just thought it was funny calling my hair colour elderly mouse..). Or elderly badger-mice. Then I kept seeing pictures of me, one of the drawbacks of my job is that we take pics of most events. And there over and over again was my mother.

Now I had a good relationship with my mother as these things go. Not perfect but good. And I miss her still occasionally though she died nearly 18 years ago. But, I do not want to see her reincarnated in my mirror, or on Twitter, or any other social media source.

And while I like to think that I am not too vain (I go out without make-up quite frequently, I go out without looking at my face quite often, with dirty hair etc etc) I realised that I had become invisible. Not just in a sexual sense (I started to type ‘not just to men’ and realised that was too narrow), but in a ‘people who are alive’ sense. People seemed to just glance past me, even if I had make-up, big earrings, and proper clothes on (like not sweatshirt and tracksuit bottoms) without registering.

I realise that when I am feeling down I disappear on purpose, my body language is so extreme that it has the opposite effect and people comment on it; but I am not down nearly as much now, and still I remained mostly invisible. I am also not filled with sass as I am a bit porky and it is hard to be sassy with this many chins. BUT. I don’t like being that invisible, it is boring, it is uncomfortable when people tread on you and it means you scare the shit out of people when you say something.

So about 14 days ago I had an urge to dye, so I just did. Nothing revolutionary, I am medium brown all over now. So you could say I am just a slightly perkier mouse. And suddenly, despite the chins I have reappeared. And really oddly, everyone has noticed I have done ‘something’ to my hair (confession, I cut it myself-don’t ever start, it is addictive) but no-one noticed I had died it till I pointed it out.

So far, so nice. But there is a moral/societal/self problem that irritates at my conscience. One, I gave in to other people’s (non)view of me, whether imagined or not (see Guardian’s Invisible Woman columns); I feel I let Mary Beard down too. Two, a lot of my self-esteem is unsurprisingly based on whether people notice me, for which read, whether I am attractive or not. Three, I feel happier in myself (when I look in the mirror) but I am back to the annoyance of dyeing regularly. While I am very aware that the world is perfect when I lose a kilo and hell when I put one on, I wasn’t quite prepared for such strong feelings about hair colour, it was just a different colour for god’s sake, and I thought I could get to like it, even if others didn’t.

That is way too much soul-searching about a hair colour, sorry!

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Red Hen says:

    What a wonderfully well written post. And I’m glad you wrote about this. It’s not just the hair dye thing, is it? But about society judging us by our looks. Well, we are so judged and I’ve chosen to concede to it by employing any and all tactics to look better.
    Your post needs to be freshly pressed though, because all of this needs a wider audience & to be more broadly debated.There’s a lot of smart stuff going on in that badger/mouse/ henna head!

  2. I am willing to bet that your hair looks lovely with dye or not. 🙂 They will also pry the highlights out of mine with their cold, dead hands. I’ve been going grey since I was 18, so colouring has always been a non-negotiable. 🙂

  3. I totally understand, but can’t help feeling like I lost a role model! Plus grey hair is becoming trendy…

  4. emma says:

    Mercy, check your telephone and reply to my text messages!!!!! I am off to work now and will call in to yours on the way back if I haven’t heard from you. Getting worried…..xxx

    1. mercyjm says:

      Yes, mother. Sorry.xx

  5. Kate says:

    I know what you mean about hair dye. I have a lot of gray in mine, and I feel worlds better about myself when there aren’t all kinds of gray hairs showing in my head.

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