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Open Features: This Lady Is Not For Turning – Grey!

...Through salt and pepper, dead mouse and badger’s behind to pewter bordering on galvanised zinc bungalow bath...

Resilient Mary Pilfold-Allan is determined to continue to resist the changes that Nature, and the passing years, wish to make to her hair.

To read more of Mary’s entertaining columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=mary+pilfold-allan

‘To dye or not to dye, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to accept naturally grey or to take up colour despite the comments, and by opposing, end them? To dye; to sleep content.’ (With apologies to The Bard)

There has been a column running in a certain newspaper for several weeks about a feature writer who abandoned the bottle (of hair colourant) in a bid to allow her grey hair to shine through. This week she gave in after being offered a seat on the tube. Perhaps the gesture was the natural politeness of an Englishman. She attributed it to showing her age!

Admitting to having grey hair and flying the flag for it is a brave decision. It’s akin to the moment when you realise that your hormones have kicked in and the boy next door actually looks more interesting than just someone to mend your bike. I am ashamed to say that although many other boys became interesting to me, the boy next door never did!.

My hairdresser and I have a pact. One day she will tap me on the shoulder and say ‘enough is enough, it’s time to turn grey’, until then, well let’s just say, I’ll keep on going because I haven’t yet reached a state of grace with the alternative.

It all started I suppose, at school. Not exactly brown, not exactly red nor blonde, my hair was straight and a mixture of all three shades, in other words nothing outstanding. To top it all, it was extremely fine hair and one minute in the wind was sufficient to give me a hairstyle nobody was ever going to envy.

As soon as I left school I went for midnight black, a shade much favoured by the Goths in the 1980s. That was stunning until one day, standing with the sun behind me, my friend pointed out that actually my hair looked green. I was a trendsetter ten years too soon but I stuck with it until after the birth of my bonny and very blonde, daughter. “Can hardly believe she’s yours” was the tart comment of the midwife, “You being so dark and all”. Time for a change of hair colour I thought.

Settling on a shade slightly darker than my own natural colour was alright but not spectacular, I was used to shock and awe. Little by little I experimented and then one day another revelation came my way, good, old-fashioned henna. In the packet it looked like finely powdered cow dung, when mixed it smelt like it but it did the trick. Shock and awe was back.

Dating from as long ago as perhaps 5,000 years BC, the use of this natural product made from a plant has been a staple of many cosmetic routines since then. It colours the hair a rich red (or with a bit of this or a bit of that, some variation), keeps it glossy and fades very, very gradually.

Being a red head has its perks. You never go unnoticed in a crowd. Bearing in mind the old adage ‘never rile a red head’ people think twice before crossing you, and best of all, you can wear fantastic colours that frighten the life out of most people.

If I could turn that wonderful snowy white over night and appear in the morning with a beautifully cut bob, yes, I might consider the prospect. Sadly, I suspect there would be some way to go to achieve that, through salt and pepper, dead mouse and badger’s behind to pewter bordering on galvanised zinc bungalow bath. Do you get the picture? I am not ready for that; I can feel resistance setting in alongside the gritting of my teeth. So until the hairdresser dares to tap me on the shoulder, ‘this lady is not for turning’ grey just yet.


Mary Pilfold-Allan

July 2009


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