Actress Sarah Jessica Parker has been in the news this week, talking about ageing, including the issue of her grey hair. Brava!
The Hollywood star, 57, spoke to ‘Allure’ about the reaction to her hair when she was pictured dining in Manhattan last year, and her silvers generated more headlines than a Royal wedding.
You can read the full interview here: https://www.allure.com/story/sarah-jessica-parker-gray-hair-interview
“It became months and months of conversation about how brave I am for having gray hair. I was like, please, please, applaud someone else’s courage on something.”
She’s right. And I know I’m a little obsessed with the subject (and there’s a blog coming soon about that) but I’m not off to war, having chemo, nursing a terminally ill child, or fleeing my home country. I am growing out my silver by choice.
I’ve discussed this before, in this blog: https://shinyhappysilver.com/2022/04/10/silver-transition-pt-3-one-year-of-silver/ I wrote: ‘I met up with a friend and her friend, who both told me I was ‘brave’ and that they would love to grey, but theirs wasn’t silver like mine, and they’d feel like old ladies.’
Courage calls to courage, but does it call to silver hair?
Definitions of bravery are interesting. One poster on social media pointed out that, as silver haired women in our 40s, it is brave to walk out into a world that is designed to keep us in our boxes.
And while I understand, in this context, brave is patronising (like the colleague who pats my grey head as if I were a poodle awaiting a treat) which I wrote about here: https://shinyhappysilver.com/2022/05/30/mixed-reactions-to-silver/ It is also insulting to those who are genuinely brave – like Anne Frank, Rosa Parks and Emily Wilding Davison.
SJP understands the realities of dyeing your hair out of necessity. She said:
“I can’t spend time getting base color every two weeks. Can’t do it. Nope. Too much.”
It is too much. Dabbing over my white roots was an almost weekly ritual in the end. I lost count of the number of towels, windowsills and clothes sacrificed to the stains of Mahogony Brown.
The grey areas of going grey
SJP also spoke about how reactions to her grey haired celebrity friend, Andy Cohen, three years her junior, differed to the headlines about her hair.
“Andy has a full head of beautiful gray hair, but no one mentioned him, sitting right next to me.”
Indeed! Men aren’t considered brave for letting their silvers out to play. We expect men to go grey, we encourage it, we praise it. Years of societal conditioning have paved the way for men to age openly.
Yet, for women, ageing is still taboo. We are not expected to go grey. Even in their 70s and 80s, the women I know still dye their hair. My grandmother wore a hot, itchy jet-black wig into her 90s. Underneath, she had the most beautiful, thick white hair still.
We are encouraged to pour poison onto our scalps, to demonstrate performative femininity. Any woman who fails to conform is considered an outlier. And that’s why we are brave, and men are not. Patriarchy.
Can you imagine if men were subject to the same scrutiny as women?
Just for Men – a conversation about silver hair
Carl: “Oh William, you’re so brave going silver.”
William: “I don’t feel brave. None of my friends are silver. They all dye their hair still.”
Carl: “I know, but yours is a nice silver – mine wouldn’t look like that. I mean, women really suit grey hair, but I’m not so sure about men…”
William: “How come they get to be silver vixens, praised for their hair? Why can’t I be a silver fox?”
Carl: “Are you worried about what your wife will think? What about that promotion at work? Maybe you should just dye it for the interview, and so that Helen still finds you attractive.”
William: “Well, she’s silver herself, so it feels like double standards. I’ve been agonising over this. Dad’s told me to keep on dyeing like he does. He says I’m too young to go grey at 50, and has suggested I use ‘Just for Men’ on to cover it up.”
Carl: “Well, it’s your choice. I’d just be worried I might look old. It’s hard being a man in your 40s with all of society’s pressures around looks and ageing.”
William: “I know. I’ve joined the ‘Metallic Men’ movement. There’s lots of groups on social media where we can be our authentic selves and battle all those barriers that we face every day.”
In my last blog, I wrote about how Kelly McGillis, 64, was not prepared to pretend she was in her 20s still: https://shinyhappysilver.com/2022/06/11/keanu-where-are-the-other-silver-sisters-my-age/
SJP also hits the nail on the head about double standards and ageism. She has previously said:
“Everyone has something to say: ‘she has too many wrinkles, she doesn’t have enough wrinkles.’ ”
“It almost feels as if people don’t want us to be perfectly ok with where we are, as if they almost enjoy being pained by who we are today, whether we choose to age naturally and not look perfect, or whether you do something if that makes you feel better.
“I know what I look like I have no choice. What am I going to do about it stop ageing disappear?”
Powerful, true. As women get older, we are expected to disappear, or pretend we’re not ageing, so we don’t make others feel uncomfortable.
But we Silver Sisters are ‘disobedient women’ who own our grey. We refuse to be put to pasture in a field of over processed Chestnut.
Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t trying to be a spokeswoman for the silver hair movement. She’s baffled by the column inches that we (including this humble blogger) are dedicating to her hair and looks. She’s not performing life-saving surgery or tackling global warming, she’s just trying to get on with life and appreciating the wisdom of age.
“We spend so much time talking about the accumulation of time spent adding up in wrinkles, and it’s the weirdest thing that we don’t say it adds up to being better at your job, better as a friend, better as a daughter, better as a partner, better as a caregiver, better as a sister.”