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Opinion: Why women shouldn't go grey, and other helpful tips

Let women age in full view of the public, and next thing you know they're going to want to be taken seriously.
grey haired woman embracing life
Embracing your natural greys? This message is for you.

Dear Women,

It seems not all of you got the memo, so we thought we’d better issue this personal, urgent reminder: Don’t go grey.

Seriously. Just stop it already. We’d hate for the world to realize that women — especially prominent women in the public eye — actually (gasp!) age. And heaven forbid people start noticing that those women are powerful, intelligent, professional, strong, capable human beings and that they remain so even after their hair fades.

Sure, sure, technically speaking, that whole going grey thing is a natural process. (Well, actually, it’s all about how, as you age, your body stops producing the melanin that gives the pigment cells in your hair follicles their colour, so when your hair goes through its natural cycles of falling out and growing back, it’s more likely to come back in grey, white or silver, and, yes, we’re experts because we Googled “why does hair turn grey.”)

Those of you who are embracing this so-called “natural” process are failing to grasp the fundamental fact that never have we ever given women permission to be “natural.”

Come on.

We’ve been expecting you to fight nature since you were pre-pubescent girls with your little shoulders and chests poking out of tank tops because the thought of those nascent breasts might just be too much for your pre-pubescent boy counterparts to handle. Wasn’t life better once we pointed out you could simply cover up?

Didn’t we spend enough time in your teenage years explaining to you that your so-called “natural” beauty was absolutely to be celebrated, but only if you were skinny enough and pretty enough to walk around in your natural state without being offensive to our gaze?  But not too skinny, obviously — everyone likes a girl with some meat on her bones, are we right? — and also, not too pretty, because obviously if you’re like totally super-pretty everyone knows you just can’t be taken seriously.

And you want to be taken seriously, don’t you? Haven’t you been whining, ever since you started working at your first cute little “professional” job in your 20s, that nobody takes young women seriously? Didn’t we explain to you that it’s really easy to be taken seriously? We told you over and over to stop talking in your natural voice because obviously lower-pitched, more modulated tones carry more gravitas. And we were so helpful with all that advice about your looks. It’s so straightforward. Put on longer skirts, but not too long, because dowdy. Put on makeup, but not too much makeup, because trashy. Wear your hair long, but not too long, because no one needs that come-hither mane causing a distraction in the office. Or wear it short if you’re one of those cheekbone-forward types who look best in short hair, but not too short because you still want to be feminine. Obviously.

You finally absorbed all those lessons, and then somewhere along the way you became moms. (Well, not all of you did, but we’re talking here about those of you who embraced women’s natural path in life.) By then you were maybe in your 30s — or heaven forbid, your 40s, if you’re one of those so-called “career gals” who like to gamble with their natural fertility cycles — and you seemed to take that as permission to let all those hard-won lessons from your 20s go out the window.

You started leaving the house without makeup and thinking that “messy ponytails” were a hairstyle and being comfortable in mom jeans and yoga pants. You actually started enjoying the feeling of being freed from the strictures of your beauty regime, such as it was (because, honey, we’ve gotta tell you, we’ve been watching, and most of you weren’t very regimented, were you, because you didn’t look much like the covers of those magazines we see by the checkout at Safeway, if you know what we mean).

So you needed us to intervene, again, and explain how, obviously, we couldn’t take you seriously until you absorbed the appropriate lessons about how to look good as a mom: work out, watch your food, choose a new wardrobe, take care of your body, get some new makeup, improve your skin-care routine. (Look, this stuff is simple. We’re experts at this, too, because we just Googled “how to look good as a mom” and seriously, it was so easy. You should try it.)

And then. Then you had the temerity to go and turn 50 and, let me tell you, that was one heckuva bold choice you made to start talking about perimenopause. In public, yet! Didn’t we shut you up about your periods enough when you were a teenager? Didn’t you get the message that nobody wants to hear your whining about your hormones already? For heaven’s sake.

Then, on top of all of that, you had the nerve to throw out all the lessons we tried so hard to hammer into you for those first five decades of your life, and you stopped trying to hide the wrinkles and cellulite and back fat, and you just started wearing clothes because you felt good in them and picking hairstyles because you liked them. It’s like you don’t even know you can Google things like “10 appropriate hairstyles for women over 50” or “appropriate clothing for older women.”

Some of you, obviously, have managed to hang on to your looks better than others. I mean, the world would be a more beautiful place if more of you were as well put together as, say, recently axed CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme, whom we can appreciate for looking damned fine for her age. Which is 58, by the way (we sure are good at this Googling thing).

But then even some of you fine-looking, appropriately cultivated dames insist upon allowing your hair to go grey, and that is just it. That is our line in the sand.

We simply cannot have it. Because if we accept your grey hair, the next thing you know you’re going to want us to accept that you actually continue to exist past the age of 50. Or even 60. Sixty!

And then you’re going to expect to still be taken seriously in your 70s and 80s, and you’ll get offended when we call you “spunky” and “cute” and “feisty.” You’ll say those word choices are infantilizing but come on haven’t we been calling you cute since you were babies and for heaven's sakes it was good enough when you were pre-pubescent girls in tank tops and when you were tender little teenage fillies and through those cute little professional years in your 20s and why isn’t it good enough now? And you're going to toss around words like "ageism" and "misogyny" like they mean anything to anyone other than a few feminists who are clearly past their sell-by dates, if you know what we mean.

Sigh.

Don’t you get it, ladies? We’re over here losing our minds because someone like Lisa LaFlamme, who should have just continued to fight aging so she could remain in the public eye, decided to let herself age in full view of everyone, and we just can’t stand for this sort of nonsense.

Just do us all a favour and make an appointment with your hair colourist already.

Pro tip: a beautiful caramel balayage is a great choice for mature hair. We know. Because Google.

Sincerely,

The Patriarchy