What Mel Did
What Mel Did - mature black woman with grey hair

The picture of mothering grey

I am 56 years’ old today and recently considered dying my black hair a fashionable grey. That midlife double bluff where people think we chose to look *like that.* But it’s a look, one I like and one I’ve rarely seen not pulled off well.

I set about skewing those odds by asking a hair salon their opinion.

“Hello, I’m thinking of going grey,” I said.

The young girl at the reception desk stared at me.

“I wouldn’t,” she said.

I didn’t let the door hit me on the way out as I wondered when even grey hair had become the purview of the young and nubile.

Keeping my nerve, I ignored nagging doubt and remained unconvinced I was too short, too ugly, *too* anything not to go grey by choice.

I next tried out the idea on my son, Hart.

“I think that would be a great look on you, mum,” he said.

Knowing how unpredictable their mother can be, I wondered if tacit agreement was the latest ploy the kids were using to control me. That said, my children are also my biggest supporters and I was therefore heartened.

A few days’ later, Hart-the-supporter told me he was thinking of dying his own hair grey.

Hmmm, was this a test, I thought. Even if it was, I told my son the truth of what I felt.

“I think you’d look stunning grey,” I told him.

“Thanks, mum.”

“Hart, it’s parenting gravy if the worst thing you’re thinking of doing is dying your hair a pensionable grey. But try a temporary rinse first just in case you don’t like it.”

I later got a sweet text from him thanking me for my support.

Whilst a black and white hair decision is still a grey area for Hart, in that moment I decided to take my own advice and try the thing out first.

I went to a beauty shop and bought a can of silver hairspray.

I let the saleswoman convince me that, since I had black hair, silver would come up the shade of grey I wanted.

The evening before I was due to travel to London for a big family gathering, I tried it out.

Ignoring the advice to spray high and lightly, I sprayed close and densely and covered patches of hair, ears, neck, fingers and shower door in silver hairspray. Undeterred, I pressed on and used assorted brushes I later had to throw away to style the experiment.

Whilst it was definitely “a look” (or “a lot of look,” as my kids would say), it wasn’t that bad and did come close to the colour in my mind’s eye. So, after the clean-up, I tied my head in a silk scarf to preserve my hair and bed linens overnight.

The next morning, the colour had settled into something I describe as… dusty. It was an odd combination of silver, grey and speckled black soot. Dusty.

With two hours until my train, the pivotal choice was:

Option 1 – brave it and leave the house looking *like that,* or

Option 2 – wash dusty out, dry my hair quickly and get on the train not looking like a National Geographic feature.

I chose Option 1. [Takes deep breath.]

And then with minutes to spare… decide on Option 2.

I washed my hair quickly and pushed it into some sort of direction, eventually collapsing into my train seat looking like a Star Wars extra.

At 56 years of age then, I feel blessed this birthday and Mothering Sunday weekend to have kids who support and make me feel like a million dollars no matter my hair-raising antics.



  • Happy Birthday Mel (again). I’m six months behind you and watching this space for instructions. I use a reddish colour from the supermarket on my hair. There’s still enough black so that the red comes out as low lights. I actually wouldn’t mind more of the red. I’m not ready for gray myself but I have seen it looking fab on other Gray By Choice ladies.

  • Happy belated birthday! Your hair looks awesome as is, but I bet it would have looked lovely if you’d taken the plunge with the permanent dye too!

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