I’m A Feminist, So Why Won’t I Let Myself Age Naturally?

Fortunately, I’ve reached an age where no one expects me to meet the ridiculous beauty standards demanded of women. Unfortunately, that makes the Olympic speed with which I sprinted to the hairdressers at the end of our latest lockdown all the more shameful.

For not only did it confirm my suspicion that I am a bad feminist, it also made me realise how much ageism has to answer for – proven by a recent study by Australian Seniors which demonstrated the drastic lengths middle-aged women and men are prepared to go to remain visible and employable – from hair colouring to plastic surgery – to keep themselves relevant in an unforgiving society.

Fortunately, my dog is the only person I see on a daily basis, so ageism isn’t a great excuse for my hasty trip to the hairdressers. In fact, my usual low maintenance approach to my appearance is most likely why my transition into a slob during the restrictions was so smooth.

I’d be lying if I said that the permission I was given to live in loungewear day and night and grow out a thick layer of fuzz on my legs wasn’t a dream come true. So it’s interesting that the hair on my head was so different.

Like many middle-aged women, I went through the seven stages of grief as the visible signs of my age crept through my parting

I rallied – with a selection of dubious hats and scarves – but there was a distinct low point when I reached the Mare Sheehan stage of rootage and my attempt to smudge them with mascara went horribly wrong.

Interestingly, the closer we got to the magical seventy per cent vaccination rate required for salons to reopen, the more I began to seriously toy with the idea of ageing naturally — most likely inspired by the Andie MacDowell character in Maid.

Clearly, I forgot that Andie could shave her head and still look fabulous

But that point, some would argue that I had done the hard yards, so what exactly was my midnight vigil outside my hairdressers the night before freedom day really about? Why did I agree once again to fuel the narrative that youth and beauty trump…well, pretty much everything.

Why can’t I give up on this last bastion of youth?

Most women could blame the draw of the hairdressing experience, but I am not one of them. I hate being forced to sit and stare at myself for two hours, all the while pretending to understand the exorbitant cost of foils, special shampoos and treatments required to maintain my hair in some vaguely manageable condition.

And not even the kindness of my lovely Millennial hairdresser – with whom I can’t decide if our unspoken agreement around no engagement has made our two hours together more honest or more awkward – makes the experience bearable for me.

Sadly, I am not one of those women who can chit-chat inanely about the mundanities of life with a woman whose biggest daily conflict is the straightness of her hair

And I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to admit that I have little in common with a twenty-something who goes out for the night at the same time I head to bed. Frankly, even if she did have an opinion about vaginal atrophy or grumpy, middle-aged husbands and entitled kids, I would struggle to feign any enthusiasm for Tik Tok or Love Island at this stage of my life.

It pains me to admit this, but while I can’t control what happens to my face, I can still control the colour of my hair

I could splash out on a whole new wardrobe of loungewear with that extra $200 every eight weeks, but I like being blonde, so evidently, I’m not grown up enough yet to “come out” as an old person. I know I should feel proud of this ageing body of mine and what it has achieved, but as I left the house for my appointment and my husband remarked how much he loved my new salt and pepper locks, I knew the comment came from the accountant in him rather than a man with any real desire for his wife to turn into his mother.

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