What is it about women’s hair that preoccupies people so much? There was a time when it was considered unseemly for a woman to be seen with her hair uncovered. Still today Queen Elizabeth is never seen without a hat, and presumably for a similar reason it is customary for women to wear hats to weddings, giving them an opportunity to throw decorum to the winds and place all manner of odd arrangements on their heads, as happened at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
But the requirement that a woman cover her hair was abandoned early on in the twentieth century, except in extremely conservative, even repressive, male-dominated societies, as we see with orthodox Jews and Muslims, for example. But in those societies any inch of exposed female skin is considered anathema, almost blasphemous, or some kind of insult to the heavenly agent that presumably created it
As a girl grows up her preoccupation with her hair grows too. And as she gets older still, and ‘silver threads among the gold’ start to appear, she comes to regard this as a stark betrayal of her desire to remain forever young. And thus it is that large numbers of women, this writer included, spend many hours and considerable sums of money in an effort to conceal the passage of time as revealed by the colour of their hair. There are, of course, many women who decline to colour their hair and allow the grey to take over completely. I tried this at one point, but was subjected to complaints from my grandchildren (granddaughters) that it made me look old, so gave in and returned to the hairdresser.
It’s at this point that the dilemma begins. What colour should the hair be? Nature’s way of revealing our age is not confined to our hair. Our figure and face also show the passage of time. And loth though we are to admit it, our overall appearance cannot retain its youthful freshness.
It matters not that when we were young our skin was smooth and our hair a sleek dark helmet or a coronet of auburn curls, as we reach the mid-century point our appearance has changed, sometimes even beyond recognition. Why, then, do some ladies seek to preserve the crow-black hair or auburn curls of their youth? Do they not see, when they look in the mirror, that a youthful crop of hair atop an old face is incongruous, even ridiculous?
Some women go to the other extreme and colour their hair a fierce orange colour. I have seen a few instances of this and find it difficult to understand why anyone should do it, and tend to think that the hairdresser must have miscalculated when preparing the dye. After all, we all know that hairdressing is not an exact science. It has occurred to me, though, that those ladies might actually be making a statement, a very bold one, at that, and although I don’t share their taste I cannot help admiring their courage.
I remember seeing an elderly neighbour who had left to spend a year abroad as a brunette and returned a blonde. Not long after that she let her hair revert to its natural state of grey, which suited her general appearance perfectly.
Oh, if only I had the courage to go blonde!