If popular culture is to be believed (and, let’s face it, it isn’t) then every woman has that moment; that moment when their heart sinks, their eyes widen in disbelief, when they break out in a cold sweat as panic takes over before locking the bathroom door to cry in front of the mirror. That moment when they realise things will never be the same again.
The moment when they discover their first grey hair.
Obviously this is not the case for every woman. Most of us are lucky to get five minutes alone in the bathroom let alone enough time to embark upon our own existential crisis there! That lone, wiry, grey hair has simply become an unwanted symbol.
But with the UK beauty industry valued at fifteen billion pounds and a considerable amount of this made up by the sale of products and services designed to keep us ‘looking young’, can we really deny that this symbol has become highly effective in speaking of, and in turn to, many women’s fear of growing old?
This is, of course, due in part to the media’s representation of women. Women shown to be of any value are presented as thin, pretty and, of course, young. And there may be Dames Helen Mirren and Judy Dench showing us that this doesn’t have to be the case but, sadly, they have become examples of the rare exceptions that prove the rule. Fabulous actresses and women in general, they are still hailed as the solution to the portrayal of older women in the media (and yes, I appreciate the irony of mentioning them here!).
However, I truly believe that most women in the twenty first century, despite buying in to the latest fad or quick fix, are, ultimately, savvy enough to see through these models for manipulation. So why then does the prospect of ageing fill so many of us with fear? Surely it can’t be beauty alone?
Might it be the futility of and failure in attempting to avoid the inevitable – a sense of being powerless that only serves to reinforce many other doubts and fears? Or simply a sadness in mourning the loss of childhood hopes and dreams – a realisation that that reality is often a difficult place to reside?
A grey hair most certainly does not mark the end. But maybe women can be too insightful.
And maybe in this symbol they see the start of the long search for something more meaningful. And taking that first step can often be very scary indeed.