Please Stop Judging My 50 Shades Of Grey

I joined an athletics club in March, just in time for cross-country season.

The first race was a come-and-try event, so instead of filling out the official paperwork, I just gave the organiser my name. The following day I looked up the results to check my time and see how I compared to the other club members. This is what I found:

Flynn Jean F 40+ 16.45

Um, forty plus?

It’s rude to guess how old someone is, right? There are two rules in life: don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant, and don’t estimate a person’s age (unless you’re talking to a toddler).

Not long after my athletics club age-group fiasco, I had another fun ‘how old do I look?’ experience. I was having coffee with a group of acquaintances. We were discussing the weather, or our jobs, or something equally banal, when the woman sitting opposite leaned over and said, “Aren’t you Bernadette’s age?”

Oh, thanks. Thanks for that. I knew how old Bernadette was: 47. My age? 38.

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Want to know why I look so much older than I really am? I seem tired even when I’m not, and my neck skin resembles overcooked filo-pastry. Oh, and I have these lovely sun spots on my forehead that didn’t used to be there. But it isn’t any of those things. No, I look old because I have grey hair.

I’m not totally grey, not yet. So far there’s just a sprinkling of salt amongst the pepper. I’m not sure what the ratio is. Let’s just say I’m cloudier than Brad Pitt, but not quite as overcast as George Clooney.

I'm cloudier than Brad, but not as overcast as George. (Images: Getty)

I actually wanted to use female actors in that comparison, but it turns out that THERE AREN’T ANY. Some famous women (Diane Keaton, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench) are completely silver or white up top, but none, as far as I can tell, are halfway gone like me. This (somewhat flimsy) statistic also happens to represent the general public, too. I don’t know any women my age with au naturel, semi-grey hair.

I am so unusual, in fact, that people think they’re entitled to comment on the situation. They try to sound positive, like they’re giving me a compliment, but I’m no fool. A friend once said, completely unprovoked, “The greys in your hair really suit you!” They don’t, though, do they. My two-tone hair is not a new dress or a shade of lipstick. It’s not on-trend.

I wonder if grey hair will ever become fashionable. (And no, I’m not counting the silver/lilac rinse fad, aka #GrannyHair.)

I doubt it. Because natural grey on a woman basically means “I am no longer sexy or sexual.” That’s the main implication. How ironic, that being 50 shades of grey is like announcing to the world that you’re no longer up for 50 Shades of Grey.

And consider, also, the classic female fairy tale villain. There’s the evil stepmother, the mysterious fortune-teller, the wicked witch. Grey hair is the defining characteristic of this trope. Beautiful strawberry-blonde locks and glossy chestnut curls are reserved for the princesses of the fairy tale world.

So, should I give in to societal pressure and dye my hair? Metamorphose from witch to princess, from barren to fertile? Or should I accept my natural hair colour and get on with life?

The latter seems way easier (and cheaper) – more my style. All I need are some good comebacks for the commenters. “They’re blonde highlights” could work.

Or perhaps, “Actually, I’m only 38. By the way, are you pregnant?”