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Leah McLaren: Going grey (by choice) — it’s what all the kids are doing

Last week, I strolled into the salon for my regular spring highlights and got to chatting with the receptionist, a stylish wisecracking young gal sporting a punky magenta rinse in her unstyled platinum-silver hair. I told her she looked like Debbie Harry circa 1984 and she smiled. "Thanks," she said with a sigh. "I'm aiming for that just-rolled-out-of-a-skip look. Do you think it's working?"

I assured her it was and murmured something about wishing I could be a silver vixen myself, but after 40 it seems too unironic. Despite being well-acquainted with all the other signs of middle age, grey hair is the one I've been mercifully spared. Wouldn't it be a kind of sacrilege, or just plain weird, to thrust it upon myself – a bit like administering wrinkles in an act of reverse Botox?

On the contrary, said my new hipster BFF, going grey is what all the kids are doing – an act of youthful hair rebellion. Similar to wearing pleated slacks or carrying a vintage handbag or riding a creaky Dutch bike, grey has become the bastion of cool kids and no-nonsense grannies. On the other hand, she said, playing it hair safe is the single most obvious marker of middle age, and that's a look that no one wants – especially if you are middle aged. Which, obviously, I totally am.

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Grey is the new blond, I thought to myself 2 1/2 hours later as my colourist, Samantha Cusick, swivelled my chair around and passed me a mirror to look at the back. Then she rushed me over to the special lighting area where she documents her work for social media (Samantha, who is about 12 years old – actually 27 – has over 52,000 followers on Instagram and is about to launch her own YouTube channel of instructional videos. She also owns her own salon).

When I got home, Rob, who is on the way to becoming silver fox himself, was flummoxed.

"I don't mind the grey," he said, "it's just the pinky tinge – is it permanent?"

I told him it was just a rinse and would come out in a week. "But I might do a purple rinse for Easter."

He took a long sip of gin. "Just promise me you won't turn into Quirky Mummy okay?"


"You know Quirky Mummy – does the school run in leopard print leggings, teaches art part-time, grows her own pot, forced her kids to meditate, runs off to Ibiza once a year with her #girlsquad. Don't be her, okay?"

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"I have no idea what you're talking about," I said, and made a silent mental note to cancel James's kiddie kundalini class. He's overscheduled as it is.

Look, I won't pretend I'm ahead of the curve on this. (I'm rarely ahead of the curve on anything these days, apart from the latest baby weaning advice.) You probably know silver and grey has been a growing women's hair trend in recent years and it shows no signs of abating.

Silver locks have been rocked in recent years by the likes of Lady Gaga, Rita Ora, Kelly Osbourne, Kylie Jenner and Rihanna. But for women of any age, going grey is an act of defiance. Unlike blonde (sexy), brunette (serious) or red (dangerous-and-possibly-a-bit-unhinged) grey hair says "I don't give a crap about aging, I just like myself."

Like refusing to wear high heels or growing your armpit hair, it is both stylishly bold and perfectly sensible, by which I mean men do it all the time and no one bats an eye. The fact that I'm not actually "going grey" in the natural sense of the word makes my grey all the more subversive.

Or at least that's the way I see it.

So what was the final verdict on my new hair – was I a feminist-style renegade or cringeworthy Quirky Mummy? When James got home from capoeira that evening, I put the new hair to the ultimate test: the unforgiving eyes of a four-year-old.

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"So what do you think?" I asked him, fluffing my new salon-fresh silver waves.

"You look like a witch," he said. "But the kind who uses her powers for good."

And there you have it, folks. The ultimate compliment from the mouth of a babe. Works for me, I'll take it.

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About the Author

Leah McLaren is a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. She’s published two novels, The Continuity Girl (2007) and A Better Man (2015) both with HarperCollins Canada and Hachette in the USA. The first was a Canadian bestseller, though the second is actually much better. More


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