I am at a difficult age. As I hurtle through my forties I find myself under constant pressure to combat the signs of ageing. Every time I log into Facebook, open my emails, peruse a magazine or endure a commercial break on TV I an swamped with suggestions as to how I can lose my belly fat, colour my grey hairs, banish wrinkles and look 10 years younger.
Ignoring these obvious ploys to part me from my cash is easy enough but then I still have to contend with the more subtle attempts to steer me down the path of age denial by well-meaning friends and colleagues. Often they don't even know they're doing it, so insidious is the anti-ageing mindset of our society. The amount of praise lavished on someone who has lost weight or had their hair coloured is in direct contrast to the silence and confusion which ensues if someone should announce their intention to look their age.
That someone, if you hadn't already guessed, was me. Having recently experienced a life changing event I spent a good few months laying about, thinking a lot about bodies, mine in particular, and how I, and others, view it. One morning I looked in the bathroom mirror and noticed my hair had grown a good inch since I'd last coloured it and my natural hair colour was showing through. It glittered under the light, a fascinating mix of bitter dark chocolate interspersed with silver strands. Metallic. I decided there and then to let it grow a bit more and then chop off all the dyed bits and start again, to see what I actually look like. When I told my best friend her "really?!" was an eloquent expression of incomprehension. Surely this will make me look old?
Well, yes, it might. But I really, truly can't be arsed to spend any more money or time on the messy inconvenience of dying my hair. For the best part of 20 years once a month I have religiously retired to the bathroom, draped my towel around my shoulders and proceeded to apply a concoction of chemicals that smell like cat wee and stain everything they touch the colour of dried blood to my head. The amount of towels, shower curtains and clothes I have ruined are many.
And for what? For the sake of camouflaging the fact that I am not immune to the same biological processes as everyone else on the planet? Even with my hair uniformly coloured an unlikely shade of mahogany I still won't magically look like I'm 26. I will look like I am 46 and dye my hair. Unfortunately that's exactly what we ladies of a certain age are expected to do. We should be eradicating grey hairs, botoxing our faces and starving ourselves back into the same jean size we wore as teenagers. If you fail to make the effort you are letting yourself go and run the risk of finding yourself being forcibly made over by a bespectacled wanker for some TV programme or magazine article.
My argument is that good health and mental wellbeing are the important things to maintain as you age rather than focussing on the cosmetic. It's a great argument and so right it makes my toes curl, but I also know that the world we live in makes it very difficult for women to age naturally. You only have to observe the way male newsreaders/presenters/actors are allowed to become grizzled and grey while their female counterparts must remain frozen in time or find themselves replaced by a newer model to see how the scales are weighted. Seeing as though I have long been a contrary old bat I am nevertheless prepared to forge ahead with my anti anti-ageing experiment. Which is a very grandiose way of saying I'm not going to dye my hair any more*, but I am genuinely curious as to whether my perceived attractiveness will alter significantly. I will keep you updated as I'm sure you are all agog and on the edge of your seats as to how my hair affects my pulling power.
In the meantime I'd love to hear how any of you are ageing. Gracefully, disgracefully? Are you a silver fox or a dye in a box type?
*I'm also not going to have any plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures but since I couldn't afford them anyway it seems a bit passive to be part of the experiment action.