Liberated by my very own 50 shades of grey ...
Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30
I am a brunette. It's my thing. Ask anyone to describe me and they'll go straight to the hair: I am most easily identified by my wild mass of black curls.
I'm the stereotype of the dark-haired woman and I love it, I live it. Except it's not black anymore.
It's dark all right, still, but not so strikingly so, with a growing percentage of pure white hairs running through it. The surprising thing about going grey is how it happens. I thought it would start at the root and grow down gradually , leaving you with strands that turn grey over time and give you a chance to get used to them. In fact, single hairs turn white overnight, crown to tip.
For someone whose identity is tied up in their hair, it's hard to deal with. Will I be me anymore, without my trademark?
So instead of automatically reaching for the bottle, I let my natural hair do what it wanted to do. I'd never used dye before, so for me, it would have been weird to start.
If I was to lose my signature colour, the easiest way I could deal with the grief of that, was not to fight it.
Far worse, I felt, to try and play catch-up with a bottle of dye over my head every six weeks. Pretending I'm not getting any older. But we all are.
Embrace it, I reckoned. Black was your old thing - now make grey-flecked black your new thing. So I didn't dye it. I'm blessed to have a great head of hair in the first place; plenty of people don't for reasons far more serious than a bit of grey.
I didn't realise I was making such a controversial decision. But I was aware it was an unusual one, a year or two ago even. Something I never imagined has happened since: grey hair got hip, it became anti-fashion.
I see it on the cool girls with the asymmetrical bobs in the rock clubs, and on the sexy, arty mothers at the school gates.
Madonna's daughter Lourdes Leon has dyed her hair silver, Rihanna and Lady Gaga too.
By far the strongest signal that grey is great is the style editor of the London Times, Anna Murphy (42) has salt and pepper hair. Murphy is one of the most influential people in fashion in the UK. (She describes people's reaction as "admiration and bafflement intertwined.)
It takes confidence in your individual style to go for grey.
But some were appalled, outraged even, and had no problem telling me. Which is all very well - but why is my hair colour any concern of others?
It's a huge insult to everyone else, apparently, as if I'm "letting myself go".
A few male pals seriously advised me that I needed to dye it to stop looking like such a lesbian. Another introduced as: "This is Larissa. Don't mind her grey hair - she's trying to make a point." What point?
A good friend of mine tells me the she feels compelled to pull the grey straggles, like wanting to squeeze a spot.
I don't share the feeling, but I get that - I was talking to Sinead O'Connor once and had a mad urge to tweezer her brows. She has since done it herself, glad to note. Incidentally, beautiful Sinead is another who doesn't dye, and the skin-tight hair looks just as good grey.
The common wisdom is: "But you'll take years off yourself, hair ages you so much." Like ageing is the ultimate faux-pas.
I disagree: I think colour from a bottle is far more ageing on a skin tone that doesn't match it.
The crow-black that is my real colour would be jarring now at my age. My hair is lightening itself to suit my face. Alan Keville, owner of Alan Keville hair salons, says it's all about harmony. "Your skin tone changes as your hair pigment changes. So dyeing your hair to its original colour can mess with that balance and it can look wrong.
"No hairdresser will advise you to dye your hair. Top colourists say: 'if you want amazing hair, don't colour it.'"
The key is in having a good cut.
"Grey hair is in danger of looking a bit Wild Woman of Borneo if it's not maintained. But a cool, edgy cut with grey hair - that can look amazing." He says that an increasing number of women are ditching the dye. "It's a drain on time and money. More Irish women are embracing the grey. It's coming from the Continent, where it is very chic."
Keville adds that, despite me thinking I'm grey, I'm not properly ... yet. "What's the predominant colour you see when you look in the mirror?" he asks. Still black, I tell him. "Well, that's your hair colour," he says.